Friday, April 22, 2005

Juan Cole: A Three-Headed Conspiracy Is After Massad

Juan Cole can't decide who to blame the predicament of Columbia University Assistant Professor Joseph Massad on in his Salon article on the 'new McCarthyism' (oh, here we go again), so he goes for the trifecta:
  • It's the Jews' fault:
    The attacks on Massad, and two other professors in the department, were led by off-campus right-wing Zionist organizations aligned with Israel's Likud Party -- notably a murky Boston-based organization called "the David Project," which produced the film in which the accusations were made. (In fact, according to an in-depth report by Scott Sherman in the Nation, there is no single "film"; at least six versions exist, and it has never been screened for the public. When the Nation asked to view it, the David Project refused to make it available. Its head, Charles Jacobs, also refused to provide details to the Nation about the group's financial backers or its ties to professional pro-Israel lobbyists.)
  • It's the Christians' fault: Elected bodies throughout the United States, dominated by the Christian right, are now considering radical programs such as imposing the teaching of "intelligent design" in biology classes, or abolishing academic tenure (the practice of not firing professors for their views). Even Congress has succumbed to the pressure: The House of Representatives passed an outrageous bill, HR 3077, mandating that area studies programs that receive federal money must "foster debate on American foreign policy from diverse perspectives" -- a heavy-handed attempt to mandate pedagogy that supports the American administration in power and supports Israeli policies uncritically.
  • It's the students' and other faculty members' fault: It noted that for several years, after pieces appeared in the tabloid press blasting the department as anti-Israel, many non-students, clearly hostile and with ideological agendas, had been attending classes in the department, interrupting lectures with hostile asides and inhibiting classroom debate. One individual began filming a class without permission. Chillingly, the report noted, "Testimony that we received indicated that in February 2002 Professor Massad had good reason to believe that a member of the Columbia faculty was monitoring his teaching and approaching his students, requesting them to provide information on his statements in class as part of a campaign against him."
One person conspiciously spared the blame is Massad himself, who, one would gather from the tone of Cole's article, is the paragon of fairness and universally beloved. That would be the same Massad, who, when his pro-Palestinian bias was challenged, responded: "If you're going to deny the atrocities being committed against Palestinians, then you can get out of my classroom," no doubt in an effort to engage in the sort of friendly debate that might provoke the student to consider a diversity of opinions. The more things change...

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