[CORRECTION: I originally posted that Massad had been denied tenure. I was mistaken. Apologies for the error.]
Joseph Massad–the Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University–became a focus of controversy for his alleged intimidation of Jewish students. More recently, he stirred up controversy with a book claiming that promotion of gay rights in the Middle East is a conspiracy led by Western orientalists and colonialists that “produces homosexuals, as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist.”
An excellent editorial in the Columbia Spectator explores the patterns in Massad’s anti-Zionist and anti-homosexual screeds, and–in anticipation of the inevitable cries of suppression of academic freedom–makes the case for denying him tenure:
Indeed, the extent to which “academic freedom” can act as a shield for the most unfounded, anti-scholarly rhetoric is one of the few substantive lessons that can be gleaned from Massad’s body of work. With this in mind, his “magnum opus” is a 2002 article for New Politics entitled “On Zionism and Jewish Supremacy,” itself a study in how an important examination of a provocative and difficult question—in this case, whether the Zionist project is inherently racist—can degenerate into an intolerant and wildly anti-academic rant.
Supporters of Israel should welcome the pointed challenges that the most provocative and well-reasoned anti-Zionist discourses present. But nobody should welcome a scholarship in which poisonous and intellectually flimsy methods of argumentation act as stand-ins for the careful, academic thought process that universities are supposed to encourage and reward. And nobody should welcome the day when our University determines that the world’s most important issues deserve nothing more than the immature and polemical treatment that Massad gives to them. We’re not about to give Bill O’Reilly a full professorship. Massad doesn’t deserve one either.