To Fix Their Problems, Universities Must Reaffirm Their Commitment to the Pursuit of Truth

Yesterday, the president of Columbia University testified before Congress about anti-Semitism at her institution, and efforts to combat it. Among the faculty members Minouche Shafik was asked about was Joseph Massad, who has taught at the school since 1999 and who praised the October 7 massacres as “awesome.” Martin Kramer has been warning about the rot at Columbia, and Massad in particular, since the early 2000s, and his writings about the subject are worth revisiting. These include his 2014 article dissecting the use of the Holocaust inversion—the accusation that Israel is the true successor to Nazi Germany—by Massad and three of his Columbia colleagues.

When Massad—for whom hating Israel is a personal and professional preoccupation—was up for tenure in 2009, Kramer explained that he is not some sort of fringe extremist, but a representative of what Columbia, and Middle East studies, have become:

Joseph Massad is the . . . ultimate mutant in the Columbia freak show. . . . I once described Massad as “the flower of Columbia University,” a thoroughly Columbia creation. Columbia gave him his doctorate, Columbia University Press published it, and Columbia gave him his tenure-track job. Massad himself recognized that Columbia couldn’t disown him without somehow disowning itself.

At present, defenders of Massad and similar figures are loudly insisting that they are sticking up for freedom of speech, while condemning the supposed hypocrisy of conservative critics of cancel culture who, they allege, are now trying to cancel critics of Israel. But to Kramer the key problem with Massad is not his opinions about what should happen in the Middle East, or the way he may have treated Jewish students, but his belief that Israel is nothing more than a foreign, European colonialist presence in the Middle East—something that isn’t true:

The tragedy of the academy is that it has become home to countless people whose mission is to prove this lie. They do research, write books, and deliver lectures, all with the same purpose: to establish the truth of a falsehood. . . . The point that students should press at Columbia is this: we are tired of being lied to, even in a postmodern environment where truth is fungible. There is a pattern and a culture, and it does not just relate to classroom conduct. . . . This is a demand for truth, and this is what Columbia owes us.

Resolving Columbia’s crisis is a matter of practicalities. But these practicalities must be subordinate to principles. Advocacy teaching is antithetical to the truth-speaking mission of the university. Columbia has been compromised; it must now redeem itself. And it must do so not only by reaffirming its commitment to academic freedom, but by reaffirming its commitment to truth.

Read more at Sandbox

More about: Columbia University, Israel on campus, Joseph Massad


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict