Monday, May 20, 2013

Massad Is A Dangerous Distraction

A Ramallah-based Ph.D candidate and I engaged recently in a debate over the exact same issues Professor Joseph Massad of Columbia University raised in a now-infamous editorial last week on al-Jazeera.  Our discussion focused on the same topic as Massad's piece: Zionist coordination with the Nazi regime.  To say that such coordination occurred in a limited scope is a matter of plain historical fact.  It is entirely legitimate for my colleague and I to discuss these issues with the basic mutual respect we showed each other.

But Professor Massad shows little respect for his audience or for history.  At a core passage in the piece, he quotes Theodore Herzl's Der Judenstaat as saying, "The unfortunate Jews are now carrying the seeds of anti-Semitism into England."  Massad uses as evidence that Zionism sees anti-Semitism as valid and encouraged it.  He ignores the next paragraph where Herzl describes anti-Semitism in 1800's Europe: "In countries where we have lived for centuries we are still cried down as strangers. and often by those whose ancestors were not yet domiciled in the land where Jews had already had experience of suffering."

Massad's over-generalization in the lengthy piece equates the actions of Jewish Zionists with those of the Nazis.  This is deeply offensive to Jews and supporters of Israel, especially given that the Zionists who worked with the Nazi regime were only a small subset of the diverse global Zionist movement.  This movement also included 50,000 Jewish Americans who rallied for a Nazi boycott under the organization of American Zionist Stephen S. Wise.  

Palestinians like Professor Massad deplore - and rightfully so - efforts to hide IDF participation in the forcible removal of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 or the denial of their struggle for national recognition.  But Massad's argument just creates the same pain on the other side of the conflict.  His piece stokes divisions between sides rather than dealing in a reality in which both Zionist Israelis and anti-Zionist Palestinians must negotiate a final status agreement to avoid mutual destruction.  

After six days of hosting Professor Massad's piece on its website, Al-Jazeera removed the editorial.  Immediately after, accusations flew that al-Jazeera was engaging in "censorship" stoked by "Zionists."  As if the media organization which refers consistently to Israel's capital as "occupied Jerusalem" were concerned primarily with not offending Zionists.  As if the content in the article was not itself highly incendiary and factually incorrect.

The idea that removing an editorial after six days constitutes censorship is ludicrous.  A 15-page Justice Department document on surveillance guidelines with all 15 pages blacked out is censorship.  Trying to ban Harry Potter because it indoctrinates Wicca is censorship.  Al-Jazeera removing an editorial off its own website after running it for six days is not censorship.  The piece is still on other websites and enjoyed wide dissemination.

More concerning, the idea that influential Zionists are responsible for censoring arguments that challenge their beliefs is unsubstantiated.  In the rush to stake out victimhood status, Massad's defenders miss the forest for the trees.  The Massad article is offensive because it accuses Jews of complicity in the creation of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, not because it identifies linkages between the Nazi government and Zionist elements.  The manically articulated arguments to the contrary reek of a conspiracy theory along the lines of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  

For proponents of the censorship conspiracy, playing the victim of discourse policing is a cowardly defense.  It is not anti-semitic to point out linkages between Zionists and Nazis.  But it is blatantly anti-semitic to extend this evidence to the conclusion to claim that Jews were complicit in the forces of their own destruction and are trying to censor this "truth."  Professor Massad's tinfoil hat-wearing defenders are without a shred of justification to stand on.  And in the blame-shifting and rhetorical house of mirrors they construct, real people suffer.  Israelis and Palestinians gain no benefit from the circle jerking of ideologues.  Rather, they benefit from careful historical examination and the confrontation of history as a basis for a sustainable future.

Ultimately, Professor Massad's piece is little more than a dangerous distraction from the real and important work ahead.


  1. I would be interested to hear a more comprehensive critique of the facts presented by Massad. This piece takes it as a given without really delving into his arguments. True, it was a long piece, but if it is as factually incorrect as you say it should not be a problem.

  2. Well for starters one of the quotes that Massad uses from Herzl is taken completely out of context...

    this blog has some information on it and while its not very well-explained what is clear is that Massad is ignoring the very important qualifying statements.

    It is not worth my time (or anyone else's actually) to go through it "Fact" by "Fact"

  3. "The Massad article is offensive because it accuses Jews of complicity in the creation of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust ..."

    This statement better than any other drives Massad's argument home and goes a great deal to show the validity of his argument.

    Even assuming Massad was actually arguing that the Zionist movement was responsible for the Holocaust (a totally baseless assumption which was nowhere to be found in Massad's article), this author of this blog is equating the Zionist movement with "the Jews", a grotesque example of antisemitism.

    In effect, the author is demands that the crimes and attributes of individual people be attributed to their race/ethnicity, a necessary precursor for any racist ideology.

    The argument goes like this:

    Pointing out that Avraham Stern was pro-Nazi is equivalent in saying "the Jews" are responsible for the Holocaust.

    The racist (in this case this blog) equates the actions of one person (or criticism of it) with that of the entire race which that person belongs. It is a slight deviation from this argument:

    "Bernie Madoff was a thief which proves that 'the Jews' are greedy thieves."

    The two arguments are equally valid (or invalid) and both are examples of racism. The first is extremely widespread among Zionists in the media and blogosphere. It goes a long way to show that antisemitism is still a very widespread theme of Zionist ideology.

    The notion that removing a much-attacked article from a website is not "censorship" is too ridiculous to even comment.

  4. "shows little respect for his audience" and "deeply offensive" and "creates the same pain" and "stokes divisions" and "the content . . . highly incendiary" and "manically articulated arguments" and "tinfoil hat-wearing defenders" and "dangerous distraction" means TheCamelsNoseBlog had it's feelings hurt somehow.

    Cheap emotional pleadings have little to do with factual history discussions. But they do work as blog filler.

    Your desire for some kind of Unified Acceptable History is very nice and very serious. That's what you were going for, right? Very Serious.

    But, in attempting to intellectually assassinate Professor Massad with cheap emotional ammunition, you lose your seriousness halo. Why go for the cheap insults? You look cheap and make Professor Massad look great. Oh, I see what you did there . . . .

  5. Isn't it OBVIOUS why Al Jazeera pulled the story?

    America would not allow TV coverage if it persisted!

    Do I need to tell you why for that OBVIOUS reason?

  6. Whatever the flaws in Massad's lengthy article, this blog post, which is much shorter, has far more and they are clearly deliberate.

    The accusation that Massad quoted Herzl out of context would be valid if the following paragraph of Herzl's work actually negated or in any way undermined the first but it didn't. Whether Jews have been longstanding inhabitants of a place or recent arrivals, Herzl blamed their presence for antisemitism.

    The stuff about Stephen Wise is undermined by the fact that Stephen Wise wrote that he had managed to keep the details of Nazi antisemitic atrocities out of the media. This was because zionists were worried that publicity would lead to demands for rescue and rescue would lead to Jews establishing themselves in places other than Palestine, where, of course, zionists wanted them to go. Ben Gurion was also very clear on this. I cannot believe that the writer here doesn't know these things.

    I'm not sure how to deal with this assertion in the post here:
    it is blatantly anti-semitic to extend this evidence to the conclusion to claim that Jews were complicit in the forces of their own destruction
    except to point out that it is a despicable lie to accuse Massad of such a racist generalisation.

    Regarding censorship, the fact that a blanket ban on something is a worse form of censorship does not mean that removal of a piece from a well known site is not censorship. People who want to read Massad will seek him out and find him but the censorship of so much that is critical of Israel and zionism consists of preventing people from reading about issues they will not already be aware of.

    And of course, as has already been mentioned in this thread, the writer is essentialising Jews as being offended by criticisms of zionism and the State of Israel. This is true of Jews and non-Jews who support the racist war criminals of the State of Israel, it is not true of all Jews by any means.

  7. I was looking forward to this "take down" of Massad, having been led here by a link from Glen Greenwald's excellent and lengthy discussion of the Al Jazeera/Massad fiasco. Nevertheless, if this is the best dissection of Massad's piece, one can better understand the reflex-outrage and strident efforts to silence Massad from Porhoretz, Goldberg and similar pro-Israel schistosomes. No one has laid a glove on Massad and until anything of substance challenges his assertions, I'll assume he's basically correct.

    Whatever the precise historical details of Zionist cooperation with the Nazis, there can be no doubt that Israel today stands as a monstrous disgrace to Jews, a nuclear equipped terror state and an intolerable threat to humankind.


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