Exile and the Prophetic: Disappearing Massad, disappearing Palestine

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 12 Comments

This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Al Jazeera pulled Joseph Massad’s article – “The Last of the Anti-Semites” – from their website yesterday.   They caved, it seems, to Jewish pressures and perhaps the profit motive, future licensing and alike.  I leave that analysis for others.

The fall out is likely to escalate at Columbia University where Massad teaches.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Congressional hearings are in the mix.  Massad touched the third rail of American innocence.  Could Israel – and “white” Jews – really be what Massad say they are?

Massad’s article is disappearing.  Like disappearing Palestine, it will reappear.  Neither are going away.

As I wrote in my two recent posts that refer to Massad, he’s a tough cookie.  Massad lacks restraint on issues that touch on the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  He either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand the nuanced, ever-moving red lines that Jewish and Palestinian intellectuals and activists – at least in the European- American discourse – have agreed to respect. 

Massad’s rhetoric is far removed from that of the late Edward Said.  Massad’s notion of Israel as the ultimate victory of the last anti-Semites – which for Massad includes Zionist Jews as anti-Semites – moves far beyond Said’s claim of being the last cosmopolitan Jew.  Said’s reference was a lament. The macho-nationalism of the contemporary Jewish establishments in America and Israel had taken over the Jewish tradition.  Massad isn’t lamenting anything except his people’s dwindling prospects.

I wonder, though, if they are tied together, noting the deepening crisis of Palestinian life.  Where would Said be today on these issues? 

No matter how tough the going gets, Palestinian intellectuals and activists have agreed that questioning initial Jewish motives in settling Palestine and discussions about Zionist-Nazi connections, then and now, are off limits.  Palestinians have also agreed to police anti-Semitism wherever it rears its ugly head.

When I heard Massad in Oslo on the 15th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, I thought the lid was about to come off the Israel/Palestine discourse agreements.  Subsequent conferences on the One-State option I spoke at, though conducted with a great and dignified restraint, confirmed my view.

My sense is that the lid some Palestinians want to come off relates as much to the Palestinian Authority and the Arab governments as it does to Jews and Israel.  Read Massad carefully.  Though his criticism of the Palestinian Authority and Arab governments are often one-liners, they’re tough ones.  It’s bound to ruffle feathers. 

This could be another reason for Massad’s disappearing article.  With the recent Arab League land swap agreement, it seems that the Arab countries are all-in on Israel being integrated into the Middle East military security structure.  What they don’t need are Palestinian intellectuals and activists messing with their political alliances, especially those sponsored by the United States.  Al Jazeera is policing its own.

If you remember, Said was merciless on the Palestinian Authority and the Arab governments after the Oslo Accords were signed.  As his health deteriorated, Said went ballistic.  Again, the differences between Massad and Said are instructive here.  Is Massad the inheritor of Said’s mantle in these changing times?

Massad and other Palestinian intellectuals and activists want to prevent the Palestinian Authority and the Arab governments from signing away their birthright.  Hitting at Jews and Jewish history, making Jewishness invisible in the movement to free Palestinians, is partly a strategic ploy to regain traction in the context of an agreed upon disappearing Palestine.

Whatever their ultimate objective, the lid, somewhat ajar, remains in place.  Is Massad taking another swing at it?

I am much closer to Said whom I knew as a friend.  Massad’s historical rendering of Zionism, the various faces of Nazism and who is and isn’t a Semite are over the top.  On Jewish history, Massad is simplistic.  His generalizations are too sweeping. In the end there’s little room for Jews of European and American background to breathe Jewish without being implicated in atrocity. 

Having pointed to these flaws, however, take a look at those who are up in arms about him.  These analysts and officials primary aim is to bury crimes against the Palestinian people in the name of peace that doesn’t include justice.  Talk about simplistic analysis!

Years ago I lectured in Scotland. In the question and answer period, a young Palestinian woman rose up and thanked me for my presentation. She asked what she was to do with her grandparents’ village near Tel Aviv.   Her grandparents, along with the rest of her family, were stuck in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon.  They wanted to return home.

The young woman clearly violated the red lines of respectable discourse.  Yet her innocence betrayed her.  She had just arrived in Europe and hadn’t read the Israel/Palestine discourse rule book.  She didn’t know what she could and couldn’t say. 

The rules of engagement have been muted for too long.  Sure everyone gets to hear what they rather not hear.  Tough.  There’s too much suffering on the ground to keep our polite white gloves on.

 Massad’s words should be heard as a broadside about his people’s suffering that all the red lines in the world have failed to address. 

Let Massad speak unfettered.  Let the chips fall where they may. 

While we’re listening, follow the money, security and political alliances trail.  You might end up in a different place than Massad’s accusers want you to be.

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and www.newdiasporabooks.com

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12 Responses

  1. hophmi
    May 20, 2013, 12:19 pm

    Well, when you write an article that distorts the history on World War II to perversely suggest that Zionists colluded with Nazis to kill off their political opponents and argue that American acceptance of Jews is simply a racial reinterpretation of Jews as white people, you don’t deserve a chair at an Ivy League school.

    To go back in time to 1935 and sit in judgment of the reaction of different Jewish groups to a trauma like the Nuremberg Laws is obscene, particularly from someone who regularly attempts to explain why we should understand the murder of Jewish civilians by Palestinian terrorists. Jewish organizational life in Germany at that time was unbelievably rich. To suggest that German Zionist organizations were a unified group, that non-Zionist organizations were unified, that Zionists took the position they took simply because they were racial separatists, that the correct historical position in hindsight was -what? – to stay there and be murder? – and then to use all of this to make a modern political argument that support for Israel is just a continuation of Nazi policy – it is disgusting. And it is untrue and intellectually ridiculous. It is a summing up of everything that is rotten about this kind of bankrupt thinking and everything that is hypocritical about those who promote the BDS movement. You embrace this kind of hate speech, and then you complain that you’re too often accused of antisemitism and that your movement is all about international law. Bullshit. Not when you promote this kind of stuff.

    Massad’s a bull in a China shop, and as would be expected, his piece will live on on the antisemitic corners of the web where it belongs. I guess, once again, that this is one of those corners, and that Marc Ellis is one of those people who will keep this garbage alive.

  2. Blaine Coleman
    May 20, 2013, 1:32 pm

    Joseph has to break out of the blog ghetto and into the mainstream media, as clase as he can get to the big microphones.

    He tried, with Al Jazeera. He needs to push into the ‘Nation’ and ‘New York Review of Books’, like Edward did, and into the larger TV talk shows and newspapers.

    He’s going in a good direction — previously, he wrote about how Gaza today is like the Warsaw Ghetto. Now he’s pushing nice big broadsides essentially showing how Zionism is 21st-century Naziism.

    It’s good that he shows that– because what do you do with a Nazi state? You boycott it. You cut all ties with it. As Apartheid South Africa was abolished, apartheid Israel will be too.

    It’s a relief to see Joseph going big on the issue of Palestine, saying “J’Accuse” loudly enough to be censored, which will give him a higher profile.

    That leads to action: flat-out boycotts of Israel, followed by liberation for its victims.

    I was afraid Joseph was never going to get heard — glad I was wrong about that. The best defense is a good offense.

    When they try to gag you, yell louder and use the “B” word (boycott!)

  3. DICKERSON3870
    May 20, 2013, 4:18 pm

    ● RE: He either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand the nuanced, ever-moving red lines that Jewish and Palestinian intellectuals and activists – at least in the European- American discourse – have agreed to respect. ~ Marc Ellis

    ● MY QUESTION: Is John Podhoretz, the Editor in Chief of Commentary magazine, a Jewish intellectual and/or activist? If so, exactly what “red line(s)” has he agreed to to respect? Enquiring minds mimes want to know!”


    (AVATAR – apparently a photo of John Podhoretz’s young son)
    John Podhoretz
    Congratulations, donors to Columbia University, for paying this monstrous fuckhead‘s salary! http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/05/201351275829430527.html

    Al Jazeera English

    The last of the Semites

    It is Israel’s claims that it represents and speaks for all Jews that are the most anti-Semitic claims of all.
    9:51 AM – 14 May 13

    SOURCE – http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/al-jazeera-management-orders-joseph-massad-article-pulled-act-pro-israel

    ● P.S. FROM WIKIPEDIA [Acting out]:

    [EXCERPTS] Acting out is a psychological term from the parlance of defense mechanisms and self-control, meaning to perform an action in contrast to bearing and managing the impulse to perform it. The acting done is usually anti-social and may take the form of acting on the impulses of an addiction (e.g. drinking, drug taking or shoplifting) or in a means designed (often unconsciously or semi-consciously) to garner attention (e.g. throwing a tantrum or behaving promiscuously).
    In general usage, the action performed is destructive to self or others and may inhibit the development of more constructive responses to the feelings. The term is used in this way in sexual addiction treatment, psychotherapy, criminology and parenting.
    Acting out painful feelings may be contrasted with expressing them in ways more helpful to the sufferer, e.g. by talking out, expressive therapy, psychodrama or mindful awareness of the feelings. Developing the ability to express one’s conflicts safely and constructively is an important part of impulse control, personal development and self-care.

    • In analysis
    Freud considered that patients in analysis tended to act out their conflicts in preference to remembering them – repetition compulsion.[1] The analytic task was then to help “the patient who does not remember anything of what he has forgotten and repressed, but acts it out”[2] to replace present activity by past memory.
    Otto Fenichel added that acting out in an analytic setting potentially offered valuable insights to the therapist; but was nonetheless a psychological resistance in as much as it deals only with the present at the expense of concealing the underlying influence of the past.[3] Lacan also spoke of “the corrective value of acting out”,[4] though others qualified this with the proviso that such acting out must be limited in the extent of its destructive/self-destructiveness.[5] . . .

    SOURCE – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acting_out

    • DICKERSON3870
      May 20, 2013, 4:23 pm

      P.P.S. ALSO SEE: “Why Zionist lobby bullying strengthens occupation”, By Larry Derfner, Haaretz, 3/14/13

      [EXCERPT] Brand­ing harsh crit­ics of Is­raeli pol­icy as anti-Semi­tes helps the oc­cu­pa­tion thrive, and what’s good for the oc­cu­pa­tion is good for Is­rael, cer­tainly for Ne­tanyahu’s Is­rael, and what’s good for Ne­tanyahu’s Is­rael is good for the Jew­ish es­tab­lish­ment of Britain, the United States and sev­eral other coun­tries.
      It’s a shame: These peo­ple are going to bat for Is­rael’s sub­ju­ga­tion of a peo­ple, for Is­rael’s wars of ag­gres­sion to de­fend that prac­tice, and they’re doing it in the name of all the hor­rors the Jews ever faced and at times still face. I don’t know any­thing more cyn­i­cal than that. I don’t know any greater dis­honor of Jew­ish his­tory than that.

      SOURCE OF EXCERPT – http://antonyloewenstein.com/2013/03/17/why-zionist-lobby-bullying-strengthens-occupation/
      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/slander-israel-s-critics-as-anti-semites-shut-down-debate-on-israel-s-atrocities.premium-1.509519

    • DICKERSON3870
      May 20, 2013, 5:08 pm

      P.P.P.S RE: “Congratulations, donors to Columbia University, for paying this monstrous fuckhead‘s salary!” ~ John Podhoretz, the Editor-in-Chief of Commentary magazine

      SEE: “Targeting Stephen Hawking and Dustin Hoffman: Right-wing ‘pro-Israel’ advocacy as hate speech”, by Bradley Burston, Haaretz, May 9, 2013

      [EXCERPTS] Professor Steven Plaut teaches business finance and economics at the University of Haifa. He also writes articles, pamphlets and blog posts intended to defend Israel. This is what he offered in defense of Israel this week, in response to physicist Stephen Hawking’s decision to boycott next month’s Presidential Conference in Jerusalem, over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians:

      I have a suggestion. I suggest that the people of Israel send Hawking for a free trip on the Achille Lauro!!

      Plaut’s argument, that the proper punishment for boycotting Israel should be execution, was only slightly more obscene than that of attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center Organization, a right-wing pro-Israel not-for-profit whose stated primary goals include “defending human rights” and conducting a “civil war” in court against global terror. In a statement, Darshan-Leitner alluded to the fact that Hawking is almost entirely paralyzed and communicates through a speech generating device:

      His whole computer-based communication system runs on a chip designed by Israel’s Intel team. I suggest that if he truly wants to pull out of Israel he should also pull out his Intel Core i7 from his tablet.

      . . . Increasingly, the rabid “Pro-Israel” far-right has taken on as principal targets Jews whose most cherished wish is to see Israel become a stronger, more democratic, more livable society. Pamela Geller, whose bread and butter “pro-Israel” tack is hatred of Muslims, has branched out to target writer and editor Peter Beinart as a vomit-inducing kapo. Geller, at times borrowing her writing style from Stormfront, has also called Beinart “the pet Jew turncoat” of Newsweek/Daily Beast Editor Tina Brown. . .
      . . . It has to stop. It has to stop here and now. When self-styled pro-Israel advocates on the far-right practice incitement and repulsive bullying to further their cause, when hate speech becomes the go-to tool in their belt, it is time for people who care about Israel’s future to take a stand, call them out, shut them down, fight their smirking, obscene, proudly bigoted pronouncements. . .
      . . . It has to stop. We have to stop meekly putting up with it. Otherwise, as we’ve seen a number of times recently, if smartly dressed thugs of the right can disrupt a serious debate on Israel’s future by booing and delegitimizing a two-state solution as being anti-Israel, the way forward is clear. If the bigots, the fanatics, the Apartheid apologists, the velveteen fascists of the pro-Israel far-right are freely granted platforms as respected “experts” on Israel, no one who hates Israel as bigoted, fanatic, Apartheid-ruled and fascistic, no one who wants to see Israel ostracized to death,- will ever need to say another word. The Plauts, the Gellers, and a host of others will have already done their work for them.

      SOURCE – http://niqnaq.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/its-no-use-saying-it-has-to-stop-if-they-have-more-money-than-you-do/

    • DICKERSON3870
      May 21, 2013, 12:10 am

      P.P.P.P.S RE: “Congratulations, donors to Columbia University, for paying this monstrous fuckhead’s salary!” ~ John Podhoretz, the Editor-in-Chief of Commentary magazine

      [VIDEO, 59:17] John Podhoretz, editoral director and scheduled to become editor of Commentary Magazine, spoke about his life and career and political issues of the day. Before joining Commentary Magazine, John Podhoretz was chief political columnist for the New York Post, a speechwriter in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, and a consultant for the television program “West Wing.” He has also worked for Time Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, and The Washington Times.
      LINK – http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/281181-1

      • DICKERSON3870
        May 21, 2013, 3:35 am

        P.P.P.P.P.S. ALSO RE: “Congratulations, donors to Columbia University, for paying this monstrous fuckhead’s salary!” ~ Tweeted by John Podhoretz, the Editor-in-Chief of Commentary magazine, using a photo of a very young boy (presumably his son)

        MY COMMENT: The more I think about this tweet, the more I wonder what kind of sick, twisted individual would send out a tweet using language like “fuckhead” right next to a photo of a very young boy (presumably his son)? It’s almost perverse, like some kind of quasi-pedophilia; or perhaps an odd type of child porn; or maybe some kind of emotional child abuse. I’m certainly no psychiatrist, but I think this is far more serious than just “acting out”.
        I noticed that Ali Abunimah at Electronic Intifada has removed the actual tweet from his article. I certainly think that is the correct thing to do. No matter how depraved John Podhoretz might be, it is not right to make the young boy pictured on his tweet pay for his father’s bizarre predilections.

  4. Keith
    May 20, 2013, 4:46 pm

    MARC ELLIS- “With the recent Arab League land swap agreement, it seems that the Arab countries are all-in on Israel being integrated into the Middle East military security structure.”

    You mean that it isn’t already? I was under the impression that Turkey, Israel and the Gulf monarchies are even now bound up in various NATO entanglements.

  5. DICKERSON3870
    May 21, 2013, 1:03 am

    RE: “Massad lacks restraint on issues that touch on the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand the nuanced, ever-moving red lines that Jewish and Palestinian intellectuals and activists – at least in the European- American discourse – have agreed to respect.” ~ Marc Ellis


    [EXCERPT] . . . The United States and European countries, including Germany, would continue the pro-Zionist policies of the Nazis. Post-War West German governments that presented themselves as opening a new page in their relationship with Jews in reality did no such thing. Since the establishment of the country after WWII, every West German government (and every German government since unification in 1990) has continued the pro-Zionist Nazi policies unabated. There was never a break with Nazi pro-Zionism. The only break was with the genocidal and racial hatred of Jews that Nazism consecrated, but not with the desire to see Jews set up in a country in Asia, away from Europe. Indeed, the Germans would explain that much of the money they were sending to Israel was to help offset the costs of resettling European Jewish refugees in the country. . .

    FROM URI AVNERY: “Gunter the Terrible”, By Uri Avnery, The Palestine Chronicle, 4/13/12

    [EXCERPT] Stop me if I have told you this joke before:
    Somewhere in the US, a demonstration takes place. The police arrive and beat the protesters mercilessly.
    “Don’t hit me,” someone shouts, “I am an anti-communist!”
    “I couldn’t give a damn what kind of a communist you are!” a policeman answers as he raises his baton.
    The first time I told this joke was when a German group visited the Knesset and met with German-born members, including me.
    They went out of their way to praise Israel, lauding everything we had been doing, condemning every bit of criticism, however harmless it might be. It became downright embarrassing
    , since some of us in the Knesset were very critical of our government’s policy in the occupied territories.
    For me, this extreme kind of pro-Semitism is just disguised anti-Semitism.* Both have a basic belief in common: that Jews – and therefore Israel – are something apart, not to be measured by the standards applied to everybody else. . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=19233

    * P.S. I would add that Christian Zionism is also an “extreme kind of pro-Semitism” that is actually “disguised anti-Semitism”. And, unlike with the Germans, it is not partly a consequence of their guilt (since the Christian Zionists have absolutely no real remorse whatsoever for Christianity’s persecution of Jews over the centuries).

  6. Inanna
    May 21, 2013, 1:48 am

    Just what is Massad lacking in restraint in? He and Said would agree on a lot of things. Don’t mistake the ‘niceness’ of Said for restraint on the issue of justice for Palestine nor the more forceful language used by Massad as showing less restraint than Said. I don’t know what this so-called agreement is among European-American activists but it’s crap. I consistently deplore the motives and actions of the early Zionists, the middle Zionists and the later Zionists. The anti-racism stance of our movement springs from a matter of principle, not just policing anti-semitism for our political gain. As Remi Kanazi would say ‘Did I hurt your feelings?” Well, like Remi, I don’t want to hug it out. Either you’re with our struggle or you’re not. You can either join us on the way to liberation, justice and equality for everyone or hold on to your sense of privilege and see what history is going to do to that for you.

  7. Blaine Coleman
    May 21, 2013, 2:23 pm

    Massad understated the necessity for the liberation of Palestine.

    The Black freedom movement in the 1960’s certainly didn’t weigh its words with a thimble to make sure that no whites would be offended. It rightfully issued countless broadsides against the genocide that Black America was subjected to, and demanded immediate liberation.

    Black Americans were being murdered, disenfranchised, and robbed at the beginning of the ’60’s, and no power on Earth could stop it.

    Thanks only to the Black freedom movement, at the end of the ’60’s, no one could stop you from attending school, voting, working, or living where you chose, unless they were willing to be dragged in front of the courts and the news media as a racist criminal.

    Similarly, the anti-apartheid movement of the 1970’s and ’80’s never worried that someone might mistake them for being “anti-white”. That movement cursed South Africa for its racist crimes, boycotted South Africa, issued broadsides against South Africa, and helped to free South Africa’s people from white supremacist rule.

    If that timid, shamefully polite thing called “the BDS movement” ever goes nationwide, marching on student governements for total boycotts of Apartheid Israel, then Palestine will be liberated in no time flat. Until then, the BDS movement will be awaiting permission, hat in hand, from its “allies” who so hate to offend Israel.

    The so-called BDS movement should listen to Massad. Then maybe they will spend their summer getting ready to demand boycott against Israel, starting on September 1, 2013, and never be muted for a single week after that.

    How many more Arabs are going to be massacred by Israel before BDS becomes a public boycott group, instead of a timid bunch of perpetual “strategizers” and “planners”?

  8. atime forpeace
    May 21, 2013, 3:19 pm

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