Exile and the Prophetic: Joseph Massad strikes again

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 15 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.

Joseph Massad is at it again.  He never seems to go away.  Good for him!

Massad is a Jordanian-born, Palestinian and a professor at Columbia University.  He gained notoriety in a tenure battle that featured a ferocious below the belt campaign against him. 

Massad is a subversive intellectual.  He takes no prisoners.

I have been writing about him in my new book, Future Prophetic.  There I focus on an explosive essay he published in Al-Ahram on the 60th anniversary of the Nakba in 2008 – “Resisting the Nakba.”  It’s a long essay and I quote his powerful words extensively.  Massad needs to be heard on his own terms. 

I just ran across Massad’s contribution to the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, this time published on Al Jazeera’s website – “The Last of the Semites.” The subtitle is telling: “It is Israel’s claims that it represents and speaks for all Jews that are the most anti-Semitic claims of all.” 

I met Massad briefly in Oslo, Norway at a conferencing analyzing the Oslo Accords on its 15th anniversary.  The conference wasn’t high quality though some of the guests were certainly high profile.  Included were several of those Norwegians who helped negotiate the Accords – they were underwhelming to put it mildly – and Martin Indyk – former American Ambassador to Israel.  He was underwhelming, too. 

I spoke on a panel with Indyk and when I mentioned the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, he winced.  Or was it a groan.  Anyway, his reaction was immediate.   He doesn’t want to be associated with such a politically charged historical thought.  He hopes his attempts to sell Palestinians down the river will be hidden from view. 

In a private discussion, Indyk spoke softly as if we were on the same team holding a sidebar discussion during a negotiating session.  He whispered how close “we” were to solving the Israel/Palestine issue when he was at the negotiating table. 

I remember thinking that if I were a Palestinian, Indyk would be the last person I’d want helping me out of the ongoing Nakba jam.  As a Jew, if I was in the proverbial foxhole I’d choose Massad as a partner over Indyk any day of the week.  Whatever my disagreements with Massad, I know he’d level with me.

It’s a double humiliation for Palestinians to be “served” by the diplomats who facilitate the endless peace process.  I’m not sure who is worse, the Israelis who have no time for Palestinians or those who pretend to negotiate with their interests at heart.

I heard Massad speak at the conference and was impressed.  Later, I saw him at a restaurant.  I was seated alone, he was with friends.  When I left the restaurant, I walked over to his table and shook his hand.  I thanked him for his words.   

Massad’s 65th anniversary essay differs markedly from his 60th anniversary effort.  His previous essay hardly mentions Jews or Jewish history.  He seemed intent on emphasizing that for Palestinians, Jews are neither here nor there.  The issue for Palestinians is Palestine.  What Jews do with their history is up to them.   Just stop trespassing in Palestine.

The Holocaust reference in Massad’s 60th anniversary piece is limited to the Jewish Councils of Europe that governed the ghettos the Nazis created.  Massad inverts the reference.  He believes that the Jewish Councils collaborated with the Nazis – as the Palestinian Authority collaborates with Israel. 

Massad is on the hunt again this year but this time his focus is on Jews, Jewish history and Zionism before and after the creation of the state of Israel.   His article is broken down into four subheadings which provide a sense of the direction he takes:  Assimilating Jews into European culture; Anti-Semitic chain of pro-Zionist enthusiasts; The pro-Zionist policies of the Nazis; Commitment to white supremacy; Euro-American anti-Jewish tradition.

Massad’s argument is wide-ranging and covers epochs of Jewish history in relation to Europe, the United States, the Arab world and Palestine.  Suffice it to say that Zionism comes off as a fascist force with colonial designs, colonial backings and colonial practices.  The idea of redeeming Zionism from its colonialism is laughable – and criminal.  Here are some other themes:

Anti-Jewishness is Western as is Zionism. 

Zionism is the product of collaboration between Jews who wanted out of Europe – to dominate others –  and the Western powers that wanted Jews out of Europe. 

Nazi policies in relation to Jews aren’t foreign to the West, they continue today – for the Nazis as well as Europeans today its best for Jews to be outside of Europe. 

Israeli and Jewish leadership are in the Nazi boat, capitalizing on Nazi attitudes and displaying their own version. 

The Jewish masses may have been hoodwinked by Zionism but they also benefit from white supremacy and enjoy their elevation to this prized, though criminal status.

On Jews, white supremacy and a continuation of Nazi-like policies toward colonized people, Massad is brutal.  He analyzes and quotes from Aimé Césaire’s seminal work, “Discourse on Colonialism:”

Aimé Césaire understood this process very well. In his famous speech on colonialism, he affirmed that the retrospective view of European Christians about Nazism is that:

It is barbarism, but the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before [Europeans] were its victims, they were its accomplices; and they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimised it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilisation in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack. 

That for Césaire the Nazi wars and holocaust were European colonialism turned inwards is true enough. But since the rehabilitation of Nazism’s victims as white people, Europe and its American accomplice would continue their Nazi policy of visiting horrors on non-white people around the world, on Korea, on Vietnam and Indochina, on Algeria, on Indonesia, on Central and South America, on Central and Southern Africa, on Palestine, on Iran, and on Iraq and Afghanistan. 

“The rehabilitation of Nazism’s victims as white people” – that is, Jews.  Massad doesn’t say this directly but the implication is clear:  Jews becoming white, well, is there much or any difference today between Jews and the Nazis who persecuted them? 

Becoming white and being accepted as such, “visiting horrors on non-white people around the world” becomes routine.  Massad believes this has become the acceptable, even normative Jewishness.

Or is this a specific European- American Jewishness seen from the perspective of the non-Jewish non-white world and the non-white Jewish world?

Harsh thoughts with so many implications it requires much more analysis.  Is Massad overreaching?  Perhaps.  Is Massad wrong?  Even if he is partially right, the Jewish condition is dire. 

Massad closes his essay on the issue of anti-Semitism:

Today, Israel and the Western powers want to elevate anti-Semitism to an international principle around which they seek to establish full consensus. They insist that for there to be peace in the Middle East, Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims must become, like the West, anti-Semites by espousing Zionism and recognising Israel’s anti-Semitic claims. Except for dictatorial Arab regimes and the Palestinian Authority and its cronies, on this 65th anniversary of the anti-Semitic conquest of Palestine by the Zionists, known to Palestinians as the Nakba, the Palestinian people and the few surviving anti-Zionist Jews continue to refuse to heed this international call and incitement to anti-Semitism. They affirm that they are, as the last of the Semites, the heirs of the pre-WWII Jewish and Palestinian struggles against anti-Semitism and its Zionist colonial manifestation. It is their resistance that stands in the way of a complete victory for European anti-Semitism in the Middle East and the world at large.

Well, with Massad we’ve come a long inverted way.  He sees the Jewishness that most Jews celebrate as colonial and – criminal. 

Massad stops short – I think – of a Euro-American Jewish Zionist conspiracy to dominate the world.

Understanding Jewishness at war with the world and with Jewishness itself.  It’s a tough sell.

Massad takes no prisoners.

15 Responses

  1. ivri
    May 17, 2013, 11:05 am

    As always a clever guy, even if on the other side of the divide, is more interesting than a sloganeering hate-obsessed fool. This is of course a conspiracy theory par excellence – that is, it adds masterminding and collusion to what may be an evolutionary process driven by many forces. “The truth” could be of course far more banal and random in nature, but for a person who is both an academic, an observer-like capacity, and a participant, with deep emotional attachment to the issue, this cannot be satisfactory.

  2. DICKERSON3870
    May 17, 2013, 2:13 pm

    RE: Zionism is the product of collaboration between Jews who wanted out of Europe – to dominate others – and the Western powers that wanted Jews out of Europe.” ~ one theme from Massad’s argument (per Marc Ellis)

    FOR EXAMPLE, SEE: “Zionism versus Bolshevism”, by Winston Churchill, Illustrated Sunday Herald (London), February 8, 1920, pg. 5

    [EXCERPT] . . . The National Russian Jews, in spite of the disabilities under which they have suffered, have managed to play an honourable and useful part in the national life even of Russia. As bankers and industrialists they have strenuously promoted the development of Russia’s economic resources and they were foremost in the creation of those remarkable organisations, the Russian Co-operative Societies. In politics their support has been given, for the most part, to liberal and progressive movements, and they have been among the staunchest upholders of friendship with France and Great Britain.

    International Jews.

    In violent opposition to all this sphere of Jewish effort rise the schemes of the International Jews. The adherents of this sinister confederacy are mostly men reared up among the unhappy populations of countries where Jews are persecuted on account of their race. Most, if not all, of them have forsaken the faith of their forefathers, and divorced from their minds all spiritual hopes of the next world. This movement among the Jews is not new. From the days of Spartacus-Weishaupt to those of Karl Marx, and down to Trotsky (Russia), Bela Kun (Hungary), Rosa Luxembourg (Germany), and Emma Goldman (United States), this world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence, and impossible equality, has been steadily growing. It played, as a modern writer, Mrs. Webster, has so ably shown, a definitely recognisable part in the tragedy of the French Revolution. It has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the Nineteenth Century; and now at last this band of extraordinary personalities from the underworld of the great cities of Europe and America have gripped the Russian people by the hair of their heads and have become practically the undisputed masters of that enormous empire.

    Terrorist Jews.

    There is no need to exaggerate the part played in the creation of Bolshevism and in the actual bringing about of the Russian Revolution by these international and for the most part atheistical Jews. It is certainly a very great one; it probably outweighs all others. With the notable exception of Lenin, the majority of the leading figures are Jews. Moreover, the principal inspiration and driving power comes from the Jewish leaders. Thus Tchitcherin, a pure Russian, is eclipsed by his nominal subordinate Litvinoff, and the influence of Russians like Bukharin or Lunacharski cannot be compared with the power of Trotsky, or of Zinovieff, the Dictator of the Red Citadel (Petrograd), or of Krassin or Radek – all Jews. In the Soviet institutions the predominance of Jews is even more astonishing. And the prominent, if not indeed the principal, part in the system of terrorism applied by the Extraordinary Commissions for Combating Counter-Revolution has been taken by Jews, and in some notable cases by Jewesses. The same evil prominence was obtained by Jews in the brief period of terror during which Bela Kun ruled in Hungary. The same phenomenon has been presented in Germany (especially in Bavaria), so far as this madness has been allowed to prey upon the temporary prostration of the German people. Although in all these countries there are many non-Jews every whit as bad as the worst of the Jewish revolutionaries, the part played by the latter in proportion to their numbers in the population is astonishing. . .

    CHURCHILL’S ENTIRE ANTI-SEMITIC SCREED – link to en.wikisource.org

    P.S. I’m not surprised by Churchill’s anti-Semitism [Churchill's ancestral home & birthplace], but one of Brandeis’ arguments in the U.S. in favor of Zionism was that it would be better for the Jews to go to Palestine than for the Jews to cause trouble [of the Russian revolution type (i.e. communism), I assume] in other countries [in Europe and perhaps elsewhere].
    Shame on Brandeis!

    • DICKERSON3870
      May 17, 2013, 2:18 pm

      P.P.S. MORE OF SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL’S ANTI-SEMITISM, ETC:

      When Britain lost control of Egypt in 1956, Prime Minister Anthony Eden said he wanted the nationalist president Gamal Abdel Nasser “destroyed, murdered, I don’t give a damn if there’s anarchy and chaos in Egypt.” Those insolent Arabs, Winston Churchill had urged in 1951, should be driven “into the gutter from which they should never have emerged.”

      SOURCE – link to nlpwessex.org

      I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of American or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.” ~ Winston Churchill to the Peel Commission in 1937

      SOURCE – link to message.snopes.com

      What about Gandhi’s nemesis, Winston Churchill? Today we only remember his heroic opposition to Nazism. But while he was against gassing and tyranny in Europe, he was passionately in favour of it for “uncivilised” human beings whose riches he wanted to seize. In the 1920s, Iraqis rose up against British imperial rule, and Churchill as Colonial Secretary thought of a good solution: gas them. He wrote: “I do not understand this squeamishness… I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.” It would “spread a lively terror”. He was quite clear about why Britain should do this. He explained: “We have engrossed to ourselves an altogether disproportionate share of the wealth and traffic of the world… mainly acquired by violence, largely maintained by force.”

      SOURCE – link to commondreams.org

  3. Keith
    May 17, 2013, 6:03 pm

    MARC ELLIS- Good heavens! You seem to have become Mondoweiss’ most radical contributor, pushing the discussion in directions which need to be discussed, but which others are unable to pursue. Keep up the good work, Professor!

  4. hophmi
    May 17, 2013, 6:06 pm

    “Massad stops short – I think – of a Euro-American Jewish Zionist conspiracy to dominate the world.”

    And you say he “Understand[s] Jewishness [as being] at war with the world”

    You’re not sure if he’s a believer in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but you think he’s a great guy.

    But anti-Zionism and antisemitism have nothing to do with one another.

  5. Citizen
    May 17, 2013, 6:47 pm

    Massad’s message has not got to Pat Boone.

  6. Inanna
    May 17, 2013, 10:43 pm

    He sees the Jewishness that most Jews celebrate as colonial and – criminal.

    Nope. He says the Zionism as colonial and criminal, not the Jewishness. You’re the one conflating Zionism and Judaism and thus kinda proving Massad’s point.

  7. Hester
    May 17, 2013, 11:46 pm

    “What Jews do with their history is up to them. Just stop trespassing in Palestine.”

    Jews are not “trespassing” in Palestine. They have been a part of life in Palestine for centuries, and had and have every right to live there . Zionists did not have the right to take over lands and homes that already belonged to other people. Zionists do not have the right to continue to steal land and homes.

  8. yourstruly
    May 18, 2013, 11:53 am

    the concluding paragraphs of Joseph Massad’s “The Last of the Semites” –

    Israel’s claim that its critics must be anti-Semitic pre-supposes that its critics believe its claim that it represents “The Jewish People”. But it is Israel’s claim that it represents and speaks for all Jews that are the most anti-Semitic claim of all.

    Today Israel and the Western powers want to elevate anti-Semitism to an international principle around which they seek to establish full consensus. They insist that for there to be peace in the Middle East, Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims must become, like the West, anti-Semitic by espousing Zionism and recognizing Israel’s anti-Semitic claims. Except for dictatorial Arab regimes and the Palestinian Authority and its cronies, on this the 65th anniversary of the anti-Semitic conquest of Palestine by the Zionists, known to Palestinians as the Nakba, the Palestinians and the few surviving anti-Zionist Jews continue to refuse to heed this international call and incitement to anti-Semitism. They affirm that they are, as the last of the Semites, the heirs of the pre-WWII Jewish and Palestinian struggles against anti-Semitism and its Zionist colonial manifestations. It is this resistance that stands in the way of a complete victory for European anti-Semitism in the Middle East and the world at large.

  9. libra
    May 18, 2013, 7:51 pm

    Professor Ellis: The rehabilitation of Nazism’s victims as white people” – that is, Jews.

    I can only imagine this rehabilitation must have come as a bit of a surprise for the Poles, Ukrainians, and Russians who lost millions of their fellow countrymen.

  10. yonah fredman
    May 19, 2013, 4:59 am

    Massad’s essay is toxic. (It is poison with the purpose of poison rather than the purpose of truth: it is a cherry picking of jewish history to prove that zionism is evil.) i thought marc ellis was against constantinian Judaism. but massad is against much more than that. he is against any reading of history that includes the first half of the 20th century as anything but an excuse for zionists, whereas in fact it was a trauma of biblical proportions and to read nazism as merely an excuse for zionists, to read european antisemitism as merely an excuse for zionists, rather than real challenges that in fact had no absolute answer but which still demanded an answer, is to pervert history.

    • American
      May 19, 2013, 12:22 pm

      @ yonah

      I think his themes are pretty accurate…..AS was western, zionism was western (and predated the holocaust as you know).

      So what does this mean?…..”he is against any reading of history that includes the first half of the 20th century as anything but an excuse for zionists, whereas in fact it was a trauma of biblical proportions and to read nazism as merely an excuse for zionists, to read european antisemitism as merely an excuse for zionists, rather than real challenges that in fact had no absolute answer but which still demanded an answer, is to pervert history.’

      Imo zionism was and is a cult in the true meaning of the term—and I think most everyone agrees that without the holocaust and resulting world sympathy Israel would never have gotten the backing needed to actually establish it or keep it going.
      The real excuse for zionism is Jews cant /wont/or wernt allowed to assimilate so they want/need to be separate from the world.
      But as we see that isnt working out either.
      You now have your separate zionist country –and –you still have problems and are creating problems.
      So what you going to do?….keep playing the world’s mostest eternal victims, anti semitism and holocaust card or what?
      That refrain is really worn out since zionist are in fact acting like midget nazis.

  11. yonah fredman
    May 19, 2013, 10:32 pm

    american- Marc Ellis oughta read your interpretation of Massad and then come back and tell us how great and subversive Massad is.

    Critiques of Israel as Ellis is capable of are useful. Calling Zionism Constantinian Judaism is a useful construct. Calling Zionism midget Nazis does not seem nearly as useful.

    Zionism was born from the facts of Europe as given. In fact less than 50 years after the first Zionist congress, Europe, personified by its conquerors, the Nazis, (an unfair personification but one which history conceived, not me) tried to wipe out the Jews of Europe and succeeded in wiping out about half or more of them. True the facts of the first half of the 20th century may be a poor guide as to how to go forward, but still history is not a puddle to be splashed in by a six year old and that is how Massad is treating history as a plaything rather than as something that needs study.

    • Woody Tanaka
      May 20, 2013, 9:38 am

      “Calling Zionism midget Nazis does not seem nearly as useful.”

      Only if one thinks that the be-all and end-all of Nazi criminality was the industrialized murder. That was the end of the spectrum, not the entirety of it.

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