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Joseph Massad on how ‘Peace is War’

Israel/Palestine
on 19 Comments

Joseph Massad is an Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University.  He is a Palestinian born in Jordan in 1963. In 1998, Massad earned a doctorate at Columbia University where he studied under Edward Said.  His most recent book Desiring Arabs (2007), which some consider an extension of Said’s Orientalism, received wide critical acclaim from scholars whose work concerns Arabic culture and history, as well as those whose field is sexual theory.

In 2004 Massad was at the center of a group of Columbia faculty that was accused by mostly Jewish students of what they considered unfair treatment because of the students’ pro-Israel views.  Many viewed the campaign against the professors as an attempt, supported by Israel lobby groups, to inhibit political speech critical of Israel.  In the end, Massad and the others were exonerated by a university committee.

Despite his own experience of accusations from pro-Israel groups, Massad was one of a group of leftists who were highly critical of the John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt claim that the powerful Israel lobby is able to force the U.S. to adopt a foreign policy which is against its own interests.  Massad opined that that lobby simply supports an imperialist U.S. foreign policy which naturally favors Israel.

Above is a lecture he presented at Austin Community College on October 23, 2013.  In it Massad details the history of Zionism, which he sees as a racist, colonial-settler movement that has always intended to subdue the indigenous Palestinian population, despite its public pronouncements that Israel desires peace.  He argues that in the early 1970s, the United States joined Israel’s war against the Palestinians by initiating talks which led to the Camp David peace treaty and to Egypt’s complete capitulation to Israeli demands of its acceptance of Palestinian defeat.

Massad also accuses the Palestinian Liberation Organization of abandoning the liberation struggle decades ago and acting as collaborators in the Israeli colonial project.  He dismisses the two-state solution as a ruse to promote Zionist expansion and control.  Massad mocks the reframing of the liberation struggle as a “conflict,” which he insists shows an acceptance of Israeli claims that we are talking about a disagreement rather than the suppression of political and human rights.  Despite the perfidy of its leadership who has surrendered, Massad says that the Palestinian people have never given up their struggle for justice.

Massad’s vision is not one that many want to hear.  Some probably would say it ignores all positive currents and hopes; that it is too cynical.  But given the worsening situation on the ground, the mockery that is passing for negotiations, and the continual expansion of the Israeli settlements, maybe this pessimistic view can teach us something important.  A victim’s righteous anger may be difficult to encounter, but especially when it comes from someone as brilliant as Joseph Massad, we ignore it at our own peril.

Massad covered very similar theme in a recent two-part essay for Al Jazeera here and here.

Ira Glunts
About Ira Glunts

Ira Glunts is a retired college librarian who lives in Madison, NY. His twitter handle is @abushalom

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19 Responses

  1. Shmuel
    Shmuel
    November 7, 2013, 1:11 pm

    Thanks Ira.

    In it Massad details the history of Zionism, which he sees as a racist, colonial-settler movement that has always intended to subdue the indigenous Palestinian population, despite its public pronouncements that Israel desires peace.

    This reminds me of something Hannan Hever wrote about the myth of peace-seeking Zionism. Hever argues that the colonialist consequence of the decision to
    pursue the goals of Jewish nationalism specifically in Palestine – against the will of land’s native population – necessarily entailed violence, and that the Zionist movement (and especially Zionist literature) actively sought to deny or downplay this inevitable violence (apparent from the very outset of Zionist settlement – as described, for example, by Ahad Ha’am).

    I believe that the “hand always extended in peace” mythology that has become so much a part of the Israeli and Zionist self-image (as well as an effective propaganda tool) springs directly from this tradition – the same tradition that enables oppressors to really see themselves as victims, and not only present themselves as such (Hever and Ahad Ha’am have a few things to say about that as well).

    • jon s
      jon s
      November 7, 2013, 4:17 pm

      Many of the early Zionists sincerely believed in the idea – which proved to be an illusion – that the movement’s goals could be achieved peacefully, that the Arab population would see the benefits arising from the development of the country and would greet the Jewish immigrants with a “welcome home” (as in the Faisal-Frankfurter correspondence). And there were the Marxists, among the Labor Zionists , who expected the Arab “workers and peasants” to prefer their “class interests ” and form an alliance with the “Jewish masses”.
      As I said, those ideas proved to be illusory, and by the time of the violent events of
      1929 most Zionists understood that the reality was going to be quite different, that unfortunately there was going to be violence and sacrifice. Still, I don’t think that the “hand extended in peace ” was insincere. It was a significant aspect of the Zionist self-image.

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        November 7, 2013, 4:31 pm

        It was a significant aspect of the Zionist self-image.

        I agree (and that is in fact the point of Hever’s article), but it was largely self-delusional, if only in a “mission civilisatrice” sort of way. The Zionist project in Palestine was an essentially violent one, whether its proponents and participants wished to admit it or not.

        Here’s Hever, in Hebrew:
        תכליתו של מעשה ההצדקה הספרותי הציוני את ארץ ישראל כיעד הבלעדי להגירה
        יהודית היא להסתיר ולהצניע את האלימות שהייתה כרוכה במסקנות הקולוניאליסטיות
        שהוסקו עקב הכורח לצאת מאירופה ולקבוע את יעד ההגירה בארץ ישראל דווקא, ולא
        למשל בארצות הברית או בפתרון טריטוריאליסטי אחר. שכן, יש לזכור, היהודים הגיעו
        למרחב שלא היה ריק מתושבים, והעובדה שבואם עמד בניגוד לרצונם של הערבים דרשה
        הפעלת אלימות מצדם, אם בסמוי ואם בגלוי, כדי שתתאפשר נוכחות יהודית חדשה בארץ
        ישראל. הספרות הציונית שימשה אפוא בין השאר כמעין מעטפת שתפקידה להעלים את
        האלימות הזאת כליל או לפחות להציגה כנסבלת.

        And the source (Hebrew): http://in.bgu.ac.il/bgi/iyunim/22/hannan-hever.pdf

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        November 7, 2013, 5:14 pm

        Who was it that went to Palestine and saw she was already married? Thinking they could roll up, take what they wanted and have it accepted peacefully was nuts. Like someone from Gaza could turn up and start doing Mrs Lieberman with the full support of Avigdor.

        And didn’t they start from the get go with towers and stockades and the attitude of dunum by dunum. ? Their tragedy was and is the reliance on violence. It means everything they have achieved has the sword hanging over it. Superior force would be justified under their rules.

      • andrew r
        andrew r
        November 9, 2013, 7:34 pm

        Sorry for the off-topic post but since Shmuel posted a Hebrew article I feel prompted to ask:

        מי שיודע בשפה הזאת תביט בספרי ילדים האלה ולומר לי שעברית טוב או לא, וללא בעיות בדקדוק מיוחד? תודה

        Would anyone who knows Hebrew mind looking at these children’s books (Which were translated) and tell me if the usage of Hebrew is correct, especially the grammar?

        http://www.sefer-li.net/tlaj.pdf
        http://www.sefer-li.net/brem.pdf
        This one in particular has a line: זה היה מתאים גם לנו
        Can היה be used like that or did the writer want to use יהיה?

        http://www.sefer-li.net/kosemx.pdf

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        November 11, 2013, 1:14 am

        Hi Andrew,

        The Hebrew’s fine in all 3 books (although perhaps a little stilted in some places in the first book – often the case in kids’ books). The phrase זה היה מתאים גם לנו is OK too, meaning “that would suit us as well”.

      • tree
        tree
        November 7, 2013, 4:58 pm

        Jon,

        There’s something profoundly delusional (and racist) about the idea that one can go to another country, buy land, restrict both its future sale and its lease to a small and mostly foreign religious/ethnic (Jewish) percentage of that country’s population as well as prohibit anyone but that small ethnic percentage of the population from even working on that land while insisting that you are “extending your hand in peace” with those you dispossess. And that is exactly what the JNF, formed in 1901, did.

        And it is also profoundly delusional (and racist) to insist that one is extending one’s “hand in peace” when simultaneously engaging in “kibush h’avoda”(conquering labor) by seeking to restrict the majority population from obtaining employment in Jewish enterprises and the enterprises of the governing British as well. And that is exactly what the early Zionists did. Self-image does not always equal reality nor true sincerity, especially when un-examined racism is at its core.

        Some insist that the conflict revolves around what happened in 1967. Others say that it revolves around what happened in 1948. I think its wiser to admit that the conflict has its origin in 1901(or thereabouts). Zionism was always a colonial enterprise and it always mimicked the prevalent racist European attitudes towards non-white indigenous populations. Its only distinguishing feature of its day was that it put Ashkenazi Jews at the top of the hierarchy rather than Christian Europeans.

      • Xpat
        Xpat
        November 7, 2013, 5:05 pm

        Tree, it seems to me that 1917 is the critical year. As long as the Turks were in control, just getting Constantonople to grant entry certificates and land rights for a handful of halutzim was enough to occupy Ben Gurion’s time.

        Britain blew the lid off that with its government’s explicit Christian Zionist program and the establishment of the Anglo-Jewish government in Palestine in the early 20s. In the 1920s, the Jewish Agency and the British Mandatory government in Palestine had the kind of close relationship that has only been rivaled since by AIPAC’s relationship with the US government.

      • tree
        tree
        November 7, 2013, 5:32 pm

        You might be correct about 1917 being the critical year as far as achieving their goals, but I think that the mindset was already there with first Zionist Congress, which I guess puts the start at 1897 rather than 1901.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        November 7, 2013, 9:01 pm

        “the mindset was already there with first Zionist Congress, which I guess puts the start at 1897 rather than 1901.”

        That is where I would put the start. In 1897 the Zionists met in Basle and decided that they would set up their state in Palestine, regardless of the desires and interests of the Muslims, Christians and Jews who were already living there.

        That is the “We matter and you don’t”* mindset that has characterized Zionism ever since.

        (*Thanks yet again, Saleema.)

      • Sibiriak
        Sibiriak
        November 11, 2013, 1:37 am

        tree says:

        There’s something profoundly delusional (and racist) about the idea that one can go to another country, buy land, restrict both its future sale and its lease to a small and mostly foreign religious/ethnic (Jewish) percentage of that country’s population as well as prohibit anyone but that small ethnic percentage of the population from even working on that land while insisting that you are “extending your hand in peace” with those you dispossess. And that is exactly what the JNF, formed in 1901, did.

        Incisive formulation. But it seems the word”delusional” might not be accurate, as the dispossession you describe became a long-standing, perhaps permanent, reality.

      • tree
        tree
        November 11, 2013, 3:40 am

        But it seems the word”delusional” might not be accurate, as the dispossession you describe became a long-standing, perhaps permanent, reality.

        Sibiriak, when I used the word “delusional” I was referring to this statement by Jon

        Still, I don’t think that the “hand extended in peace ” was insincere. It was a significant aspect of the Zionist self-image.

        The Zionist self-image of having a “hand extended in peace” was delusional. Unfortunately the reality of dispossession that the delusional self-image wrought was not. The delusion itself continues. Jon and other “liberal Zionists” really believe that the early Zionist movement was looking for an equitable accommodation with those it dispossessed. It wasn’t.

      • Xpat
        Xpat
        November 7, 2013, 4:59 pm

        and by the time of the violent events of
        1929 most Zionists understood that the reality was going to be quite different,

        Zionist leaders such as Hans Kohn figured this out earlier and left for America. He left Jerusalem in the mid-1920s.

        Most of the founding wave of Jewish immigrants (“Aliya shniya”) to Palestine left, never to return. We’ll never know how many of them saw through the myth of Ziomism just by virtue of being in Palestine.

  2. Ludwig
    Ludwig
    November 7, 2013, 1:30 pm

    Just watch “Columbia unbecoming” to know what a fraud this guy is.

  3. ivri
    ivri
    November 7, 2013, 4:43 pm

    The problem with attitudes like that of Massad that they not only perpetuate the suffering of the people he claims he wants to help but that the disproportionate obsession of a big Arab world with a tiny Israel has distracted it from real problems it had and contributed to the downfall of entire Arab countries and societies. The question therefore is: just how much more in very real terms the Palestinians and the Arab world at large still have to pay just to make Massad feel that his case (as seen from the safe US) is being advanced? How lower Arabs still need to go in order to satisfy that?

    • thankgodimatheist
      thankgodimatheist
      November 8, 2013, 6:30 am

      More pornography from a Zionist who feigns to care about “the suffering” of the Arabs. Always knows better what’s good for them more than the likes of Massad for example, an indigenous Palestinian. How much more mayhem, destruction misery and death are you ready to inflict on the dispossessed population in order to satisfy your wet dream of ethnic supremacy?

  4. alan
    alan
    November 8, 2013, 5:35 am

    “Despite his own experience of accusations from pro-Israel groups, Massad was one of a group of leftists who were highly critical of the John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt claim that the powerful Israel lobby is able to force the U.S. to adopt a foreign policy which is against its own interests.”

    Perhaps that should read “Because of…”… I may be sniping unfairly, I don’t know the man. That sentence does grate on me though.

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