The strange disappearance of Joseph Massad
Last week, I commented on Columbia professor Joseph Massad’s essay in al-Jazeera, “The Last of the Semites”:
[Massad’s] essay — of that length by virtue of the fact that no-one seems to have thought to edit it down — hinges on that old idea that Zionism is racism. In this case, Massad applies this cliché not just in the usual way to indicate prejudice towards non-Jews. No, he believes Zionism is explicitly anti-Semitic. Zionism, according to Massad, emerged not as a response to European anti-Semitism but in sympathy with its racialist precepts.
Since last Tuesday, prominent journalists including Jeffrey Goldberg, John Podhoretz, and James Kirchick picked up on Massad’s piece and shared it about for all to see, while my critique was mentioned in media outlets like The Jerusalem Post and The Washington Free Beacon (a magazine I don’t believe I would appear in under ordinary circumstances — Bill Kristol doesn’t strike me as a Meretz guy). Well, as of yesterday, Massad’s essay is no longer available, it having been taken down from the web by al-Jazeera without explanation or notice.
And this is exactly the wrong thing for al-Jazeera to have done. First, denying people the right to read this disgraceful, unlettered essay also denies people the right to find out just what a horrible little man Joseph Massad is — which, is a useful public service for al-Jazeera to be engaging in. Second, if al-Jazeera feels it made a bad call by lending its imprimatur to the original work unedited (which, by removing it, is evidently the case), they should be made to pay for that mistake. Either, they should have kept it up on the website with an addendum, or if they absolutely had to take it down, they should have provided a note with reasoning for why exactly Massad’s essay was palatable to them on Tuesday but spoilt by Sunday. The current situation is unsatisfactory for supporters and opponents of Massad’s screed.
So Denmark won the Eurovision Song Contest. And it was a good song, so congratulations to them. When it comes to an overall winner of Eurovision, I don’t mind who wins, pretty much. I only request that who’s picked isn’t embarrassing for the sake of the contest. No Romanian castrati, for example, or moustachioed Greeks dishing out free alcohol.
But I do have my preferences, and these were my top five on the night:
1. Anouk, “Birds” (The Netherlands, 9th, 114pts)
2. Robin Stjernberg, “You” (Sweden, 14th, 62pts)
3. Birgit, “Et uus saaks alguse” (Estonia, 20th, 19pts)
OVER THE WEEKEND: Howe warns Tories over Europe; Homophobic murder in New York; Denmark wins Eurovision
- Geoffrey Howe warned David Cameron that he is losing control of his party over Europe, damaging the country in the process. [The Guardian]
- Victims of Cardinal Keith O’Brien alleged sexual molestation condemned the Vatican’s decision to permit him to leave Scotland for prayer and penance. [The Guardian]
- In New York, Mark Carson was murdered Friday night in a homophobic hate crime, just blocks from the Stonewall Inn. [The New York Times]
- Thomas Friedman visited north-eastern Syria, reporting on how water shortages and ossification in government begat political and civil unrest. [The New York Times]
- Daniel Ben Simon reported on the efforts by secular and religious Israelis to regenerate the deprived, mixed city of Lod. [Al-Monitor]
- Denmark won the Eurovision Song Contest. “Only Teardrops”, performed by Emmilie de Forest, scored 281 points, beating out Azeribaijan and the Ukraine. [BBC]
- On the final day of the Premier League season, Aston Villa drew 2-2 with already-relegated Wigan away from home. Villa finished the season in 15th place with 41 points. [BBC]
The winning song:
THE WEEK THAT WAS (13-17/05/2013)
As Shelly Yachimovich pressed Israel and the Palestinians to renew peace talks, the Netanyahu government approved four new settlements beyond the Security Barrier. This Wednesday was also Shavuot in Israel.
It’s that time again: Eurovision!
Every year it disappoints me, yet every year I return. And once more, the Eurovision Song Contest is upon us. For the uninitiated (though I can’t imagine there are that many people unaware of exactly what this affair entails), I have selected some of my favourite Eurovision winners from ABBA to Loreen, both of whom are Swedish, by coincidence I presume. My selection indicate two things: first, that Eurovision had a kind of musical peak between 1974 and 1982; and second, I started watching Eurovision after 1997, and in spite of the overall decline in quality, I keep doing so.
ABBA, “Waterloo” (Sweden, 1974)
Marie Myriam, “L’oiseau and l’enfant” (France, 1977)
Izhar Cohen and the Alphabeta, “A-Ba-Ni-Bi” (Israel, 1978)
Johnny Logan, “What’s Another Year”(Ireland, 1980)
Nicole, “Ein Bisschen Frieden” (Germany, 1982)
Another slap in the face from Netanyahu
From Peace Now:
Following a rumoured freeze, and Secretary Kerry’s continuing efforts to launch negotiations, Israel announces intent to establish four new settlements by legalizing existing illegal outposts.
On Tuesday, the Government submitted a formal response to Peace Now’s Supreme Court petition against six illegal outposts. In the response the government declares its intention to legalize four outposts, in isolated areas.
The Civil Administration has been instructed to begin a process of legalizing the outposts of Ma’ale Rehavam, Haroeh, Givat Assaf, and Mitzpe Lachish. The former government had previously promised to remove the illegal construction built on private land, but had not declared its intention to legalize the outposts.
The Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the petition on Wednesday, May 22nd.
All of these proposed new settlements — retrospectively legalised ones — are located outside of the Security Barrier and beyond the boundary line drawn by the Geneva Initiative, both of which form the basis for a future border between Israel and Palestine to be finalised in negotiations. This move is, therefore, another slap in the face delivered by Benjamin Netanyahu to his coalition partners Yesh Atid and Hatnua, his few partners for peace in the Palestinian Authority, as well as Secretary of State John Kerry who has been working diligently in recent weeks to restart the peace process.
View New settlements (16/5) in a larger map
Joseph Massad’s problem with rooted cosmopolitans
Joseph Massad’s op-ed, “The Last of the Semites”, demonstrates above all that the Columbia professor knows very little about not a lot.
His essay — of that length by virtue of the fact that no-one seems to have thought to edit it down — hinges on that old idea that Zionism is racism. In this case, Massad applies this cliché not just in the usual way to indicate prejudice towards non-Jews. No, he believes Zionism is explicitly anti-Semitic. Zionism, according to Massad, emerged not as a response to European anti-Semitism but in sympathy with its racialist precepts:
When Zionism started a decade and a half after Marr’s anti-Semitic programme was published, it would espouse all these anti-Jewish ideas, including scientific anti-Semitism as valid. For Zionism, Jews were “Semites”, who were descendants of the ancient Hebrews. In his foundational pamphlet Der Judenstaat, Herzl explained that it was Jews, not their Christian enemies, who “cause” anti-Semitism and that “where it does not exist, [anti-Semitism] is carried by Jews in the course of their migrations”.
Zionism, Massad thinks, was anti-Semitic not only of this reason but because it represented a “continuation of the Haskalah quest to shed Jewish culture and assimilate Jews into European secular gentile culture,” which of course is a total perversion of Jewish history and what Herzl actually thought and wrote.
In part, the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment, was related to assimilation but in the main it was an attempt to synthesis traditional Judaism with the modern ideas of the Enlightenment, including liberalism, nationalism, egality, and emancipation. Zionism emerged throughout the nineteenth century (not bang on 1897, as Massad understands it) as a product of this intellectual and cultural shift in the sense that its claim was that Jews are equal to all others and as deserving of statehood as anybody else. It is not, as Massad seems to think, some declaration of Jewish supremacy.
But it is also a by-product of the Haskalah: it is a reflection of the actual, lived Jewish experience in nineteenth-century Europe, and the waves of anti-Semitism that came with Jewish emancipation and entry into the professions from which Jews had previously been barred. Massad doesn’t seem to wish to acknowledge that anti-Semitism affected Jews in this way, at all.