Columbia’s history professor Joseph Massad decides he’s an expert on international law above the entire world when it comes to de-legitimizing Israel.
By Lee Kaplan
Joining a long line of Palestinian and other Arab “academics” is a relentless quest to de-legitimize the Jewish state of Israel, Columbia’s Joseph Massad claims that the United Nation’s exercise of international law “against the Palestinian people” in 1948 creating Israel is rooted in a “ficticious”(sic) narrative of Israel having a "right" to exist.
Massad has taken pen or keyboard in hand to write a less-than-dignified propaganda rant against the Jewish state in the less-than-objective Arab news service, al Jazeera. In the article, dated May, 6th, 2011, Massad, who is not a law professor, nor has any expertise in international law, decides he knows more about international law than all the international lawyers in the world and throughout history including those who wrote UN resolutions pertaining to Israel’s existence and the establishment of states in the Middle East.
In the same Al Jazeera article Massad explains that “For the Palestinians and the international community, represented by the United Nations and the myriad resolutions its Security Council and General Assembly issued since 1948, what was to be negotiated were the colonization of land, the occupation of territory and population, and the laws that stipulate ethnic and religious discrimination in Israel, which, among other things, bar Palestinian refugees from returning to their land and confiscate their property. In their struggle against these Israeli practices, Palestinian leaders, whether in Israel, the Occupied Territories, or the diaspora, have always invoked these rights based on international law and UN resolutions, which Israel has consistently refused to implement or abide by since 1948. Thus for the Palestinians, armed by the UN and international law, the negotiations were precisely aimed to end colonization, occupation, and discrimination.”
Massad forgets or overlooks intentionally the United Nations in 1948 set up a Palestinian state on what is today called the West Bank the same time it created Israel (a state that was subsequently swallowed up by Jordan while Gaza was swallowed up by Egypt). Apparently, the United Nations setting up a Jewish state next door had no legal basis, but the Arab one did solely because Massad, the self-proclaimed international law expert says so. Massad also ignores that Jews were the majority population property owners who legally purchased all their land in the final area designated by the UN to be Israel. The remaining Negev desert had little going for it as private property back then. It is further a myth of the Palestinian movement that Jews just grabbed Arab property at the behest of the UN.
Massad further turns history and truth on their heads by ignoring that Israel was founded in international law by the United Nations over a 30 year period starting with the Balfour Declaration by the British. If Massad’s outrageous statements about law had any validity then most of the Arab states founded after the First World War would also have no legitimacy, such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon that were sops for Arab tribes who fought against the Turks for the British and French. Massad further ignores that the Jewish majority in Israel legally purchased most of their land in pre 1948 Israel, and denies a Jewish presence in the land for 3,000 years even existing after the Roman conquest, thus negating his accusation that the founding population of Israel were little more than colonists dispossessing the “indigenous” population of Arabs. Massad also ignores that Jews were the majority population property owners who legally purchased all their land in the final area designated by the UN to be Israel, parts of which were stolen by Jordanian and Egyptian armies back in 1948. The remaining Negev desert had little going for it as private property back then. It is further a myth of the Palestinian movement that Jews just grabbed Arab property at the behest of the UN.
Of course, Massad, ignores the myriad pogroms of Jews by the Arabs in the region in 1921, in 1929 in Hebron, in 1936 and 1947 which led the United Nations and Britain to declare finally a separate state for Jewish self-determination in those areas where Jews were a majority.
Massad even ignores that a “Palestinian” back in 1948 was a term used to mean a Jew, and the term was not even adoptede by Arabs allegedly from the region until after 1964 as was explained by the PLO leadership in 1970. One can only attribute such outrageous claims of violations of international law to Massad’s being tenured which guarantees he will be able to continue to teach his falsehoods to Columbia students.
So is Massad, the historian making up new history to bolster is ignorant rantings about international law? Is he covered by academic freedom to make such outrageous statements? The intelligent answer would be no.
Here are some further re-creations of events taught by Massad as evidenced by the Al Jazeera article:
“On the other hand, one of the strongest and persistent arguments that the Zionist movement and Israel have deployed since 1948 in defense of the establishment of Israel and its subsequent policies is the invocation of the rights of Israel, which are not based on international law or UN resolutions. This is a crucial distinction to be made between the Palestinian and Israeli claims to possession of "rights." While the Palestinians invoke rights that are internationally recognized, Israel invokes rights that are solely recognized at the national level by the Israeli state itself. For Zionism, this was a novel mode of argumentation as, in deploying it, Israel invokes not only juridical principles but also moral ones.
‘In this realm, Israel has argued over the years that Jews have a right to establish a state in Palestine, that they have a right to establish a "Jewish" state in Palestine, that this state has a "right to exist," and that it has a "right to defend itself", which includes its subsidiary right to be the only country in the region to possess nuclear weapons, that it has the "right" to inherit all the biblical land that the Jewish God promised it, and a "right" to enact laws that are racially and religiously discriminatory in order to preserve the Jewish character of the state, otherwise articulated in the more recent formula of "a Jewish and democratic state". Israel has also insisted that its enemies, including the Palestinian people, whom it dispossesses, colonizes, occupies, and discriminates against, must recognize all these rights, foremost among them its "right to exist as a Jewish state", as a condition for and a precursor to peace.”
Professor Massad in two paragraphs doesn’t even credit Israel with trying to make peace with its Arab neighbors who have been screaming to drive the Jews into the sea since before Israel’s creation because it is not an Arab majority and Muslim dominated state. He states no objection to “Muslim” states all over the Middle East, most of which no longer have Jewish populations that were ethnically cleansed (murdered) by the Arab majorities within them.
Since Israel was created by the United Nations, is Massad simply lying or is he trying to rewrite history to the Palestinian narrative? Obviously, the latter. The Israeli Declaration of Independence from 1948 stipulates equal rights for all citizens of Israel despite their ethnicity and non-Jewish Israelis, a majority of which are Arabs and Muslims serve in Israel’s judiciary, police force and even the IDF is they wish. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Arab women can vote. Israel even has US-mimicked affirmative action laws in its universities and Arab members in the Knesset (who routinely under rules of freedom of speech call for the desruction of the Jewish state. If Massad were less a political hack for the anti-Israel crowd and a truthful academic, he wouldn’t make such false statements about discrimination and dispossession. Arabs who remained in a nascent Jewish state, founded legally by international law in 1948 after Arab armies failed to destroy it, have had their population multiply ten thousand percent since then and enjoy the highest living standards and more human rights than Arabs living anywhere else in the world.
Massad, the now self-proclaimed expert on international law, even faults the Almighty for what is written in the Bible and even in the Koran: the right of Jews to live in their own land, Israel, for their own self-determination. He says he is incensed that Israelis would deign to say they want “peace” because they don’t even have the right to exist. One can translate this into an endorsement of violence and terrorism and certainly cannot interpret it as any call to a peaceful settlement. To Joseph Massad international law must be obeyed when it supports Arab and Muslim goals, it is irrelevant when it supports the creation or rights of Jews to “exist” within secure borders. As such, Massad sees his function as a historian to promulgate the jihadist line rather than to educate the world to seek truth and advancement of society. His remonstrations about the inadequacies of international law are no better than his lectures and writings on history when it comes to objectivity and the facts.
This article was originally published at the American Center for Democracy website,