Joel Mowbray

In the coming days or weeks, Columbia University is poised to decide on the tenure of controversial professor Joseph Massad, who has a reputation for intimidating Jewish and pro-Israel students in the classroom and has a well-documented history of shoddy scholarship, spinning paranoid conspiracies about “Israel” and “Zionists,” and a decided affection for Hamas.

This comes on the heels of Columbia’s Barnard College earlier this month offering tenure to Nadia Abu el-Haj, an anthropologist who wrote an archeology book in which she largely denied the Jewish historical connection to Israel, and in key parts leveled shocking allegations based on anonymous, uncorroborated sources.

And these two tenure fights are playing out while Iranian madman Mahoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to campus is still fresh in the minds of outraged alumni and donors.

Massad, currently an associate professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History, is no stranger to controversy. In 2004, the documentary “Columbia Unbecoming,” produced by the pro-Israel David Project, featured students who described Massad’s outrageous classroom antics, including attempting to kick out a student who took issue with the teacher’s contention that Israel had perpetrated a massacre at Jenin in 2002. (Even the United Nations, hardly a friend of the Jewish state, found no evidence to suggest a massacre had occurred.)

The embattled academic strenuously denied the allegations, and an ad hoc committee formed by the university cleared him—but only partially.

Though Massad claims he was exonerated, the committee actually found the complaint had merit. In its final report, the committee did not find that Massad forced the student from the classroom, but it did find fault with his behavior: “Upon extensive deliberation, the committee finds it credible that Professor Massad became angered at a question that he understood to countenance Israeli conduct of which he disapproved, and that he responded heatedly.”

What is not in dispute, however, is his rather extensive body of written work. Perhaps most illuminating about his worldview and a strong indicator of his classroom instruction are the English-language columns he has written periodically over the past few years for the Egyptian weekly al-Ahram. (Massad did not respond to an inquiry seeking comment.)

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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