Joseph Massad responds to fabrications and lies about him in Congress

Minouche Shafik and two others sit at a table in a hearing room

Minouche Shafik, president of Columbia University, throws her faculty under the bus amid McCarthyite attacks and false claims of anti-Semitism by members of Congress, at a hearing of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, 17 April.

Michael Brochstein SIPA USA

On 17 April, Minouche Shafik, the president of Columbia University, appeared before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the latest episode in efforts by members of Congress to shut down criticism of Israel on campuses by falsely accusing students, professors and administrators of anti-Semitism.

Three professors were singled out for vitriol and smears: Katherine Franke, Mohamed Abdou and world-renowned scholar Joseph Massad.

Instead of defending the academic freedom of her faculty from what the American Association of University Professors is calling “a new strain of McCarthyism in the US,” Shafik threw them under the bus.

A particular focus of the attacks on Massad, who teaches modern Arab politics and intellectual history, was an article he wrote for The Electronic Intifada on 8 October 2023, titled “Just another battle or the Palestinian war of liberation?”

For months, Israel supporters have misquoted and misrepresented the article in an attempt to smear Massad and by extension Columbia, and Wednesday’s hearing was no exception.

However, instead of defending Massad’s right to free speech and correcting lawmakers’ lies, Shafik joined the attacks.

“I do condemn his statement. I am appalled by what he said,” Shafik said in response to a question from Representative Tim Walberg. “He has been spoken to.”

Shafik also claimed that Massad was no longer chairing an academic review committee at Columbia.

Massad has issued this statement in response to media inquiries and The Electronic Intifada is publishing it in full:

I have not watched the TV coverage nor seen a full transcript of the ongoing congressional interrogation of Columbia University officials, but I have received video clips of some of the testimony that related to me personally. Based on what I have seen, I can say the following:

The members of Congress who interrogated President Shafik deliberately misrepresented my article published on 8 October 2023, when Representative Walberg claimed that I “prais[ed] ‘the innovative Palestinian resistance,’ for attacking Israel and glorifying Hamas’s slaughter of nearly 1200 Jews as, and I quote again, ‘awesome, astonishing, astounding and incredible.’” I certainly said nothing of the sort.

  1. My article explicitly states: “the stunning victory of the Palestinian resistance over the Israeli military on the first day of fighting is a historic event both for Israel, as Netanyahu admitted, and for the Palestinians.”

  2. The article explicitly states that “The sight of the Palestinian resistance fighters storming Israeli checkpoints separating Gaza from Israel was astounding, not only to the Israelis but especially to the Palestinian and Arab peoples.

  3. That “The resistance’s remarkable takeover of Israeli military bases and checkpoints … has both shaken Israeli society and struck Palestinians and Arabs as incredible.” “Incredible,” incidentally, means “hard to believe.”

  4. And that “No less astonishing was the Palestinian resistance’s takeover of several Israeli settler-colonies near the Gaza boundary and even as far away as 22 kms, as in the case of Ofakim.”

  5. I described the use of motorized hang gliders as “innovative”: “What can motorized paragliders do in the face of one of the most formidable militaries in the world? Apparently, much in the hands of an innovative Palestinian resistance.” I also spoke in the article of the “horrifying human toll on all sides.”

It is unfortunate that President Shafik and the two members of the Columbia University Board of Trustees, including Ms. Claire Shipman and Mr. David Greenwald, would condemn fabricated statements that I never made when all three of them should have corrected the record to show that I never said or wrote such reprehensible statements. Also, the false and defamatory allegations which Representative Tim Walberg made against me alleging that I gave “support of terrorism” and engaged in “harassing Jewish students” should also have immediately been responded to by President Shafik and the trustees as false, as I have never harassed any of my students and never supported terrorism.

Moreover, President Shafik indicated that I am currently “under investigation” for making discriminatory comments. This is news to me, as I have not been informed or contacted by anyone from the university to inform me of this alleged investigation. In fact, I had a meeting last week with the Columbia University Provost, Angela Olinto, about being subjected to harassment and racism by another university professor. Provost Olinto conveyed to me her support and that she was sorry that I had been subjected to such harassment. The offending professor is the one currently being investigated.

I remain the chair of the Academic Review Committee, a one-year position, for the next few weeks, which is the normal end of my chairmanship. Indeed, I just had a meeting with the committee staff yesterday [16 April] and informed them that I will miss the next and final meeting on 8 May, due to my travel schedule. No one has contacted me at all from the university with regards to my current chairmanship. I will also remain a member of the Academic Review Committee next year, which is a three-year appointment.

President Shafik misconstrued what happened when she stated that I was “spoken to,” by my chair and my dean, implying that I was reprimanded. In fact, my chair, Professor Gil Hochberg, who incidentally is Jewish and Israeli, informed me that in light of the pro-Israel campaign targeting me and distorting my article, she had told the executive vice president of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Amy Hungerford, that she had read my article and found it descriptive and did not contain praise for the 7 October attack. She even added that her 14-year-old son had read it and deemed it merely descriptive to illustrate the point that if her young son was a careful reader, adults too should not read carelessly.

I did meet with Executive Vice President Amy Hungerford on 2 November 2023, with whom I took a walk. She asked to meet with me because of her concern about my safety and well-being, as I was the target of much hate mail and many death threats that I received by email, in letter form slipped under my Columbia University office door by (what Columbia University Security believes was) a non-Columbia affiliate, and on my home phone.

Neither the executive vice president nor my chair reprimanded me about my article nor accused me of praising the attack. However, during our walk, Hungerford asked me if I had expected the response that the article received, and I told her that I had not.




I can't thank the Electronic Intifada enough for quickly publishing this crucial rebuttal by Professor Joseph Massad. His treatment yesterday was shameful. Despicable. By members of Congress, and by senior members of the administration of Columbia University. It is emblematic of the times we are in, which I would like to think are the dying gasps of Zionism and occupation. Professor Massad, thank you for your clarity and courage. Solidarity to you. Free Palestine, from the river to the sea. (Which expresses, dear members of the US Congress, the liberatory Palestinian longing for freedom and equal rights for ALL people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.)


In American academic life there is no more penetrating scholar on the subject of Palestine than Joseph Massad. In addition to the quality of his strategic insight, he brings the virtue of personal courage to any encounter with Zionist gangsters. His work has long stood as a beacon of integrity within a frequently sullied field, and he deserves the support of everyone who values the struggle for Palestinian liberation. Thank you, Professor Massad, for opposing resolutely the violence of apartheid and historical falsification.