Review Comment

[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies

  • Departments: <a href="/departments/10">English and Comparative Literature</a> and <a href="/departments/16">Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies</a>
  • Professors: Cheryl Leung and Joseph Massad

August 31, 2017

Massad, Joseph
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies

He really blurs the line between facts and opinions, which gets on everyone’s nerves.
Massad treats a lot of his course like a media appearance advocating for one side and berating the other. I can’t say he is as intense as some of his fans in the course who think everyone criticizing him is just trying to paint him as an anti-Semite, but Massad can be frustrating to work with.
He brings a lot of analysis to the course but much of that is skewed, something that wasn’t obvious to classmates of mine who were less familiar with the course material than I was.

Workload:

Lots of reading!

January 23, 2012

Massad, Joseph
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I had a much different experience than the previous reviewer. I also had a different TA so that clearly had an impact.

To be fair, Professor Massad has many good qualities. Whether you agree with him or not, he is a very engaging lecturer and he comes to class prepared to teach and answer questions. I don't think that he is anti-Semitic, but he teaches the class thematically and skews his analysis disproportionately, in a way that leads me to believe, he is hoping that students will come away from the class agreeing with him. I guess I don't really blame him, but it is important to point it out so people are aware.

All of that being said, he makes a lot of good points. Unfortunately, he also says things that are incorrect (like factually incorrect) and leaves out certain details (for example, when discussing Operation Wrath of God, he told us that the Mossad was "massacring the Palestinian intellectual class in the diaspora". What he left out, was that OWoG was in response to Black September's massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, and not just a random spree of assassinations.) Although he later mentioned Black September and Munich, he never connected it with Israel's response. He also enjoys espousing conspiracy theories (I mean I do too, but I'm not lecturing on behalf of a major University). To be honest, some of the things he brought up are likely true, but he presents them as fact when they are not confirmed as such, and leaves out any sort of disclaimer.

Lastly, everything you read is analysis and not fact. If this class were in the Anthropology department, I'd say it was excellent. But, I think being under the MESAAS department, he should inject more historical facts, and not rely on the TAs to fill in the gaps.

I want to be fair. I did end up learning a lot in this class, but I had to do a lot of work on my own simply to figure out the order in which things happened. Also be on the lookout - you are occasionally expected to mention details on exams that were not mentioned in class. I would recommend reading Benny Morris or another historian before taking this class just to get a handle on the history.

Workload:

Murderous amounts of reading. Two midterms and one final that are graded rather harshly but curved at the end. It was incredibly unpleasant while I was doing it, but I think overall it was worth it to come away with the knowledge...

January 10, 2012

Massad, Joseph and Leung, Cheryl (TA) Silver_nugget
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This class was INCREDIBLE. If you only know a little about the Palestinian/Israeli issue, you will leave this class knowing more than you could possibly imagine, as happened to me. If you know much about the issue, this class will provide you with incredible insight and resources to further cultivate your understanding and knowledge of the political and social background to the conflict. You will learn A LOT, regardless of how well versed you were in the issue before you took the class.

Professor Massad touches on all of the most important details of the conflict from its historical beginnings to our current day. He assigns readings that are super interesting and extremely informative. We were assigned readings written by Israeli, Arab, Jewish and Muslim scholars, and even read two novellas. Though Massad has come under scrutiny from Zionists for being biased in teaching this course, that is quite untrue. Just because he is a Palestinian professor does not mean he is incapable of teaching us material that puts the Palestinians in an unfavorable position when history points to that. We talked a lot about the incompetence of Palestinian leadership and a lot about Arab powers and their fluctuations in their attitudes towards the Palestinian question. Regardless of this, it is ignorant to call this class biased and illegitimate simply because Massad tells the truth about the atrocities committed on the Palestinian people.

Though professor Massad is GENIUS and eloquent, he does tends to jump around during lectures in terms of dates, so try and keep a mental timeline of what events are taking place when. It might even be helpful to write one out.

I highly recommend this class to anyone!! I took it to fulfill a gen.ed. but have become quite invested in the issue, and this class has also helped me shape my thesis for one of my majors. Though it was a lot of work it was really worth it.

Workload:

This class is INTENSE. We were assigned approximately 100 pages a week, but that easily increased throughout the semester. My TA (Cheryl Eve Leung who was amazing) assigned us 2 to 4 page essays due every week; she won't be TAing this course again, so workload in discussion section really depends on your TA.
There were 2 midterms and 1 final, which were pretty intense. They consisted of identifications and essays (for the midterms, about 7 IDs and 2 essays and for the final, about 15 IDs and 3 essays). In my experience, to do well in this class, you really have to keep up with readings and assignments.

August 10, 2004

Massad, Joseph
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

In one word: wow. Like other reviewers, I came to this class thinking I would have to sort through extraordinary amounts of bias, but that was simply not the case. It's unfortunate that Massad has gotten a bad rep from a handful of students who don't like that he has an opinion different than theirs and can back it up with FACTS. I was constantly blown away by the way he could always, ALWAYS respond to an antagonistic question with facts. Yes, of course, he has his own opinions. I didn't always agree with him, but I always respected that he cared enough about the subject and was so knowledgeable. Massad cares deeply about what he's teaching, and you end up caring too. I can't say that for most of the classes I've taken at Columbia.

Beyond his amazing lecturing abilities, Joseph Massad is incredibly nice. Everyone talks about his ego, but I was shocked when he stopped to talk to me in West Side early in the semester. He knows everyone and goes out of his way to have a chat with you, whether or not you actively participate in class.

Workload:

The usual amount of reading, but he covers main points quite well in his lectures. It helps to do them, though the midterm was fairly straightforward. One long paper which initially seems a lot more complicated than it actually is. Final was cancelled.

June 19, 2004

Massad, Joseph
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies and [C1101] Contemporary Civilization

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Without fear or favor (have graduated) and without any political axes to grind, I say without hesitation that Professor Massad was the best teacher I've had at Columbia or anywhere else. I was lucky enough to have him for two classes (three semesters): both CC and his Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies. Perhaps more than anything, I admire and have been inspired intellectually by his unfailing, unflinching honesty about his own opinions and assumptions, and his equally unfailing and unflinching willingness to examine these opinions and assumptions with a critical eye. His lectures were uniformly fascinating, especially because it was obvious that he had complete control over the material -- he can field any question, and at a length that suggests that he's thought about it before.
But what made the lectures even more fascinating was his enormous interest in them -- both personal interest and intellectual interest (some digressions -- the result, it seemed, of his enthusiasm -- were often the most fascinating part of the lecture!)
I know I will carry what I've learned from Professor Massad with me for the rest of my life -- both the content and the method. -- And add to all this: he's simply one of nicest people I know.

June 11, 2004

Massad, Joseph
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Prof. Massad is one of the best professors at Columbia. Always approachable and always kind to his students, Prof. Massad created an intellectually serious and open climate in the class.
At no point in the class did Prof. Massad ever compromise his unfailing opposition to racism, anti-Semitism and colonialism. It is unclear how this could not be entirely obvious to anyone who took Prof. Massad's class, unless they failed to complete the required readings or to attend the lectures and discussion sections.
I strongly recommend taking any class that Prof. Massad is teaching, even (or particularly) if you are not majoring or concentrating in MEALAC (like myself) -- you will learn things in his classes that go far beyond their express subject matter. This is perhaps the most worthwhile class that I have taken at Columbia.

June 07, 2004

Massad, Joseph
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Many students take offense at the very quality that makes Massad such a brillant academic and honest, effective teacher: he neither claims nor supports purported academic 'objectivity.' He holds an intellectual conviction and offers rational, clear, and cogent arguments (supported with a wide-range of evidence including facts, figures, dates, and documentation) to support it. One of the very first lessons learned is that it is impossible to show both sides of the picture. Regardless of one's previous knowledge or bias on the topic, Massad forces the student to confront typical themes and at least question one's own beliefs by presenting the student with a broad base of pertinent and strong knowledge from his incredibly informative lectures, ranging from social, religious, and racial relationships and discrimination, to feminist issues, to historical development. He doesn't expect you to always agree with him and welcomes active debate in and outside of class. Of course, the typical knock on Massad is that he often interrupts the questions asked by the students. This critique is true, but is often engendered by students making arguments or asking questions that were clearly answered or addressed in the reading. Massad expects the reading to be done and gets somewhat offended if it is not. He is always available outside of class for his students; however, he changes his office hours quite frequently but always gives students ample notice and alternate times to meet, making him very accessible. But most of all, he clearly cares about his students. Outside of class, when bumping into students, he takes the time to see how they are doing, being truly inquisitive and caring. He also knows each of his students; rather than just melting into the background as spoiled kids he must teach, he takes the students seriously and gives them the respect that many professors on this campus do not.

Workload:

The reading is heavy: typically 150+ of academic reading/week (can get worse). An easy mid-term with a few IDs and lengthier IDs (mini-essays?). 8-10pg paper and a final (which was cancelled). Section attendance is mandatory and he and the TA's confer to make sure students are coming (they take attendance).

May 22, 2004

Massad, Joseph
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Based on previous reviews of professor and class, I think many students entered this course thinking that Massad would argue point by point why Palestinians are glorious and Israelis are monsters. This wasn't the case at all - Massad took extraordinary care to critically examine each of the events that led to the current conflict and never offered a diatribe on how we should think. Massad always presented facts, never opinion; those facts in turn were supported by the enormous amount of research assigned to us for our weekly readings. Much of the research, which indeed is supported and accepted across much of academia, potentially contradicts positions that support much of Israeli government policy - this rankled quite a few auditors in the class - auditors who argued their opinions (unlike Massad) clearly without having completed the assigned reading, thus delaying, not enlightening, the class. Prof. Massad never belittled any student for his/her opinions, nor did he ever silence a student in order to expound a view of his own: indeed, he never expressed an opinion of his own, instead trusting this class to judge actions based on fact. Moreover, he demonstrated that criticism of Israeli government policy is not, and should not be equated with, anti-Semitism, which he, as any intelligent being, despises. Massad's kindness and approachability allowed us to feel comfortable debating with him during class and office hours; his goal was for us to recognize fact, not to threaten our positions and opinions. That this class was an eye-opener is, indeed, an understatement.

Workload:

About 100 pgs. of reading per week, mainly from research articles; midterm; 8-10 pg. research paper; final (canceled this semester due to the TA strike).

May 16, 2004

Massad, Joseph
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies and [ASCM V2001] Introduction to Major Topics in the Civilizations of the Middle East and India

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Professor Massad is, quite simply, the most influential teacher i've had at columbia. Do not buy the "brainwashing" salvo you read below, but instead know that this is a teacher who's brilliance is unmistakable. Take his class (any of them) if you want to be pushed to thought, to be stirred, to challenge little prepackaged ideas. No differently than most other professors, he has a political opinion, but he refreshingly makes no efforts to hide it. Anyone with half a brain will tell you that he does not marshall his will over his students, but instead allows for real substantial debate and discussion in class. Come looking to think seriously about issues in the middle east like nationalism, zionism, women, human rights, and violence and Massad will not dissappoint.

Workload:

Topics: 1/2 semester. Heavyish reading. 1 paper. 1 easyish final
Pal/Isr.: Lots of reading (but great reading). 1 paper, midterm, final. Final was cancelled for TA strike so no judgement.

October 17, 2003

Massad, Joseph
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Massad is excellent. But in my opinion many students in the class were prejudiced. They wereoffended that Massad would care enough about them to try to teach them that prejudice is nothing but ignorance.

Workload:

moderate/heavy reading easy final

September 15, 2003

Massad, Joseph
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

A perfect example of brainwashing. To teach grown people as if they were babies is a disgrace to the university. He lets you know on the first day that he isn't going to gove you both sides to the conflict. Can you imagine if a psychology professor declared that he was only going to teach the "Nurture" theory and assume that he was coorect and therefore the "Nature" side of the argument would be disregarded.?Massad should be embarrassed about what how he teaches (not to mention Columbia).
if you do take the class (who wouldn't after hearing all the hype) try to research as much as you can before you determine that what you heard from Massad (or the out-of-print books he supplies for readings) contain any truth.

Workload:

Enough reading to make you not want to read more on your own which you need to do to establish any credibility

May 12, 2002

Massad, Joseph
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I think, although it was perhaps the most difficult class to sit through at times, Massad's class is a necessary fixture in the mealac dept. I think he's a necessary fixture, too, ego and all. All you ever hear about the middle east is the israeli/american point of view, and he shows you the side of the story you never hear. I'm half-israeli, so it was perhaps more difficult for me than for most to listen to him constantly dis my country and refer to the mean and cruel Israelis, but in some respects, he has a point. He made me realize that there is no clear "correct" point of view on the situation in the middle east because both sides commit equally atrocious acts, and while he drained any hope i had of any kind of resolution over there, at least i'm not stupid anymore . . . definitely an educational experience, and i think people who immediately shut him out based on his first display of egotism should think twice and try to listen to him and weed out the pertinent information from the opinion. he's not lying. that's a ridiculous claim. every factual thing he says is backed up by documented evidence that is compiled in two giant thick packets of reading that cost a hundred bucks in total.

Workload:

we did one paper for the midterm and two four page papers for the final. topics were fairly boring and i didn't much enjoy writing them, but i had other crap going on at the time, so you know . . .

May 02, 2002

Massad, Joseph
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This was possibly the most offended I've ever been. Massad does not even pretend to give the entire picture, he states that on the first day. Besides being offensive, is it really worth it to take a class that doesn't tell you both sides of a controversy? I worry about the people who enter the class with little to no knowledge of the topic and form their opinions based on Massad's lectures and assigned readings. Massad also doesn't allow students to finish their questions before answering them. The class is taught unethically, and should be renamed "Why Palestinians Hate Israel." In sum, it sucks to take a class and walk away not feeling like you can form an educated opinion. It also sucks when your professor, (in my opinion) lies and even after being proven wrong by students, continues to lie.

Workload:

A LOT of reading, two eight to ten papers and a final. Don't believe him when he says the first day that there will be two five page papers, he's lying.

May 02, 2001

Massad, Joseph
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

One of the best, most worthwhile courses I have ever taken. I came into this class knowing next to nothing about the situation in the Mid East, and now I feel like I have an intimate grasp of the history and origins of the conflict. Prof. Massad is a funny, engaging, and passionate lecturer and not afraid to criticize Israel rather vocally. As a result, expect many intense, but always polite, arguments between Massad and pro-Zionist students. From what I can tell though, he never lets his biases influence his grading, so you can expect fair treatment regardless of your political views. The one draw-back is the papers, which are basically a regurgitation of the readings and require no independent analysis or research. There was a lot of complaining about this though, so maybe he'll change it next year.

Workload:

There is A LOT of reading, but if you can keep up with it, it is generally interesting and helpful. Two 8 page papers.

December 31, 1999

Massad, Joseph
[CLME W3042] Palestinian and Israeli Politics and Societies

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Wow, tensions were flying high in this class between Zionist- sympathizers and Massad (and, to a lesser extent, between Zionist-sympathizers and Palestinian-sympathizers). Massad is clearly pro-Palestine in outlook, and while some students find this troubling, others find it refreshing. His descriptions of the suffering endured by Palestinians make great scholarship -- but he seems unable at times to see why the Jews, in their own words, would support and perpetrate such horrible policies. I agree with Massad's stance, and I am glad to be able to take a class where the professor isn't afraid to condemn a country for chronic flouting of UN resolutions and international law. At the same time, the lack of zionist voices in the (generally mixed-quality, sometimes brilliant) reading list and the strict guidelines on paper topics (they steer you towards making Massad's own points) make this class not as thought-provoking as it should be. In all, most students were at least a little bit disappointed, though I felt this was because they felt frustrated having to learn the brutal history of Israel as fact, not because of shortcomings on Massad's part. The course may not be perfect, but in scholarly terms, Massad is after something real, and there is a lot to be learned if you go along with him -- even if you criticize him all the way.

Workload:

On the heavy side, though there is no midterm. Heavy reading packet in two volumes, which can be hard to keep up with, since Massad talks at length in class about most of the authors and their work anyway. 8-page paper; final exam.

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