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...