Columbia U. Professor, Criticized for Views on Israel

The New York City Department of Education will prohibit a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University from appearing in an occasional training program for secondary-school teachers, citing the professor’s criticism of Israel.

Rashid Khalidi, director of Columbia’s Middle East Institute, had spoken this month at one of a series of teacher-development workshops, paid for by the university, about Middle Eastern culture and politics. But last week, after The New York Sun published an article assailing Mr. Khalidi’s involvement in the program, Joel I. Klein, the city’s schools chancellor, announced that the professor would no longer be allowed to participate.

“Considering his past statements, Rashid Khalidi should not have been included in a program that provided professional development for DOE teachers, and he won’t be participating in the future,” Jerry Russo, Mr. Klein’s press secretary, wrote in an e-mail message to the Sun.

In the past year Mr. Khalidi has participated in two training sessions. Neither generated any controversy.

But Columbia’s Middle East Institute has come under heavy fire from politicians and newspapers like the Sun, which have accused the program of promoting pro-Palestinian views, disparaging Israel, and intimidating pro-Israel students.

Last fall Anthony Wiener, a Democratic member of Congress who is now running for mayor of New York, urged Columbia to fire a colleague of Mr. Khalidi’s – Joseph A. Massad, a professor of Arab politics – for his purportedly heated attacks on Israel. The criticism was alleged to have taken place in class, where Mr. Massad was said to have badgered students (The Chronicle, November 5, 2004).

Mr. Khalidi, in an interview on Monday, criticized Mr. Wiener and the Sun for attacking his institute and the field of Arab studies in general. “I think there’s a broad attack on professors of the Middle East, and it’s based on calumnies, innuendo, and taking situations out of context,” he said.

Mr. Khalidi also blamed the Columbia administration’s “supine” response to the controversy, which, he said, has emboldened the institute’s critics.

In the wake of the allegations about the Middle East Institute, the university established a committee to look into claims that students were intimidated in class. Hundreds of people, mostly college faculty members, have signed a petition urging Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia’s president, to defend Mr. Massad and to condemn the accusations leveled at the Middle East Institute.

Mr. Khalidi was among the petition’s signers. “The sooner there’s an organized response to these people who have absolutely no scruples about twisting the truth, the better,” he said.

Columbia officials have not officially commented on the city schools’ decision to ban Mr. Khalidi from the training program. In a statement released after the Middle East Institute came under fire last fall, Mr. Bollinger pledged to uphold the university’s policy on freedom of expression but added, “We believe that the principle of academic freedom is not unlimited.”