Ali Abunimah — Electronic Intifada May 19, 2013
In an unprecedented act of political censorship Al Jazeera English has deleted an article by noted Columbia University Professor Joseph Massad after coming under intense criticism from Zionists in recent days.
Massad told The Electronic Intifada that he had “received confirmation” from his editor at Al Jazeera English that “management pulled the article.” The Electronic Intifada was able to independently confirm that the article was pulled.
The piece, “The Last of the Semites,” published on 14 May, was taken down from the main Al Jazeera English site Sunday morning – the link now redirects to Al Jazeera’s main page. It has also disappeared from Massad’s personal page on the Al Jazeera website.
The article had been one of the most viewed and emailed articles on the site and had been tweeted hundreds of times.
Al Jazeera has yet to offer any public explanation for its action.
Since its publication, the article generated intense criticism from Zionist extremists, including a columnist in the virulently anti-Palestinian Jerusalem Post, and condemnation on Twitter from President Barack Obama’s favorite Israel lobby gatekeeper and former Israeli prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg:
Congratulations, al Jazeera: You’ve just posted one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent memory: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/05/201351275829430527.html …
John Podhoretz, editor of the neoconservative anti-Palestinian Zionist magazine Commentary, tweeted about Massad: “Congratulations, donors to Columbia University, for paying this monstrous fuckhead’s salary!”
The backlash has been so intense precisely because Massad goes to the core of Israel’s claim to represent Jews and to cast its critics as anti-Semites by showing that indeed it is Israel and Zionism that partake of the same anti-Semitism that targeted European Jews.
In doing so, Massad pulls the rug from under Zionists and Israel lobbyists by demonstrating that they are the anti-Semites and taking away the most formidable weapon they wield against critics of Israel: the accusation that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.
By neutralizing this ideological weapon that Israel has used so effectively in the Western media to cover up its colonization of Palestine, Massad’s pro-Jewish position and strenuous attack on Zionist anti-Semitism is clearly understood by Israel lobby figures such as Goldberg as a complete obliteration of their ideological arsenal.
Zionism and anti-Semitism: two sides of the same coin
Goldberg’s claim that Massad’s article is an “anti-Jewish screed” could not be further from the truth.
Massad has long argued – convincingly – that Zionism and anti-Semitism are two sides of the same coin. It is a theme he develops with great erudition in his 2006 book The Persistence of the Palestinian Question, and one to which he returns in his latest article, “The Last of the Semites,” published on Al Jazeera on 14 May, which opens thus:
Jewish opponents of Zionism understood the movement since its early age as one that shared the precepts of anti-Semitism in its diagnosis of what gentile Europeans called the “Jewish Question.” What galled anti-Zionist Jews the most, however, was that Zionism also shared the “solution” to the Jewish Question that anti-Semites had always advocated, namely the expulsion of Jews from Europe.
Last December, in another piece for Al Jazeera, Massad explained how “Zionist leaders consciously recognized that state anti-Semitism was essential to their colonial project” in Palestine, a recognition epitomized by the notorious Transfer Agreement Zionist leaders signed with the Nazi government of Germany in 1933.
A theme that Massad develops in his latest piece is that European, and especially Germany’s, support for Israel after 1948, is no break with the anti-Semitic past:
West Germany’s alliance with Zionism and Israel after WWII, of supplying Israel with huge economic aid in the 1950s and of economic and military aid since the early 1960s, including tanks, which it used to kill Palestinians and other Arabs, is a continuation of the alliance that the Nazi government concluded with the Zionists in the 1930s.
The “The Last of the Semites” was based on a lecture Massad gave at a conference in Stuttgart (PDF), Germany, to a largely German audience, just last week:
Although Qatar-based Al Jazeera receives much criticism, and often deserved, for reflecting Qatar’s foreign policy, the censorship of Massad’s article for political reasons is unprecedented because the English-language website had, until now, enjoyed complete editorial independence.
It is well understood that Al Jazeera’s red lines have always been criticism of Qatar or its Emir, and yet, Massad has even published several articles on Al Jazeera English that harshly criticized both Qatari foreign policy (See here, here and here) and the Emir himself without ever being censored.
And Massad has written plenty of articles that have enraged Zionists.
This indicates, without doubt, that the decision to remove Massad’s article today was taken at the highest level.
But why would this happen now?
One reasonable interpretation would be that the removal of Massad’s article reflects a tightening of the editorial line as the network launches its new channel, Al Jazeera America, which will rely – for access to cable systems, and “mainstream” credibility – on forging good relations with US elites.
An illustration of what this process might look like was on display when Ehab Al Shihabi, executive director of Al Jazeera’s international operations and the official responsible for setting up Al Jazeera America, recently visited Chicago – which will be home to a major Al Jazeera bureau.
While in the city, Al Shihabi struck up a cozy relationship with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff.
Emanuel, a major powerbroker in America’s ruling Democratic Party, is, of course, also notorious for his hardline pro-Israel positions.
It is unknown if Al Shihabi had anything directly to do with the removal of Massad’s article – that decision would almost certainly have been taken at an even higher level in Doha – but his dalliance with Emanuel is a good indicator of who Al Jazeera is out to impress.
Until late Sunday, Massad’s piece could still be read in full on Al Jazeera’s mobile site, but by late evening, that too had disappeared.
Here is a PDF image of the censored article.