by Joseph A. Massad
University of Chicago Press
453 pages, $35.
JOSEPH A. MASSAD, an associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, does not shy from controversy. His departmental home page provides his response to an ad hoc grievance committee report that investigated allegations he intimidated students who disagreed with his political views on Israel. Massad turns the tables and accuses his detractors of a persistent witch-hunt.
Incitement and confrontation are hallmarks of his style and his passionate marriage of scholarship and politics. His academic articles, public speeches, and journalistic pieces all seem to instigate a polarized reaction. Massad’s first monograph, Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan (2001), was lambasted by a Jordanian journalist for being a distorted Orientalist account—harsh criticism of an author who uses the epithet of “Orientalist” to bludgeon all his opponents. The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians (2006) drew even more fire as he pursued his criticism of Zionism as anti-Semitic. He vocally condemns Israel as racist because it is a “Jewish state.” Massad’s latest book, Desiring Arabs, is no less inflammatory. It layers upon his prior anti-Orientalist and anti-Zionist politics a tirade against what he calls the “Gay International”: Western gay rights groups and their global ambitions.