Although I strongly supported Columbia University’s granting of tenure for him on the grounds that he had, by their standards, clearly earned it, Joseph Massad has written a new article in the Al-Ahram weekly that demonstrates that not only is he not calming down as a result of his victory, he is more determined than ever to prove that he is not only a complete crackpot, but probably the leading crackpot in the entire Arab-American community (which is unquestionably a very tall order indeed). His target this time: Pres. Obama, and his complaint essentially boils down to the ideas that Obama isn’t black enough, isn’t Muslim enough (or, rather, is too Christian), and, in effect, is a racist. Who needs Glenn Beck on Fox when we have Arab American academics of this "caliber" at Ivy League universities?
Massad kicks off his rant with the following set of absurdities:
For his continued wars against Pakistanis, Afghanis, and Iraqis, his support for the overthrow of democracy in Honduras, his abetting dictatorships across the Arab and Muslim worlds (which his government finances, arms, and trains in torture methods), his planning for a possible invasion of Iran, and his enthusiastic support for the racist Israeli settler colony (and its colonial wars and occupations against Palestinians), President Barak Obama received the Nobel "Peace" Prize.
Now, of course, the Nobel committee specified what they were awarding the President for, and absolutely none of this irrationally hyperbolic and also frequently fictional bill of particulars had anything to do with their logic. Perhaps Massad thinks he’s making a joke here, but his righteous anger suggests that perhaps he actually believes that the Nobel Prize was some kind of reward for all of this alleged bad behavior. I’m not going to waste anybody’s time by parsing how inaccurate, exaggerated or downright false many of these allegations are. I think its unhinged venom speaks for itself.
Massad continues: "Indeed, the first Black American President has just enjoined the Palestinians and Arab and Muslim countries from the pulpit of the United Nations to recognize Israel’s right to be a racist ‘Jewish State." Again, this is a grotesque distortion of what President Obama actually said at the UN:
The goal is clear: two states living side by side in peace and security – a Jewish State of Israel, with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people.
You’ll note if, unlike Joseph, you are willing to read dispassionately and carefully, that in this formulation the President makes no demands whatsoever on the Arab world to recognize Israel as "a Jewish state," whatever that means, let alone Israel’s "right to be racist." What Obama is saying is that a two-state agreement will involve what is, in fact and by self-definition, already a Jewish state of Israel, as well as a newly created Arab state of Palestine. There is nothing in any of this to suggest that either state will be by definition or in practice racist, although I think the state of Israel has a long way to go before it can claim to be equitable and nondiscriminatory. And, Obama made no demands on the Arabs to recognize any of this, but simply pointed out that this would be the outcome of any peace agreement… which obviously, it would be!
Like the Islamic Republic of Iran, the various Arab states that define themselves as ethnically Arab and religiously Islamic, the "Peoples Democratic Republic of China," and dozens of other examples around the world, member states of the United Nations define themselves on their own terms, and Israel, no matter what anyone including Pres. Obama has to say about it, will define itself. And, of course, there are a multitude of ways, both racist and nonracist, in which an Israeli self-definition of being in some sense or another a "Jewish state" could play out over time – for example a "homeland for the Jewish people" and a homeland to others as well. Suffice it to say, Obama never said what Massad angrily and quite dishonestly claims he did.
Joseph’s article works itself up into quite a froth about all of Obama’s otherwise heavily praised efforts to reach out to the Arab and the Muslim worlds, denouncing what he calls the "infamous speech in Cairo" in which, Massad claims, he "enjoined them to appreciate the holocaust committed by European Christians against European Jews and not the ongoing Nakba committed by European Jewish colonial settlers against Arabs." Again, this really is a grotesque distortion of what the President actually said, and strongly mirrors claims on the Israeli right that Obama’s speech was an outrage because it equated the Nakba with the Holocaust. In fact, Obama gave both tragedies their due, and noted their political significance. This is an extremely significant rhetorical advance from an American president, but obviously any suggestion that both parties have tragic histories that need to be acknowledged and taken into consideration politically is offensive to extremists whether on the Israeli right or the Palestinian utra-left.
But by far the most extraordinary elements of Massad’s tantrum are his accusations that Obama is, in effect, "not black enough," pursues racist policies informed by his white, Christian background, and is simply a surrogate for racist, imperialist white America. While the overwhelming majority of African-Americans are delighted that Obama has broken through the race barrier in the most dramatic manner in the history of the United States, for Joseph, "Obama in my estimation is the worst thing that happened in recent years to African Americans." This is because "white liberal Americans… can be assuaged by pretending that they are not racist at all." Therefore, all white Americans who voted for Obama (or at least the majority of them) are deep-seated racists who only voted for Obama in order to "pretend" that they are not racist.
Obama is no improvement for the black community because his "ongoing policies on education and racialized crime… continue the policies of his white predecessors," an extremely debatable claim to say the least. Take, affirmative action, for example, which Massad asserts is simply "a cover for a system by which racism continues to be institutionalized," which means that all the African-American supporters of the policy are also aiders and abettors of racism, if not actually racist themselves. And, thanks to the genius of Massad, we now know that when the President refers to "hard-working Americans" in his speeches, this is "a racist code that refers to white people." It is extremely reassuring to have Joseph inform us that Black people can never be part of a group described as "hard-working Americans."
Massad is enraged that when he was being falsely described as a Muslim, Obama had the gall to say, "during his electoral campaign that not only was he a Christian, but that he prays to Jesus every night and that the blood of Jesus Christ will redeem him." Massad does not seem to realize that when Obama is called a secret Muslim, he is also being called a liar and a hypocrite on issues that, for most people and presumably for him as well, reflect both their deepest held beliefs and commitments and are a foundation of identity. Obama is not only "not black enough," he’s simply too Christian for Joseph.
Massad is not only annoyed that the President is a Christian who professes his religion and objects to being mischaracterized as the follower of a faith that is not his own, he is extremely unhappy about Obama’s bi-racial heritage:
Obama was of course not only raised by his white Christian mother and her family (something he –and Joe Biden –never tired of reminding us during his electoral campaign to fend off his paternal Muslim contamination), but even his black father was African and not African American.
This is some sort of scandal, apparently. How dare Obama have a white Christian mother (Joseph of course having been raised by a Hindu mother or something like that — any suggestion that Massad comes from a Christian family would be absurd)! How dare Obama talk about his family background during the campaign! How outrageous it is that his father was African but not African-American! What a scoundrel, imposter and poseur. Am I the only one to hear echoes in this of Rush Limbaugh’s infamous "Halfrican-American" slur?
In this anger at Obama being "not black enough," Massad is joined by Ali Abunimah, who complained, "I want a much blacker president than this." And for the third stooge, Assad AbuKhalil, Obama is not simply "not black enough," he is actually "the visiting White Man," because "as soon as you run for the American presidency you assume the role of the White Man regardless of the color of your skin." After all, as Joseph puts it, Obama is now in charge of the "thoroughly racist system dubbed ‘American democracy’ which continues to victimize most African Americans and much of the Third World." Therefore by definition and ex officio, he is both a "white man" (as if any of these three of my fellow Arab-Americans were from Burkina Faso, Papua New Guinea or the Highlands of Peru), and also a de facto and practical racist, indeed the leader of the world’s white racist vanguard.
Well honestly now: is there anything morally or intellectually separating this hysterical nonsense, this arrogant, racist, repulsive Obama-bashing, from the birthers, truthers, teabaggers and death panelists of the extreme right? Is it any less overwrought, irresponsible, irrational or preposterous? I think Joseph Massad should be a regular guest on the Glenn Beck show. Crackpot to crackpot, they would get along famously, since they have so much in common. They can begin with the fact that they are among the tiny handful of people to have publicly suggested that President Barack Hussein Obama is a racist!