Joseph Massad teaches at Columbia University on Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History. In addition to his coursework, he publishes essays in places like Middle East Eye which give the general public a small taste of what he is teaching to students at the Ivy League institution.
Massad concocted a bizarre phrase called “Palestinian Hebrews” in recent articles. In order to understand this new noun, it is best to see how Massad used his invented term.
In one article, Massad wrote “Zionists deployed this originally antisemitic claim to argue that modern European Jews are somehow rooted in Palestine in order to render them fantastically the descendants of ancient Palestinian Hebrews.“
In another article, he used the expression twice:
- “Like France and Italy, the European Jewish Zionists claimed to be descendants of the ancient Palestinian Hebrews and to be merely “returning” to their ancient land. Israel, which established a Jewish majority by expelling the majority of the Palestinian people in 1948, voted against the 1952 UN resolution recognising Tunisian and Moroccan self-determination.“
- “Socialist pan-Arab nationalism was castigated by the French as reactionary and seeking to re-establish “Islamic” glories. By contrast, the pan-Jewishism of European Zionism, which sought to recreate the “Judaic” glories of the Palestinian Hebrews, who were appropriated as the ancestors of European converts to Judaism, was depicted as progressive and socialist.“
The absurd phrase reveals Massad’s anti-Semitism on two levels.
The first anti-Semitic assertion of this Columbia professor is that Jews are not really Jews. According to this professor’s narrative, today’s “European Jews” who peddle “European Zionism” are not ancestors of biblical Jews but only of “European converts to Judaism.” Jews have lied to themselves and the world that they are descendants of the Jews in the bible.
Massad believes that the small number of European Jews who managed to survive the forced expulsions, conversions, Inquisitions, pogroms and the Holocaust are disgraceful liars. They’re just a band of thieves who adopted a story from the bible. The anti-Semitic world which persecuted Jews for their faith were in truth attacking charlatans according to this tenured anti-Semitic Palestinian professor.
The second anti-Semitic lie told by Massad is that the real Jews in the Old Testament are “ancient Palestinian Hebrews.” He attempts to strip the Jews out of the bible and replace them – presumably – with a new group of people who are somehow tied to Arabs.
The claim is of course, nonsense. Arabs did not come to the Jewish holy land en masse until the Muslim invasions of the 7th and 8th century, over 1,000 years from the writings of the Old Testament and over 500 years from the writing of the New Testament. The land wasn’t rebranded “Syria Palestina” until the year 135CE, well after Jesus died. The Koran, written hundreds of years later, never used the word “Palestine.”
But Massad has absurdly attempted to purge the ancient Jews from the holy land and replace them with an early version of today’s Palestinian Arabs called “ancient Palestinian Hebrews.” Not Jews of Judea, the way Roman historian Josephus wrote then (Judea is mentioned over 100 times in The War of the Jews), but Palestinian Hebrews.
The transparent purposes of stripping Jews of their history and falsely replacing them with “ancient Palestinian Hebrews” is a pathetic attempt to assert that Jews do not have thousands of years of history in the land of Israel, and that Palestinian Arabs are somehow the real biblical Jews. It is cultural appropriation of the most heinous kind, breeding lies and anti-Semitism. In its most gentle form, it presents as the idiocy behind Linda Sarsour and Bella Hadid claims that Jesus was a Palestinian. In its most violent, it manifests in the foundational Hamas Charter which calls for the destruction of Jews and the Jewish State because of their “usurption of Palestine.”
The anti-Semitic Lexicon has a new phrase, “Palestinian Hebrews”, courtesy of a tenured professor at Columbia University. Expect to see it wherever anti-Semites and anti-Zionists are found.