Al Jazeera unpublished an op-ed column by Joseph Massad titled “Last of the Semites” after deciding the content was questionable and also “similar in argument” to Massad’s previously published work, according to a May 21 Al Jazeera editor’s note.
At first, the column basically disappeared with no disclosure of unpublishing. According to Glenn Greenwald, writing for the Guardian, Al Jazeera wouldn’t comment about unpublishing the piece and “everyone either ignored my multiple inquires or said they were barred from commenting and referred me to the head of the outlet’s PR department, who never responded.”
Later, Al Jazeera added the editor’s note in place of Massad’s column, admitted that it had deleted the article and denied that it “censored its own pages.” Instead, Al Jazeera said there were “many questions…about the article’s content.”
In that editor’s note, Al Jazeera said it “should have handled this better,” and that it had “learned lessons that will enable us to maintain the highest standards of journalistic integrity.” Al Jazeera also republished Massad’s column.
The Op-Ed: “Last of the Semites”
Massad teaches “modern Arab politics and intellectual history” at Columbia University, according to the university’s website. His lengthy op-ed was given the sub-head, “It is Israel’s claims that it represents and speaks for all Jews that are the most anti-Semitic claims of all.”
The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg described the article as “anti-Jewish.”
Congratulations, al Jazeera: You’ve just posted one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent memory: aljazeera.com/indepth/opinio…
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) May 14, 2013
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The Guardian’s Greenwald explained why the article was “obviously controversial” :
“He highlighted the shared goal between the early Zionist movement and Europe’s anti-Jewish bigots (namely, the removal of Jews from the continent), detailed the cooperation between German Nazis and Zionists to facilitate the departure of Jews out of Europe (the existence of that cooperation is not in dispute, though the extent of it very much is), and highlighted the extensive disagreements among Jews themselves over the wisdom and justness of Zionism (large numbers of European Jews were insistent that they did not want to, and should not have to, leave their homelands for a distant land that was not theirs).”
What does Massad Think of Al Jazeera’s Unpublishing?
Greenwald reported that Massad linked Al Jazeera’s decision to unpublish with Al Jazeera’s soon-to-come presence in the U.S.
“It is ironic, though not shocking, that it was my criticisms of Israel and its Western allies that would be banned. . . . essentially neutralizing the remaining critical edge which made Al-Jazeera popular inside and outside the United States,” Massad is quoted as telling Greenwald.
Seeking more information and comment, iMediaEthics reached out to Massad, who re-directed us to his statements to the Guardian and Electronic Intifada.
In an interview with Electronic Intifada , Massad said he thought the unpublishing was an “arbitrary decision, which flew in the face of professional journalistic staards and the freedom of expression.”
Massad argued the recent column was “a different article altogether and had a different frame and a different set of arguments and facts.”
iMediaEthics has written to Al Jazeera seeking more information and will update with any response.