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February 4, 2016 6:34 am

An Open Letter to Vassar on Antisemitic Policies and Double Standards

avatar by Laurie Josephs

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Vassar College. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Vassar College. Photo: Wiki Commons.

To the American Studies Steering Committee,

I write to express my deep and continuing frustration, sadness, and disgust over the continued willingness of Vassar faculty to sponsor hate speech when it comes to the Jewish State. Almost two years ago, several Vassar departments and programs co-sponsored two well-known antisemites, Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal — the latter of whom was banned from the German parliament for his antisemitic activities. Now we learn that American Studies is sponsoring Professor Jasbir Puar, a supporter of BDS and one of the luminaries who pushes the “pinkwashing” theory — that Israel cynically pretends to respect gay rights in order to distract from its alleged abuses of Palestinians.

The description of Puar’s upcoming talk indicates that she will be spewing the vitriol that Gaza is an “experimental laboratory for the Israeli military apparatuses, infrastructural chaos and metric manipulation,” and that she will be inviting her audience to imagine what types of Israeli “fantasies” about “power, about bodies, about resistance, about politics” might be driving the Israelis. Just substitute the word “Jew” for “Israeli” and you could certainly be excused for thinking this was lifted straight out of Der Sturmer, the Nazi propaganda paper that regularly portrayed Jews as filthy manipulators driven by a mad lust for power, intent on destroying the German nation.

Yes, even hate speech is protected speech and someone like Professor Puar is free to emit such garbage. And yes, she is even free to gussy it up with pretentious jargon in a pathetic effort to make it seem as if it had some academic or intellectual basis. But Vassar’s promotion and endorsement of such antisemitic speech through sponsorship by the American Studies program is entirely unfathomable and inexcusable.

This Committee would never agree to sponsor a speaker who used scientific or academic jargon to promote homophobic or racist theories. And Vassar faculty has repeatedly shown its sensitivity to any speech that is, or could possibly be construed as, Islamophobic.

But a different standard applies when it comes to Israelis and the Jewish state. Why is that?

Laurie Josephs, ’78

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