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March 9, 2016 8:10 am

Scholars’ Open Letter Defending Prof’s ‘Blood Libel’ Garners 1,000 Signatures, Ignites Outrage Among Pro-Israel Groups

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Jasbir Puar.

An online letter by “scholars, educators and academicians” supporting a professor accused of antisemitic remarks has garnered 1,000 signatures, The Algemeiner has learned.

The letter has now sparked criticism from pro-Israel campus groups.

The “open letter,” responding to an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, defends Rutgers Prof. Jasbir Puar against allegations of antisemitism stemming from her controversial Feb. 3 lecture at Vassar College, entitled “Inhumanist Biopolitics: How Palestine Matters.” The letter urges Vassar President Catharine Hill to “write … to the Wall Street Journal, in your capacity as Vassar’s president, condemning in no uncertain terms the unjustifiable attack … on Professor Puar.”

It urges this partly on the basis of “the actual nature of and official documentation behind Prof. Puar’s scholarship.”

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Puar’s work, the letter says, “is of the highest professional and scholarly rigor.” “As anyone who heard her Vassar lecture … can attest, her words are carefully chosen and grounded in serious scholarship and thorough research … Professor Puar did not make up [the controversial] facts, which the Wall Street Journal [op-ed] has condemned as a ‘blood libel’ and classical antisemitism.”

In the lecture in question, as reported by the blog Legal Insurrection, Puar

leveled a plethora of [unsubstantiated] accusations against Israel, including speculation about organ harvesting and claims that the shooting of Palestinians involved in knife and other attacks are just field executions … Puar also framed Israeli actions as part of an experiment of … deliberately “stunting” Palestinian bodies …

The op-ed, by former University of California President Mark Yudof and Ken Waltzer, Executive Director of the Academic Engagement Network, stated:

Ms. Puar’s calumnies reached a new low. She spoke of Jews deliberately starving Palestinians, “stunting” and “maiming” a population. The false accusation that a people, some of whose members were experimented on at Auschwitz, are today experimenting on others is a disgrace.

Yudof and Waltzer further levied the claim that by disseminating the “vicious lie” that Israel extracted organs from Palestinians for medical research, Puar was “updating the medieval blood libel against Jews.”

Additional criticism came from Petra Marquardt-Bigman, on behalf of watchdog group Alums for Campus Fairness, who wrote last month:

Fantasies about Israel stealing organs from dead Palestinians are not “facts” but indeed just “vicious lies […] updating the medieval blood libel against Jews.” Likewise, there is no factual evidence whatsoever that Israel is deliberately starving Palestinians – on the contrary: research and media reports show that overweight and obesity are prevalent in the Gaza Strip; demand for cosmetic surgery procedures in Gaza includes liposuction and “tummy tucks,” and business for Gaza’s restaurants is brisk.

In a similar vein, Cinnamon Stillwell, on behalf of Campus Watch, a group that monitors Middle East studies at universities, responded as follows:

With Puar’s case as the catalyst, the open letter goes on to bemoan the supposed “suppression of speech or academic freedom related to Palestinian rights or Israeli policies” on “college and university campuses.” Predictably, it blames the “millions of dollars in donations” from “political pressure groups” and “right-wing, hawkish Israel advocates…” — otherwise known in conspiratorial circles as the Israel Lobby. Of the destructive impact of the millions of dollars flowing into academe from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, and other despotic Muslim nations, it authors are conveniently silent.

Inverting the truth, the letter laments the “pernicious and discriminatory” effects of “anti-BDS campaigns on student activists, faculty and visiting scholars [emphasis added].” Clearly, it is not those opposed to the singling out and boycotting of academic institutions belonging to the world’s sole Jewish state who are guilty of discrimination. In fact, suppression of speech, intimidation campaigns, and infringements on academic freedom are typically directed at pro-Israel … on campus, not the other way around.

According to a statement on the website of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, on whose Advisory Board Prof. Puar sits, the open letter was drafted by the Academic Advisory Council of Jewish Voice for Peace. To date, Vassar College President Catharine Hill has not responded to it.

Prof. Puar has canceled several subsequent campus visits after her Vassar lecture, and did not reply to The Algemeiner’s request for comment.

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