Jasbir Puar Is the Exemplar of the Academy’s Moral Failure
JNS.org – Rutgers professor Jasbir Puar has been invited to speak at Scripps College in California by its chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine and several of the college’s academic departments.
Puar is one of the most vicious antisemites and misozionists* in America. You can read excerpts from a 2016 speech she made at Vassar University to get an idea of her creative, modern presentation of medieval blood libels. She is also a prolific “scholar,” casting her poisonous inventions in the form of just barely penetrable academic jargon (if you think you are capable of understanding her, see how long you can listen to this video).
Among other things, she accuses the IDF of deliberately stunting and maiming Palestinians in order to suppress their resistance. Israel would kill them, she argues, but then we would damage our claim to be the primary victims of genocide in history. And when we do kill them, we take their organs for scientific research. Of course she claims that we specialize in hurting Palestinian children — how can she reprise the story of Simon of Trent if she doesn’t accuse us of victimizing children?
The truth of the matter is that the IDF does its best to avoid collateral damage, that the Palestinians employ child soldiers, and that Palestinian terrorism (the Ma’alot Massacre, the Coastal Road Massacre, the bombings of the Dolphinarium and the Sbarro Pizza restaurant, to name just a few) disproportionately targets children. But never mind.
Puar is inventive, and finds ways to turn what others believe to be moral behavior into examples of Israeli depravity. “Pinkwashing,” the supposed tactic of contrasting Israel’s tolerance of homosexuals with Arab and Muslim homophobia (which often results in murder) in order to “whitewash the occupation” is a favorite subject.
She also argues that Israel’s attempts to reduce collateral damage, while at the same time defending itself against terrorism and rocket attacks, actually constitutes a deliberate policy to maim rather than kill Palestinians. The IDF’s “knock on the roof” technique, which it uses in Gaza to signal that a structure is about to be destroyed, is presented as merely a pretense of reducing casualties (she falsely claims the time between the “knock” and the destruction of a building is only 60 seconds, when it is typically closer to 15 minutes). According to Puar, phone calls warning residents of coming attacks are a form of psychological warfare, “a reminder of how powerless they are,” and not a practical way of reducing civilian injuries and deaths.
Non-lethal methods to control riots, deter incursions across the Gaza border, and stop attempts to damage the security barrier are described by Puar as methods of torturing or maiming Palestinians, instead of attempts to protect Israelis without killing their attackers. She believes Israel want to break Palestinian spirits, but keep them alive so it can exploit them economically.
Her obsessive attribution of the most evil motives imaginable to every action of Israelis to protect themselves against an enemy which, after all, wants to kill them, often succeeds and is disconnected from reality — I would use the word fanatical. She advocates both BDS and “armed resistance.”
Puar’s fantastic anti-Israel polemic is interwoven with and connected to her discussion of sex, gender, “queer theory,” race, disability, and other topics characteristic of today’s post-modern academic milieu. She seems to have invented the concept of “homonationalism,” which explicates “how homosexuality — and in particular homonormativity, the adoption of heteronormative values by the ‘queer’ community — is instrumentalized as part of nationalist and geopolitical interventions.”
Why do I care?
Because there has never been a better contemporary example than Jasbir Puar of the distortion of the academic mission to find and teach the truth since that great fraud Edward Said. I say this despite the existence of Ward Churchill and Steven Salaita. Unlike the latter two, Puar is an academic star. She is a full professor and graduate director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, where she has taught since 2000. She holds graduate degrees in ethnic and women’s studies, and has a massive list of publications (although most are in marginal journals), speaking engagements, fellowships, and other academic honors. She has had three books published by Duke University Press, which has a disturbing record of anti-Israel bias.
Yet despite her reality-distorting obsession, she is welcomed to speak at places like Scripps College. She continues to receive grants and fellowships (although some of them, like the “Palestinian American Research Council Fellowship” she got in 2018, may simply constitute payment for her political activity). She is a tenured member of the Rutgers faculty.
The fact is that the Western academic world — particularly the portion of it called “Ethnic and Gender Studies” — is so thoroughly indoctrinated with misoziony that it doesn’t see anything wrong with her ideas. What look to me like conspiratorial fantasies indicative of mental illness appear to them as perfectly normal academic discourse. This seems to be the case in most universities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada — and to some extent, in certain institutions even in Israel.
Apparently the Scripps people think that her ideas are important and should be heard. But I’m guessing that if a pro-Israel group of students wished to invite someone like myself to discuss Palestinian terrorism against Israeli children (see, for example, this unrepentant murderess), there would be no such event.
Part of the problem (at least outside of Israel) is that for years Arab countries (and Iran too) have donated large sums of money to academic institutions, have made grants to individual academics, and have built up specific departments (usually Middle East Studies) in key colleges and universities. Combined with the traditional left-wing orientation of many academics, and the strong commitment in academia to “free speech” and “academic freedom” — as long as said speech or freedom is aimed in the proper direction — this has created an atmosphere in which Jasbir Puar is not considered an extremist.
The universities and colleges are supposed to be beacons of light that support humanist ideals of justice and fairness for all peoples. Instead, they have taken the easy, convenient, profitable, and cowardly path of joining the dark forces of Jew-hatred while preening themselves for promoting “social justice.”
* Misoziony (pronounced mis-OZ-yoni) is the extreme, irrational, and obsessive hatred of the Jewish state. It is antisemitism raised to one degree of abstraction. Although it is not identical to antisemitism, most misozionists also hate Jews as individuals and the Jewish people as a group.
Victor Rosenthal was born in Brooklyn, NY, lived on a kibbutz through the 1980s, and returned home to Israel in 2014 after 26 years in California. He writes at the Abu Yehuda blog. A version of this article was first published at AbuYehuda.com.