Pseudo-Scholarship, Intersectionality, and Blood Libels Against Israel

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Jews have been accused of harming and murdering non-Jews since the twelfth century in England, when Jewish convert to Catholicism, Theobald of Cambridge, mendaciously announced that European Jews ritually slaughtered Christian children each year and drank their blood during Passover season.

That medieval blood libel, largely abandoned in the contemporary West, does, however, still appear as part of Arab world’s vilification of Jews—now transmogrified into a slander against Israel, the Jew of nations. But in the regular chorus of defamation against Israel by a world infected with Palestinianism, a new, more odious trend has shown itself: the blood libel has been revivified; however, to position Israel (and by extension Jews) as demonic agents in the community of nations, the primitive fantasies of the blood libel are now masked with a veneer of academic scholarship.

On February 3rd, for example, Jasbir K. Puar, Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University delivered a lecture at Vassar College, “Inhumanist Biopolitics: How Palestine Matters,” sponsored, shamefully, not by radical student groups but by the school’s American Studies Department and departments of Political Science, Religion, and English, and the programs of Africana Studies, International Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Jewish Studies.

The lecture examined “the use of technologies of measure to manufacture a ‘remote control’ occupation, one that produces a different version of Israeli ‘home invasions’ through the maiming and stunting of population. If Gaza, for example, is indeed the world’s largest ‘open air prison’ and an experimental lab for Israeli military apparatuses. . , what kinds of fantasies (about power, about bodies, about resistance, about politics) are driving this project?” In other words, Professor Puar’s central thesis was that Israeli military tactics involve the deliberate the “stunting, “maiming,” physical disabling, and scientific experimenting with Palestinian lives, an outrageous resurrection of the classic anti-Semitic trope that Jews purposely, and sadistically, harm and kill non-Jews.

Puar, who writes on “gay and lesbian tourism, queer theory, theories of intersectionality, affect, homonationalism, and pinkwashing” (the perverse theory that Israel trumpets its broad support of LGBT rights to obscure its mistreatment of the Palestinians), is also, unsurprisingly, on the Advisory Board of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, a leading coordinator of Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement on campuses.

More alarming than her open support of the BDS movement, and her vocal support for Vassar’s own ongoing BDS campaign, was Puar’s explicit support for terrorism against Israeli citizens as a corollary aspect of the BDS movement. BDS “is such a minor piece of how Palestine is going to be liberated, [and] we need BDS as part of organized resistance and armed resistance in Palestine as well,” she said. “There is no other way the situation is going to change [emphasis added].”

When pro-Palestinian activists and critics of Israel, such as Professor Puar, repeat the claim that Palestinians somehow have an internationally-recognized legal “right” to resist so-called occupation through violent means, they are both legitimizing that terror and helping to insure that its lethal use by Israel’s enemies will continue unabated. Those who lend their moral support to terrorism, and who continually see the existence of “grievance-based violence” as a justifiable tool of the oppressed, have made themselves apologists for radical Islam and terrorism, not to mention questioning Israel’s right to protect its citizens from being slaughtered.

In her speech, Professor Puar also leveled a grotesque, never-proven charge against Israel, namely, that its soldiers harvest organs from Palestinians it has killed, charges that have been made by others, without any substantiation, including after the deadly 2010 earthquake in Haiti where Israeli experts assisted with search and rescue operations and were later accused of harvesting organs from Haitian victims of the natural disaster. “Protests, stabbings, flagrant refusals of IDF control, clashes and revived commitment to a peoples’ rumble,” Puar said, “have resulted in more than 120 deaths by field assassinations of young Palestinian men, largely between the ages of 12 to 16, by IDF soldiers. On January 1st, 2016, the Israeli government returns 17 bodies of these youth that purportedly lay in a morgue in West Jerusalem for two months. No explanation has ever been given for their detention.” And without offering any proof or citing the source of her information, Puar then mendaciously claimed that “Some speculate that the bodies were mined for organs for scientific research.”

Puar continued with spurious charges against the Israeli military, leaving out entirely any context in which Palestinian terrorism, including the reality that the “field assassinations” to which Puar so carelessly refers took place during current “knife Intifada,” in which psychotic Arabs randomly sought to, and were often successful in, murdering Israeli civilians, a jihad that necessitated military intervention by the IDF.

She also accused Israel of randomly, and recklessly, targeting medical facilities and other infrastructure as a deadly way “to provide the bare minimum for survival, but minimal enough to attempt to defeat or strip resistance” where . . . “the target here is not just life itself but resistance itself.” Puar’s view that Israel’s military operations are characterized by disproportionality and a disregard for human life—even of its mortal foes—was in fact totally contradicted by a report prepared by The High-Level International Military Group on the Gaza Conflict in 2014, which found that “during Operation Protective Edge . . . Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.”

In her speech the central, repellant theme was that Israel is also intent on “Targeting youth, not for death but for stunting” as a “tactic that seeks to render impotent any future resistance.” Even Israel’s attempt to not kill Palestinians, but maim them, is given a perverse character by Puar, who contended that “Maiming masquerades as let live when in fact it acts as will not let die,” and that this technique, as part of a sadistic, imperialistic militancy on the part of Israel, “is used to achieve . . . tactical aims of settler colonialism.”

Professor Puar is a feminist and gender studies specialist, and one may wonder why she has invested so much of her academic energy in vilifying Israel. But her obsession with Israel and its various perceived modes of oppression and brutality toward a weak, innocent victim group is consistent with many academics in the humanities and social sciences who increasingly find a linkage as they seek to affirm the rights of the victimized and name the villains responsible for this oppression. The more that seemingly unrelated instances of oppression can be conflated, it is thought, the greater the ability to confront these oppressors and neutralize the negative effect they have on society. This trend has been called “intersectionality,” and it has meant that someone who is a gender studies professor, or queer theorist, or American studies expert can, with no actual knowledge or expertise about the Middle East, readily pontificate on the many social pathologies of Israel, based on its perceived role as a racist, colonial oppressor of an innocent indigenous population of Arab victims. For Professor Puar and her fellow travelers, to know one victim group is to know any victim group—with Israel being a tempting and habitual target of their opprobrium.

Thus, for instance, supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have often linked racism and police violence “from Ferguson to Palestine,” as their placards have announced, making Israel somehow complicit in American racism and police brutality and creating a moral equivalency between Palestinian and black American victims of brutality. “Intersectionality holds that various forms of oppression,” said David Bernstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, “constitute an intersecting system of oppression . . , [and] the BDS movement has successfully injected the anti-Israel cause into these intersecting forms of oppression and itself into the interlocking communities of people who hold by them.”

Supporters of the Palestinian cause have come to accept the fact that Israel will not be defeated through the use of traditional tools of warfare. Instead, the Jewish state’s enemies, abetted by the academic and media elites in the West, have begun to use different, but equally dangerous, tactics to delegitimize and eventually destroy Israel in a cognitive war. By dressing up old hatreds against Jews, combined with a purported goal of seeking social justice for the oppressed, and repackaging ugly biases as seemingly pure scholarship, Israel’s ideological foes have found an effective, but odious, way to insure that the Jew of nations, Israel, is still accused of fostering social chaos and bringing harm to non-Jews—the ugly trope that Jews still exhibit murderous, sadistic militarism and racism against non-Jews, in the current day with the Palestinian Arabs as victims.

Pseudo-Scholarship, Intersectionality, and Blood Libels Against Israel

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AUTHOR

Richard L. Cravatts

Richard Cravatts has taught advertising, integrated marketing communications, consumer behavior, opinion writing, magazine publishing, editing, public relations, technical writing, account planning, entrepreneurial marketing, and e-commerce strategy at Simmons College, Boston University, Babson College, Tufts University, UMass/ Boston, Suffolk University, Wentworth Institute, Emerson College, Northeastern University, and Emmanuel College.

For over 26 years Cravatts was publisher of the Boston Classical Network, a firm which created playbills to enhance the marketing of the region's major performing arts organizations, including the American Repertory Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, Celebrity Series of Boston, Handel & Haydn Society, and Boston Lyric Opera. He was the founding editor of Metrowest Magazine and Wellesley Weston Magazine, and associate publisher and editor in chief of Orlando's Best and the Greater Boston Restaurant & Wine Review. He was also the art director and travel editor of Palm Beach Illustrated, as well as the Boston dining correspondent for East/West Network, Inc., publishers of in-flight magazines for the nation's leading airlines.

From 1976-78, Dr. Cravatts was the first director of publications at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University at a time when the School was undergoing dramatic growth and in the midst of a significant capital campaign, and was the founding editor of the School's magazine and portfolio of marketing publications; he also later served in a similar capacity as the first director of public relations at Harvard's School of Public Health.

Dr. Cravatts has published over 350 articles, op-ed pieces, columns, and chapters in books on campus anti-Semitism, campus free speech, terrorism, Constitutional law, Middle East politics, real estate, and social policy, and is the author of the book, Genocidal Liberalism: The University's War Against Israel & Jews. He is also a frequent guest on radio programs and lectures nationally on the topic of higher education and the Middle East.

In addition to being an SPME board member and chair of its Greater Boston chapter,  Cravatts is a board member of both The Journal for the Study of Antisemitism and the Investigative Taskforce on Campus Anti-Semitism, and an Academic Advisory Board member of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.


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