The International Legal Forum (ILF), a nonprofit organization based in Tel Aviv which advocates for equality in Israel and the Middle East, on Sunday asked Princeton University to remove from the syllabus of a new Department of Near Eastern Studies course a book that accuses the Israeli Defense Forces of “maiming” Palestinians and of harvesting the organs of Palestinians they have killed, about which I wrote on Thursday. More on this request can be found here: “Legal Group Seeks Removal of ‘Blood Libel’ Book from Princeton University Course,” by Dion J. Pierre, Algemeiner, August 9, 2023:
The International Legal Forum (ILF), a nonprofit organization based in Tel Aviv which advocates for equality in Israel and the Middle East, on Sunday asked Princeton University to remove from the syllabus of a Department of Near Eastern Studies course a book that accuses the Israeli Defense Forces of “maiming” Palestinians and harvesting their organs.
Students in the class are assigned Rutgers University professor Jasbir Puar’s The Right to Maim for a course titled “The Healing Humanities: Decolonizing Trauma Studies from the Global South,” which will be taught by Professor Satyel Larson this fall. Right to Maim has been accused by academics of being “pseudo-scholarship” for trafficking in antisemitic blood libels rooted in medieval conspiracies charging that Jews murdered Christian children and drank their blood during Passover.
Puar began making such claims in Feb. 2016, when she said at Vassar College that “young Palestinian men…were mined for organs for scientific research.” At the same event, she accused Israel of committing “genocide in slow motion.” Later that year, during a panel at Dartmouth College she said Israel uses “maiming as a deliberate biopolitical tactic” to enforce settler-colonialism.
Jasbir Puar has been spreading her venomous lies about Israelis “mining the bodies of Palestinians for organs” on campuses since 2016. Such a record, one would have thought, would have led to an unwillingness to spread her views, but now it is 2023, and her book, The Right to Maim, now appears on the syllabus of a course to be taught this fall at Princeton. Her text was, we are told, “approved by the faculty,” but it turns out that the entire faculty was not asked. It was only those in the Near Eastern Studies Department, who gave their placet — not surprising, as that department’s members are, like those in Middle Eastern Studies Departments everywhere, adamantly pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel, and willing, it seems, to allow the most monstrous charges against the Israelis to be disseminated in the hallowed halls of Princeton.
“Although we firmly believe in the notion of open debate on campus and do not take the call to exclude any kind of reading material lightly, the book in question does not contain any educational merit but only promulgates a dangerous conspiracy and age-old antisemitic trope,” said a letter ILF shared with The Algemeiner. “This kind of blind racism would not be permitted against any other minority not should it be tolerated with respect to Jewish students.”
The Right to Maim is not merely antisemitic. Its baseless charge against the Israelis harks directly back to the medieval blood libel against the Jews, who were accused of killing Christian children in order to use their blood to make Passover matzohs. Think of the tales of William of Norwich and Hugh of Lincoln, supposedly “killed by Jewes,” that led to the massacres of innocent Jews over many centuries in Europe.
ILF added that Princeton University’s record on keeping antisemitic ideas off its campus is spotted [sic], citing the English Department’s hosting controversial Palestinian activist Mohammed-El Kurd in January despite his history of spreading blood libels and insulting Jewish students who attend his events. The group also explained that admitting Puar’s book into its curricula violates both its commitment to pursuing truth as well as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism adopted by the US government in May and used by hundreds of governing institutions, including the US State Department, European Union, and the United Nations. Additionally, ILF argued that teaching the book may contravene Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids discriminatory conduct at universities receiving federal funds.
The charges are lies — not merely matters of opinion, but flat-out lies. Neither Jasbir Puar, nor anyone else, has ever adduced a single example of the IDF “harvesting the organs of dead Palestinians.” Surely the Princeton faculty , and President Eisgreber, don’t want their university to become a laughingstock by allowing such antisemitic blood-libel material in a course. The university’s commitment to the truth matters….
Besides, the use of this book likely constitutes a violation of the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of antisemitism. And finally, if Princeton allows Puar’s book to be taught, this likely violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, forbidding discriminatory conduct at institutions receiving federal funds. If this book is used, it may trigger a Title VI investigation, and the possible loss to Princeton of tens of millions of dollars in federal funds.
Princeton University president Christopher L. Eisgruber denounced antisemitism in May 2021, following a series of incidents in which, he said, “passing motorists…heckled identifiably Jewish students, accusing them of hostility toward Palestinians.”
Princeton’s president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, has a good record on calling out antisemitic acts on campus. His own mother was a Jewish refugee from Germany. He is keenly aware of the effects of antisemitism.
I am certain he did not know anything either about Jasbir Puar’s antisemitic book, or about its planned use in a new course at Princeton, until the scandal broke. But now he does know, and he has to do the right thing, for the good name of his institution, and insist that the book be removed from the syllabus. I am convinced that he will do so.