BDS supporters (illustration)
BDS supporters (illustration)Reuters

Vassar College, located in upstate New York, is again receiving attention for its extreme anti-Israel events.

Last week Jasbir Puar, an assistant professor at Rutgers University's Department of Women's and Gender Studies who was visiting Vassar, gave a guest lecture entitled "Inhumanist Biopolitics: How Palestine Matters," in which she expressed a litany of complaints against Israel, including that it "assassinates" teenagers, harvests organs, and deliberately prevents resources from reaching Gaza in order to "maim" and "stunt" the growth of Palestinians.

Legal Insurrection reports that the speaker who introduced Professor Puar requested that people in the audience not record what the talk "in the spirit of congeniality and mutual respect." Despite this, members of the campus group Fairness to Israel (FTI) attended and recorded the speech in an effort to counter Puar's claims.

Puar made no attempt to hide her biases. She began by encouraging the college to boycott Israel and saying, "We need BDS as part of organized resistance and armed resistance in Palestine as well."

During her talk, Puar made numerous exaggerated and false statements about Israel's actions, often without any sources or by using vague wording to introduce conspiracy theories.

In particular, she accused the IDF of causing "more than 120 deaths by field assassinations of young Palestinian men, largely between the ages of 12 to 16" since October. While acknowledging that there were "stabbings" (though without mentioning who perpetrated the stabbings against whom), she strongly implied that the youths were murdered simply for being opposed to Israeli control.

It was not clear what she expected Israel to do in response to terrorism. She called shooting a terrorist who is in the middle of murdering civilians a "field assassination," but also criticized non-lethal methods of subduing terrorists. "The [IDF's] policy of shooting to maim, not to kill, is often misperceived as the preservation of life... It is [really] used to achieve a tactical aims of settler colonialism."

Using numerous ambiguous phrases, including "purportedly" and "some speculate that," she claimed that Israel refused to return the bodies of 17 terrorists because it wanted to harvest their organs for scientific research. This is a popular form of blood libel that Israel has frequently denied and for which there is no proof.

Continuing the theme of Israelis as perverse medical practitioners, Puar accused Israel of carefully monitoring the food, water and power that goes to Gaza in order to give just enough to survive, but not enough to properly sustain Palestinians. She said that Israel's "targeting youth, not for death but for stunting... is another aspect of its biopolitical tactic that seeks to render impotent any future resistance... This is the epigenetics, the weaponized epigenetics."

She did not mention that Israel only started its blockade against Gaza in 2007, two years after Hamas came to power and refused to end its rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. She also did not comment on Hamas's use of hospitals as military centers or the organization's policy of coercing medical patients to carry out terror attacks.

The lecture was followed by a question and answer period, in which FTI reported that no one questioned Puar's claims. Instead, one person asked Puar to explain how Israel is committing genocide by keeping the Palestinians alive.

The talk was sponsored by a number of departments, including Jewish Studies, Political Science, and International Studies, as well as Africana Studies, English, and Women's Studies, none of which seemed to be related to the speech topic.

Puar is an associate professor specializing in Queer Theory. She is not an expert on Israeli or Arab culture, political science, or international relations. Though she has written about the War on Terror, it is primarily as a critique of US culture. Similarly, her research into security issues focus on topics such as describing suicide bombers as "a queer assemblage that resists queerness-as-sexual-identity."

Despite her lack of expertise on the Middle East, she has made a name for herself in her dedicated opposition to Israel. She is one of the foremost proponents of the theory of "pinkwashing," which claims that the only reason Israel has a thriving gay community is to distract criticism from its treatment of Palestinians. She is also on the board of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and a firm advocate for BDS.

As noted above, Puar openly advocated for terrorism, though the BDS movement frequently claims that it is a non-violent movement.

Over the past few years, Vassar College has become a hotbed for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity. Last year, Vassar was ranked as one of the "top ten" colleges for anti-Semitism in the US. In the most notable case, the campus's chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine shared a Nazi propaganda picture depicting a monster with a Star of David destroying a city.