The resurrection of the Blood Libel - by pseudo-scholars
The resurrection of the Blood Libel - by pseudo-scholars

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.

The latest example of this pseudo-scholarship—born out of contortions of history and fact to conform, instead, to spurious narratives—has embroiled Boston University in a debate about the academic qualifications of a prospective faculty hire, Sarah Ihmoud, a postdoctoral associate in Anthropology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

As is the current trend in the humanities and social sciences in academia, Ihmoud, in her writing about feminism and sexuality, focuses obsessively on the predations of the Jew of nations, Israel, in a torrent of so-called research. Not surprisingly, since the left is in the thralls of intersectionality and the commonality of oppression, Ilmoud’s views are so biased against Israel, so focused on the barbarity and aggression of Zionism, and so dedicated to exposing the moral depravity of Israel’s Jews that she is not content to merely deal in history and fact.

As if she were still a graduate student and writing a paper about a piece of literature instead of what should be an historically-accurate coverage of her topic, Ilmoud tries to weave a tale of moral depravity, in which Israel and its Jews are reduced to misanthropic thugs who use rape, sexual aggression, and the physical intimidation and harassment of Arab women as a means of ethnic cleansing and domination. In fact, according to her, Israel’s very creation was predicated on the sexual debasement of Arab women. “Rape and killing of Palestinian women was a central aspect of Israeli troops’ systematic massacres and evictions during the destruction of Palestinian villages in 1948,” Ihmoud wrote in a co-authored article. This would be horrifying and something worthy of discussion were it only factual and not pulled out of thin air, as it apparently was done here and in much of her research.

After describing some anecdotal stories about Arab women being harassed by Israeli soldiers, Ihmoud contended that the machinery of the Jewish state is in fact maintained through this type if violence and sexual aggression, that, as she put it, “The legalization of such forms of violence marks the Israeli legal system itself as deeply embedded in the settler colonial project's machinery of elimination."

As she continued to try to make a case for indicting the IDF for their sexual barbarism, Ihmoud makes other ridiculous claims, which are not only mistaken, they are the complete opposite of the truth. She claimed, specifically, that “Militarized sexual abuse has been rampant under Israeli occupation. The Israeli state and military forces have exploited the threat of sexual violence against Palestinian women, and patriarchal perceptions of sexuality [to] deter attempts at organized resistance.” 

But the accusation that the IDF regularly and wantonly rapes and otherwise abuses Arab women as a method of patriarchal control and as a function of sadism was specifically contradicted by an award-winning masters thesis by a Hebrew University graduate student, Tal Nitzan, who found that, of the many armies of the world, the IDF was noteworthy for having almost no incidences of rape of Arab women by Israeli soldiers. The fact that Nizen turned this revelation into an indictment against Israel—that the low incidence of rape among the IDF was only due to the abject racism of the soldiers which kept them from even deigning to touch Arab women (you can't win for losing) —does not change the fact the Ihmoud’s own hysteria of a sexually malicious, and at times murderous, Israeli military is not only untrue, merely concocted lies to promote a specific narrative, but is antisemitic.  

This same contortion of scholarship to libel Israel and defame Jews animates the work of another intellectual harridan, Jasbir K. Puar, Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. In 2016, she delivered a lecture at Vassar College, “Inhumanist Biopolitics: How Palestine Matters,” the theme of which she subsequently developed into an odious book, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability.

The lecture and book 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 “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.

Professor Puar also leveled a grotesque, unbased and 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 referred took place during what was referred to as the “knife Intifada,” in which violent Arabs randomly sought to, and were often successful in, murdering Israeli civilians, a jihad that necessitated military intervention by the IDF.

The central, repellant theme for Puar is 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 attacking Palestinians, but wound them, was 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.”

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 pseudo-scholars like Puar and Ihmoud, 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 valuable scholarship, Israel’s ideological foes have found an effective, but odious and mendacious, way to insure that the Jew of nations, Israel, is still accused of oppressing innocent victims and bringing harm to non-Jews—the ugly trope that Jews still exhibit murderous, sadistic enmity toward non-Jews, in the current day with the Palestinian Arabs staged as victims.

Richard L. Cravatts, PhD, President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), is the author of Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews.