Jasbir Puar is the Rutgers University professor who first coined the term "pinkwashing" to denigrate Israel's progressive record on LGBTQ rights, and who made the baseless claim at a 2016 lecture at Vassar College that Israel harvests organs from the bodies of dead Palestinians, a modern day blood libel.
Despite being called a "raving crackpot" by the editorial board of the liberal-leaning New York Daily News, Puar has a new book out this month from Duke University Press. The book has generated a firestorm of controversy for the publisher as well as for Duke and Rutgers.
In an Op-Ed published in the Durham, North Carolina paper the Herald-Sun, Peter Reitzes writes,
In "The Right to Maim," Puar continues what appear to be thinly veiled comparisons of Israelis to Nazis. Puar wonders if Gaza is "not a death camp but a debilitation camp," asks, "Is Gaza an experimental lab for the production, maintenance, and profitability of biopolitical debilitation?" and states, "The understanding of maiming as a specific aim of biopolitics tests the framing of settler colonialism as a project of elimination of the indigenous through either genocide or assimilation."
Poor scholarship – what one historian called "academic garbage" – plagues "The Right to Maim." For example, Puar quotes a professor of psychiatry from Al Jazeera America (not from a peer reviewed study) saying, "Palestinian children in Gaza are exposed to more violence in their lifetime than any other people, any other children, anywhere in the world." Puar attempts to support this allegation by citing the study, "Effect of Trauma on the Mental Health of Palestinian Children and Mothers in the Gaza Strip" published in the Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal. I took the time to obtain and read this study and was surprised to see that it appears to conclude the opposite: "Compared to other types of conflict in war zones, events [in Gaza] were not as acute," it reports, and "The most common type of traumatic event was seeing victims' pictures on television."
Why would DUP publish a book like Puar's with such poor scholarship and obvious anti-Semitic overtones? Why, in fact, has DUP brought Puar aboard as an editor?
Perhaps the problem lies within bias in DUP's own staff and policies. ...
[T]here are a large number of personnel involved with DUP who appear to selectively attack Israel and advocate for positions that delegitimize, demonize, and utilize double standards against Israel. Does DUP staff treat other countries in this manner, or is it just Israel, the only Jewish majority country in the world, which receives such treatment?
Moreover, Asaf Romirowsky, Executive Director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, has told the Duke Chronicle that he "considered the book's thesis of 'maiming individuals in order to dehumanize' a 'total fallacy.'... Romirowsky added that in conflict areas, violence exists on both sides, but Israel abides by rules of engagement."
For a certain segment of the population, there is simply no right way that Israel can defend itself from attack. Unfortunately, such individuals are increasingly finding comfortable homes in academia.