Israel's government has written to Princeton University in New Jersey to request that a book accusing Israel of harvesting Palestinians' organs and "maiming" them be removed from the syllabus of a course in the school's Department of Near Eastern Studies.
The book is Rutgers University professor Jasbir Puar's The Right to Maim, which is assigned to students taking "The Healing Humanities: Decolonizing Trauma Studies from the Global South," a course being taught by Professor Satyel Larson this fall.
"It was shocking to see that this book includes explicit insinuations that Israel uses a deliberate strategy of maiming Palestinians," Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism Amichai Chikli wrote to Princeton's leadership last week. "This delusional and false accusation is nothing but a modern-day antisemitic blood libel."
Chikli added that the book "does not in any way promote the notion of open academic debate or freedom of speech on campus nor does it have any educational merit," calling on Princeton to be mindful of legitimizing its content in a time of rising antisemitism.
Academics have accused Right to Maim 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 has a history of criticizing Israel. In February 2016, she said at Vassar College that "young Palestinian men ... were mined for organs for scientific research." At the same event, she accused the Jewish state of committing "genocide in slow motion." During a panel at Dartmouth College later that year, Puar said Israel uses "maiming as a deliberate biopolitical tactic" to enforce settler-colonialism.
Chikli's letter follows a similar missive issued by the International Legal Forum (ILF), an Israel-based nonprofit organization. The group argued Puar's book would have been barred from campus had it defamed other minority groups and noted Princeton's record on keeping antisemitic ideas off its campus is spotted, citing the English Department hosting controversial Palestinian activist Mohammed el-Kurd earlier this year. Critics accused el-Kurd of spreading blood libels and insulting Jewish students who attend his events.
The ILF also explained that admitting the book into Princeton's curricula violates both its commitment to pursuing truth as well as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) definition of antisemitism adopted by the US government and used by hundreds of governing institutions — including the European Union and the United Nations. Additionally, the ILF argued that teaching the book may contravene Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids discriminatory conduct at universities receiving federal funds.
This week, the Princeton Alliance of Jewish Progressives, a student group, issued a statement describing the issue as a "right-wing Zionist attack" against Larson's curriculum. Then on Friday, Princeton's campus newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, published an open letter signed by students, faculty, and staff making similar claims in defense of Larson's plans to teach Puar's book.
Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber denounced antisemitism in May 2021 following a series of incidents in which, as he wrote, "passing motorists ... heckled identifiably Jewish students, accusing them of hostility toward Palestinians."