US professors using classrooms to spread antisemitic lies

In today’s academia, professors who teach lies that smear Jews and Israel rarely face negative consequences. In fact, some even receive career advancement. 

Rutgers University professor Jasbir Puar. Credit: Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies.
Rutgers University professor Jasbir Puar. Credit: Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies.
James Sinkinson
James Sinkinson
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.

While news of skyrocketing harassment of Jewish college students usually focuses on the antisemitic lies and uncivil behavior of anti-Israel demonstrators, less publicized are the slanders—even blood libels—against the Jewish state presented in formal classroom settings by professors. 

Case in point: A professor at Princeton University, Satyel Larson, has announced a class in which students will be taught that Israel harvests Palestinian organs, starves Palestinian children to stunt their growth and maims Palestinians instead of killing them, to increase their suffering. This “information” is contained in a book written by the infamous antisemitic Rutgers professor Jasbir Puar and published by Duke University Press.

It’s one thing for students to engage in boisterous shouting matches with antisemites outside the student union. It’s quite another to tell the tenured professor of your history class that he and his materials are racist—especially if it’s true. 

Perhaps the biggest question: How can any professor on any campus be permitted to spew racist lies to students as part of a course curriculum? Would anti-black or anti-Muslim slanders be tolerated in any college classroom in America? Why is there a double standard when hate speech is leveled at Jewish students and the Jewish state as part of their instruction?

Like the original blood libel—the claim that Jews use the blood of Christian children to make Passover matza bread—Puar’s blood libel has no basis in fact. There are no statistics gathered by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, or even the virulently antisemitic Palestinian Authority to substantiate her claims, nor is there any medical evidence. 

Where is President Biden’ much-vaunted “strategic plan” to combat antisemitism when we need it? Where is his condemnation of professors Larson and Puar? Where is the outrage from Biden’s “antisemitism czar,” Deborah Lipstadt? Has Puar been punished or even chastised by her academic peers for her shoddy scholarship or blatant Jew hatred? 

On the contrary, Puar has been rewarded. Her book, “The Right to Maim,” received an award from the National Women’s Studies Association. Puar also received a promotion at Rutgers—she was made head of her graduate program. 

Lamentably, Puar’s antisemitic diatribe is just one of many examples of college-level faculty and administration espousing hate against Jewish students and the Jewish state. Take the famous case during the 2000s of professor Joseph Massad at Columbia University. Massad—who is Palestinian—was accused by students of antisemitism and anti-Israel bias. Indeed, he was quoted by the Columbia University Spectator saying Israel is “a Jewish supremacist and racist state” and that “every racist state should be threatened.” One of his lectures was titled, “Zionism and Jewish Supremacy.”

Massad was never punished. Rather, in 2009, Columbia University granted him tenure, a dramatic career advancement. The New York Times defended Massad as well, and actually insinuated that he was a victim of harassment by students who opposed his views.

Indeed, Jewish students and faculty are often punished if they protest against unfair treatment of Israel in the classroom. In 2022, for example, George Washington University students accused their professor, Lara Sheehi, of harassment for subjecting them to antisemitic coursework and lectures and suggesting that if they failed to agree with the course curriculum, it would threaten their future as clinical psychologists. 

Sheehi invited in a guest lecturer who has falsely claimed that Israel tests its missile systems on Palestinian children. Sheehi’s social media are filled with antisemitic statements, including a tweet directed at the Israel Defense Forces saying, “Destroy Zionism and commit to land back, then we’ll take you seriously you fucking genocidal fucks.” 

One student described Sheehi’s response to the accusations, saying the professor “began to spread lies about us to the faculty—smearing our reputations to the people who are going to be our clinical supervisors for years to come.”

In the end, it was the student complainants who were punished, not Sheehi. They were told they would be disciplined, but were not made aware of their specific offenses. They were also told they would have to describe what they think they did wrong or receive a “permanent negative mark” on their academic records.

Another recent incident involved four Jewish professors at City University of New York (CUNY), who spoke out against antisemitism on campus. The activists they criticized responded with allegations of “discrimination.” One of the professors, Jeffrey Lax, reported finding nails in his car tires and was once blocked from leaving a room by five other faculty members. “I was shaking. I was scared for my safety,” he said of the confrontation.

Meanwhile, faculty who have been accused of racist speech or even attitudes against other groups have been summarily punished—and usually terminated. For instance, University of Central Florida (UCF) professor Charles Negy complained about “black privilege,” tweeting, “If Afr. Americans as a group, had the same behavioral profile as Asian Americans (on average, performing the best academically, having the highest income, committing the lowest crime, etc.), would we still be proclaiming ‘systemic racism’ exists?” He followed this by saying, “Black privilege is real,” and cited affirmative action as an example. No academic freedom at UCF: Negy was summarily fired.

In another case, renowned University of Pennsylvania Law professor Amy Wax, a recipient of awards for teaching excellence, asserted that most black Penn Law students in her classes scored below the average of their peers. Wax was relieved of some of her teaching duties for making politically incorrect statements. Would she face similar condemnation and abrupt removal from the classroom if she made offensive remarks about Jews and Israel? More likely she would be praised and rewarded, as some blatantly antisemitic professors have been. 

In today’s academia, professors who teach lies that smear Jews and Israel rarely face negative consequences. In fact, some even receive career advancement. 

The attempt by Princeton University’s professor Larson to use blatantly antisemitic material in the classroom is perhaps the most pronounced example of outright, unsubstantiated racist slander against the Jewish state in an official curriculum. It must be stopped—by the university, or by U.S. Civil Rights Statutes.

Originally published by Facts and Logic About the Middle East.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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