(March 6, 2020 / JNS) Scripps College, a private woman’s liberal-arts institution and part of The Claremont Colleges in Southern California, is scheduled to host a keynote this month by Rutgers University professor Jasbir Puar, who wrote a book accusing Israel of maiming Palestinians to assert control over them.
The March 12 address at the school, titled “Debility and Disability in Palestine: Notes Towards Southern Disability Studies,” is presented by Scripps’ anthropology department, the school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, and the college’s Department of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies.
It is also co-sponsored by Claremont Graduate University’s Cultural Studies Department and the Pomona College Politics Department.
“This keynote will detail various strands of histories of disability in Palestine and their import in terms of activism, advocacy and the field of southern disability studies,” according to the event description. “Based on fieldwork with disability and rehabilitation center workers in 2016 and members at refugee camps in the West Bank from the summer of 2018, Jasbir Puar’s research suggests that disability is lived as an inevitable consequence of Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation.”
Puar’s 2017 book, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability, asserts that the Israeli Defense Forces believe in “rehabilitation through the spatial, affective and corporeal debilitation of Palestine,” as well as “the sovereign right to maim, wielded by Israel, in relation to the right to kill.”
The book was a winner of the National Women’s Studies Association’s 2018 Alison Piepmeier Book Prize, awarded for scholarship concentrating on feminist disability issues.
Its preface, which shows the “intensification” for writing it started in 2014, applies the fake narrative of “hands up, don’t shoot” to another false chronicle within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“This was the summer police shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the summer of Operation Protective Edge, the fifty-one-day Israeli siege of Gaza,” Puar writes in the introduction. “Organizers protesting these seemingly disparate events began drawing connections, tracing the material relationships between the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the militarization of police in Ferguson, from the training of U.S. law enforcement by the Israeli state to the tweeting of advice from Palestinians on how to alleviate tear gas exposure.”
Puar has an extensive history with anti-Israel activity, according to Canary Mission, which documents people and groups that promote hatred of the United States, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses.
‘Harassment is harassment, regardless of the motivation’
Israel advocacy groups have expressed their concern about the upcoming event.
“Jasbir Puar has a notorious record of spreading vicious anti-Semitism,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein told JNS. “Any academic departments co-sponsoring this event will be doing irreparable damage to their credibility unless they reverse course. While Puar is allowed to speak under the [First] [A]mendment, the administration has an obligation to unequivocally condemn her vile hatred and take concrete steps to protect Jewish students.”
AMCHA Initiative co-founder and director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin told JNS, “The reality here is that the First Amendment and academic freedom protect this type of expression. However, what can’t be denied is that events like these and speakers like Jasbir Puar are invited to deliberately and strategically inject hate and dangerous divisiveness onto campus, and almost always result in the harassment of Jewish students.”
Rossman-Benjamin said Scripps College “must be prepared to promptly, fairly and firmly address any harassment of Jewish and pro-Israel students that ensues from this event,” and that the school’s administration shouldn’t “differentiate between classic and Israel-related anti-Semitism, and excuse or ignore any developing incidents as motivated by politics.”
She said “harassment is harassment, regardless of the motivation of the perpetrator or the identity of the victim, and must be addressed equally for all Scripps students.”
And she added that “Scripps administrators must ensure that departments and faculty are not abusing academic freedom by using their co-sponsorship or classrooms as vehicles for promoting a hateful political agenda instead of for educating students.”
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East executive director Asaf Romirowsky told JNS, “It is extremely concerning that academic departments lend their name to propagandists which give their talks in aura of credibility when they should be promoting scholarship and research all of this is extremely damaging and destructive to the campus especially as it relates to Puar, whose ‘facts’ have been disputed at large.”
According to the Scripps event description, Puar’s lecture will consist of “additional security measures” that prohibit backpacks, briefcases or large bags from being brought into the Balch Auditorium. Video recording or photography will be prohibited, and “cell phones and any other recording equipment will need to be turned off in advance of the program.”
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