On 3rd February, several academic departments of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York sponsored a lecture by Rutgers Professor Jasbir K. Puar titled “Inhumanist Biopolitics: How Palestine Matters,” which constituted a conspiratorial reformulation of the blood libel.
At the outset of the public lecture, a Vassar professor requested that audience members not record Puar’s remarks, curiously stating that it would be “unseemly” to do so.
In fact, it was Puar’s remarks which were not only unseemly, but resonant of the most repugnant of anti-Semitic tropes.
Without any factual support, Puar accused Israel of a wide ranging conspiracy to use “asphyxiating” “biopolitical” means to exercise control over Palestinians. As one audience member reported: “She labeled Israel an apartheid state that uses its world-renowned reproductive technology to control population demographics by collecting genetic data to identify who is Jewish and specifically targeting Palestinian procreative organs. Paradoxically, she bragged that the Palestinian birthrate is triple that of the Jewish Israelis.”
In a transparent reformulation of the blood libel, Puar went on to “speculate” that the Israeli government has repeatedly executed young terror suspects, possibly while they were in ambulances, and then “harvested” their organs. She also asserted that Israel is embarked on a “eugenic” conspiracy to utilise medical and other technologies systematically to “stunt” and “maim” young Palestinians.
No member of the audience, including the many faculty members present, challenged the accuracy of Puar’s unsupported, conspiratorial allegations. At the conclusion of the lecture, an audience member asked a former head of Vassar’s Jewish Studies Program, which was among the sponsors of the lecture, if he accepted the accuracy of Puar’s contentions. He responded: “You prove to me that anything she said wasn’t true.”
In the wake of reports of Puar’s lecture, Vassar’s President vaguely acknowledged that “Some found at least parts of [Puar’s] talk offensive to Jews in particular,” but did not acknowledge that it was bigoted. To the contrary, she went on to suggest that blame is properly assigned to “online publications” and “social media” that have (accurately) reported on Puar’s speech and other anti-Jewish activities on campus, including the posting of anonymous antisemitic messages and the use of a Nazi propaganda poster by a purported Palestinian human rights group.