Academia’s contemporary blood libel
By: Richard L. Cravatts
Jews have been accused of harming and murdering non-Jews since the twelfth century in England, when Jewish convert to Catholicism, Theobald of Cambridge, mendaciously announced that European Jews ritually slaughtered Christian children each year and drank their blood during Passover season.
That medieval blood libel, largely abandoned in the contemporary West, does, however, still appear as part of the Arab world’s vilification of Jews — now transmogrified into a slander against Israel, the Jew of nations.
But in the regular chorus of defamation against Israel by a world infected with Palestinianism, a new, more odious trend has shown itself: the blood libel has been revivified; however, in order to position Israel (and by extension Jews) as demonic agents in the community of nations, the primitive fantasies of the blood libel are now masked with a veneer of academic scholarship.
Masked as research and scholarship, the fruits of this academic malpractice are used to further the ongoing campaign of the demonization of Israel, and the intellectual capital oozing out of campuses in the thrall of a Marxist worldview of oppression and victimology has as its goal to substantiate Israel’s moral and existential inferiority in an attempt to make it a pariah in the world community. Part of achieving that malicious objective is scholarship designed to reveal every real or imagined sinister aspect of Israel’s culture, society, politics, and military, and to confirm that the Jewish state’s behavior is singularly perverse, malicious, sinister, and murderous—especially in its cruel, inhuman treatment of non-Jewish children.
One notorious example of this type of mendacious academic output can be found in a 2017 book by Rutgers professor Jasbir K. Puar published by Duke University Press, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability. The thesis of Puar’s book is formed by her examination of “Israeli tactical calculations of settler colonial rule,” which, she asserted, is “that of creating injury and maintaining Palestinian populations as perpetually debilitated, and yet alive, in order to control them.”
In other words, Puar’s core notion is that Israeli military tactics — as an extension of its political policies — involve the deliberate “stunting,” “maiming,” physical disabling, and scientific experimenting with Palestinian lives, an outrageous and grotesque resurrection of the classic anti-Semitic trope that Jews purposely, and sadistically, harm and kill non-Jews.
Puar, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, boasts that she regularly writes on a hodgepodge of currently fashionable academic fields of study, including “gay and lesbian tourism, queer theory, theories of intersectionality, affect, homonationalism, and pinkwashing,” the latter being the perverse theory that Israel trumpets its broad support of LGBT rights in its society to furtively obscure its long-standing mistreatment of the Palestinians.
Morally coherent people would normally look at Israel’s progressive policies towards gays and commend the Jewish state for treating members of the LGBT community humanely and in a manner they are not treated in most of the Muslim world, but not Puar and her fellow pinkwashing theorists. Nothing Israel does, in their minds, is done with good intentions, only motivated by dark impulses meant to deceive, including, according to Puar, the inclination to maim, not kill, Palestinians and, by disabling them, controlling them.
“The Israeli Defense Forces (idf) have [sic] shown a demonstrable pattern over decades of sparing life, of shooting to maim rather than to kill. This is ostensibly a humanitarian practice,” she admitted, although it results in “leaving many civilians ‘permanently disabled’ in an occupied territory of destroyed hospitals, rationed medical supplies, and scarce resources.”
So, while Puar reluctantly admits that Israel purposely limits the lethality of its self-defense by maiming rather than murdering, she still accuses it of using violence and injury as a tactical tool of a settler state to maintain control of a vulnerable indigenous population. It is both sadistic and exploitative, she contended, because it maintains a purportedly unjust and illegal occupation and the oppression of a victimized people.
“I am arguing that debilitation and the production of disability are in fact biopolitical ends unto themselves,” she explained, “ . . . what I call ‘the right to maim’: a right expressive of sovereign power that is linked to, but not the same as, ‘the right to kill.’”
“Maiming,” she contends, “. . . is a sanctioned tactic of settler colonial rule,” without ever bothering to offer an explanation of why it is strategically more productive for Israel to permanently injure, as opposed to eliminating, a population which is perpetually an existential threat and whose culture is an unrelenting breeding ground for genocidal hate and terror against Jewish civilians.
In a 2016 speech Puar delivered at Vassar College, which presaged the content of her book, she presented this same noxious theme, that Israel is intent on “Targeting youth, not for death but for stunting” as a “tactic that seeks to render impotent any future resistance.” “Maiming masquerades as let live when in fact it acts as will not let die,” she said, and this technique, as part of a sadistic, imperialistic militancy on the part of Israel, “is used to achieve . . . tactical aims of settler colonialism.”
Of course, no acknowledgment from Puar is ever forthcoming as to the reasons “why the most intensive practice of the biopolitics of debilitation,” the use of force against the civilian Palestinian population, exists in the first place; that is, that Israel’s so-called brutal occupation and its military incursions are necessitated by Arab aggression and terrorism, and the use of force, the maiming of the Palestinians (to the extent that it even exists), are not random occurrences based on the whims of a sadistic Israeli military, but a reaction to and the result of unrelenting terroristic attacks in which psychopathic jihadists have attempted to murder Jews with knives, trucks, bombs, rockets, firebombs, and rifles since Israel’s founding.
Puar also accused Israel of randomly, and recklessly, targeting medical facilities and other infrastructure as a deadly way “to provide the bare minimum for survival, but minimal enough to attempt to defeat or strip resistance” where “. . . the target here is not just life itself but resistance itself.” But Puar’s view that Israel’s military operations are characterized by disproportionality and a disregard for human life—even of its mortal foes—was, in fact, totally contradicted by a report prepared by The High-Level International Military Group on the Gaza Conflict in 2014, which found that “during Operation Protective Edge . . . Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.”
A second malicious academic whose body of work targets Israel as the singular source of child murder in the world is Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a professor and the Chair in Law at the Faculty of Law-Institute of Criminology at Israel’s Hebrew University. Shalhoub-Kevorkian “studies the crime of femicide and other forms of gendered based violence, violence against children in conflict ridden areas, crimes of abuse of power in settler colonial contexts, surveillance, securitization and social control,” but given the fact that she proudly announces that she is “a prominent local activist . . . [who] engages in direct actions and critical dialogue to end the inscription of power over Palestinian children’s lives . . . [and] spaces of death . . ,” the subject and tone of her spurious research clearly has as its sole purpose to slander and demonize the IDF.
In two visits to Columbia University, in 2016 and 2019, for example, Shalhoub-Kevorkian promoted her grisly though unfounded belief that Israel uses Palestinian children to test military weapons, that “Palestinian spaces are laboratories.” In fact, she claimed, “The invention of products and services of state-sponsored security corporations are fueled by long-term curfews and Palestinian oppression by the Israeli army,” and the “Israeli security industry [is] using them as showcases” for promoting this technology for global adoption and use.
At a June 2021 event hosted by The University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI), Shalhoub-Kevorkian carelessly threw out the accusation that Israel randomly and capriciously murders Palestinians, and specifically their children, in its system of oppression and occupation. “We see that our children became a political capital in the hands of the state,” she said, “to further unchild [sic] them, arrest them and kill (them), and govern their hopes.”
What is Israel’s, and Zionism’s, strategy of oppression, according to Shalhoub-Kevorkian? Zionism “invades our everydayness,” she claimed, “on the way to school for kids, during birth for women, during funerals, through home evictions and demolitions, to ethnically cleanse.”
Sound academic research is one thing, but Shalhoub-Kevorkian formulates her theories about Israel’s predations based on notoriously unreliable, and likely non-existent, accounts she gathers, not from other scholars or actual research data, but from the accounts given to her by Palestinian children—“narratives,” as she refers to them. Of course, narratives are not facts, so this data and research have little value as reliable academic output, especially when the testimony she records comes from children inculcated since birth to loathe Israel and Jews. In a 2018 article published by the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, “Arrested Childhood in Spaces of Indifference: The Criminalized Children of Occupied East Jerusalem,” Shalhoub-Kevorkian and her co-author made this same mendacious claim about how “Israel’s policy of targeting Palestinian children and childhood through the criminal justice system is fundamental to the state’s mechanism of colonial dispossession.”
In a 2021 co-authored article, “Colonial Necrocapitalism, State Secrecy and the Palestinian Freedom Tunnel,” Shalhoub-Kevorkian introduced another accusation incorporating a classic anti-Semitic trope that Jews are not only motivated by money and profit but will murder innocent civilians in pursuit of it, something she calls “necrocapitalism.” Necrocapitalism, according to her, is the “means of accumulating capital and profit from the death” of Palestinians. In necrocapitalism, “profit flows from visible and invisible violence, as well as the killing of the colonized, as a state of fear generates continuous insecurity, which in turn generates a demand for security goods.”
In other words, the occupation, the oppression of an innocent indigenous people, and all of Israel’s purported efforts to thwart terrorism and keep its citizenry from being murdered are all merely pretexts; the actual motivation for this malign behavior is Jewish profit, a grotesque accusation that Israel is only interested in “accumulating capital and profit from death,” even the death of children. “The very existence of the Palestinian endangers the colonial state” of Israel, she concluded, and “their death is necessary for the survival” of Israel. “Necrocapitalism” is “operationalized through violent policing of Palestinians.”
When she spoke as one of the participants in a grossly-biased, anti-Israel June 2021 webinar entitled “Said’s Palestine,” Shalhoub-Kevorkian regurgitated her wild claims, suggesting that “When Palestinians refuse and resist, Israel always kills Palestinian civilians,” and Israel’s “viciousness now includes a startling amount of arrests in the last month in historic Palestine . . . and attacks on Palestinian livability because Palestinians resist, watching the attacks on children alone as my work on unchilding [sic] clearly reveals, we see that our children became a political capital in the hands of the state, to further unchild [sic] them, arrest them and kill them and govern their hopes . . . .”
Supporters of the Palestinian cause have come to accept the fact that Israel will not be defeated through the use of traditional tools of warfare. Instead, the Jewish state’s enemies, abetted by the academic and political elites in the West, have begun to use different, but equally dangerous, tactics to delegitimize and eventually destroy Israel in a cognitive war. By dressing up old hatreds against Jews, as Puar and Shalhoub-Kevorkian do, combined with a purported goal of seeking social justice for the oppressed, and repackaging ugly biases as seemingly pure scholarship, they and Israel’s other ideological foes have found an effective, but odious, way to ensure that the Jew of nations, Israel, is still libeled for bringing harm and death to non-Jews.
It is a vicious and ugly trope in the centuries-old history of the world’s oldest hatred: that Jews still harbor murderous, sadistic, and inhuman impulses against non-Jews and wish to injure or murder them — in the current day with the Palestinian Arabs as long-suffering victims of the Jew of nations, Israel.
Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of Jew-Hatred Rising: The Perversities of the Campus War Against Israel and Jews.