‘Promoting Hateful Lies’: Lawmaker targets Princeton over ‘blood libel’ book

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

New Jersey congressman takes aim at Princeton for using book promoting blood libel that Israel harvests organs from Palestinians.

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

US Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) is calling out Princeton University after the school’s president appeared to defend a decision by one of his professors to teach a book that accuses the Israel Defense Forces of “maiming” Palestinians and harvesting their organs.

“I’m in Congress. I’m all for debate. But there is a fine line between sharing ideas and spreading hate, and [this book] crosses it,” Gottheimer told The Algemeiner on Monday. “No university should be promoting anyone or any material that pushes hateful lies. This is about fighting back against antisemitic hate speech masquerading as scholarship.”

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The book in question is Rutgers University professor Jasbir Puar’s The Right to Maim, which is assigned to students taking a course titled “The Healing Humanities: Decolonizing Trauma Studies from the Global South” taught by Princeton professor Satyel Larson. The course is under Princeton’s Department of Near Eastern Studies.

Academics have accused The 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 the holiday of 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.

The content of the book and Puar’s history have triggered backlash from Jewish and pro-Israel groups, which have called on Princeton to remove The Right to Maim from its course syllabus.

Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber appeared to address the issue at a faculty meeting last week, seemingly defending use of the book in the name of academic freedom.

“It has unfortunately become common for university faculty members here and elsewhere to become the target of viral social media storms focused on controversial materials that they assign or teach,” Eisgruber said during the faculty meeting.

“That has sometimes extended to demands that the university should ban or condemn a book, cancel a course, or discipline a professor.”

He continued, “We, of course, will not do that. Academic freedom protects your right to decide what to teach and how to teach it. That right, like the right to free speech on campus, is very broad indeed, and we will protect it.”

Eisgruber’s remarks came one day after Gottheimer sent him a letter raising concerns about the teaching of The Right to Maim.

“As one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, Princeton must uphold rigorous academic standards by utilizing course materials that match its caliber,” Gottheimer wrote. “The use of materials containing antisemitic tropes and anti-Israel sentiment in a Princeton classroom clearly contradict the university’s mission of inclusivity, which includes protecting Jewish students.”

The congressman added: “Employing a professor who has openly endorsed the [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel] and has utilized her faculty position to promote beliefs antithetical to school values should alarm your administration. This is political activism masquerading as scholarship.”

Princeton did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

“I’m committed to ensuring Princeton University remains a world-class institution that is welcoming to people from all backgrounds, but to do that, we can’t allow blatant hate to seep into the classroom and replace valuable learning experiences with lies,” Gottheimer told The Algemeiner on Monday. “I called out this antisemitism the same way I would if it were racist or Islamophobic writing.”

Princeton is not the only Ivy League university being criticized for allegedly giving intellectual legitimacy to antisemitism.

From Friday through Sunday, the University of Pennsylvania is set to host the “Palestine Writes Literature Festival,” which will feature a gamut of anti-Zionist activists who have promoted antisemitic tropes and called for violence against Israel.

In response to the event, Penn’s Hillel chapter is planning to hold a “massive” Shabbat event this Friday.

“We will be inviting students from across campus — Jewish and non-Jewish alike — to join us for a night celebrating Jewish pride, unity, and togetherness,” the Ivy League school’s Hillel said in an open letter posted on social media.

“Prominent politicians and Penn alumni will be coming to celebrate along with hundreds of students, to show — contrary to what antisemites like Roger Waters would have us believe — that Jewish Penn students will NEVER stop showing their pride in Israel, their Jewish identity, heritage, and beliefs.”

Waters, the former Pink Floyd frontman, is one of the scheduled speakers at the festival. In recent years, Waters has made comments about “Jewish power” and compared Israel to Nazi Germany.

In May, during a concert held in Berlin, he performed in what looked like a Nazi SS officer uniform. A projection that played during the concert also compared Holocaust victim Anne Frank to Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh — who was accidentally shot and killed last year while covering an Israeli military raid in Jenin — and the show was deemed as “deeply offensive to Jewish people.”

The debates at Penn and Princeton are occurring amid a rise in antisemitism on US college campuses. According to a recent report released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) earlier this month, anti-Israel activists on US college campuses are employing a strategy of vilifying Zionists and supporting terrorism against the Jewish state during the 2022-2023 academic school year.

The report tallied 665 campus anti-Israel incidents during the last academic year — nearly double the number of incidents from the prior school year.

While not all the incidents were necessarily antisemitic, many were antisemitic “in intent or in effect,” according to the report, which added that they collectively “contribute to a more hostile campus environment” for Jewish students.

“Every year, young Jewish people go to college with the hope that their Jewish identities, including their connection to the Jewish state, will be welcome on campus,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “This sense of community is increasingly at risk as concerning anti-Israel incidents increase. University leaders must respond effectively to this hatred so that Jewish students feel safe.”

Source: World Israel News


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