A Rutgers University professor who accused Israeli forces of deliberately sparing the lives of Palestinians in order to debilitate them has been awarded by the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA).
Jasbir Puar, an associate professor of women’s and gender studies, co-won the NWSA’s 2018 Alison Piepmeier Book Prize for her work The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability.
Published by in November 2017 by Duke University Press, which has come under scrutiny for its editorial advisors’ ties to the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel — the book posits that the “Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have shown a demonstrable pattern over decades of sparing life, of shooting to maim rather than to kill.”
Yet it contends that this “purportedly humanitarian practice of sparing death by shooting to maim” is not rooted in a desire to minimize fatalities, but rather seeks to maintain “Palestinian populations as perpetually debilitated, and yet alive, in order to control them.”
The NWSA award’s review committee called The Right to Maim a “major milestone book,” which argues “that debilitation and the state production of disability are biopolitical projects both useful and productive for states under Neoliberal capitalism.”
Puar, a supporter of BDS who wrote that the book’s “ultimate purpose … is to labor in the service of a Free Palestine”, has attracted controversy over the work, with critics accusing it of advancing a blood libel against the Jewish state.
Seth Mandel, an op-ed editor at The New York Post, accused Puar on Twitter on Saturday of receiving an “award for book-length medieval blood libel because academic antisemitism is not just tolerated, but encouraged and rewarded.”
Andrew Getraer, director of Rutgers Hillel, added in response, “the fact that this unreadable piece of dreck received an academic award is unsurprising.”
The book has raised concerns since it was first published, with Richard Cravatts, president emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a network of academics that seeks to counter “antisemitism and anti-Israelism”, asserting that its core notion was “an outrageous and grotesque resurrection of the classic antisemitic trope that Jews purposely, and sadistically, harm and kill non-Jews.”
Kenneth Waltzer, executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, which opposes the BDS campaign against Israel on university campuses, said at the time that Puar was “more interested in defining and theorizing than in getting things as they are.”
He also accused the professor of advancing “terrible (and unapologetic) antisemitism” during a 2016 event at Vassar College, when she said that Israel “manifests an implicit claim to the right to maim and debilitate Palestinian bodies and environments,” according to a transcript of the talk provided by the Vassar alumni group Fairness To Israel.
During that appearance, Puar repeated allegations that the bodies of “young Palestinian men … were mined for organs for scientific research.” She also asserted that Israel’s actions could be called a “genocide in slow motion,” and said, “We need BDS as part of organized resistance and armed resistance in Palestine as well. There is no other way the situation is going to change.”