I appreciated President Hill’s letter as a much needed first step toward addressing a serious problem that has developed on the Vassar College campus concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In her letter President Hill mentions the administration’s condemnation of anonymous anti-Semitic posts on Yik Yak. In contrast, she states that “our commitments to academic freedom and free speech demand that we not censor speakers on campus, however controversial.” President Hill’s statement was specifically in reference to the appearance of Professor Jasbir K. Puar who presented a talk entitled “Inhumanist Biopolitics: How Palestine Matters.” During this talk Professor Puar alleged that Israel:
- is “harvesting Palestinian organs for scientific research.”
- seeks “perfection of drone technology as a rationalization for the slaughter of Gazans.”
- employs “maiming as a deliberate biopolitical tactic in the occupation of Palestine.”
It is unfortunate that President Hill protects all of Professor Puar’s inflammatory and false claims such as the above under the umbrella of academic freedom. This speech was not a speech, but rather a series of unsupported statements strung together slandering Israel. Academic freedom must come with academic responsibility. In this case Professor Puar has acted irresponsibly.
Professor Puar included in her talk the statement: “ We need BDS as part of organized resistance and armed resistance in Palestine as well.”
Let us break this statement into two parts:
First, BDS. The BDS movement is arguably one of the biggest threats to the peace process. It imposes the entire blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Israel, and ignores the fact that on at least three occasions, Israel offered to end the occupation and this offer was rejected by the Palestinian leadership. The BDS movement rejects any two-state solution and envisions a world without any Jewish state at all. Finally, the BDS movement directly torpedos efforts at peace talks by emboldening Palestinian leaders to reject any compromise.
Second, the support of “armed resistance in Palestine.” What does this mean? Is Vassar standing in support of such a statement on its campus? Does President Hill realize that the “armed resistance” being discussed here involves terrorism, the targeting of civilians, and the support of organizations that stand together with groups like al-Qaeda and even ISIS? This phrase, slipped into an alleged academic lecture, crosses a dangerous line into the condoning of terrorism and the murder of defenseless civilians. One need only read the nearly daily newspaper headlines describing the current stabbing sprees of Palestinian terrorists in Israel to understand how dangerous it would be to condone this type of incitement.
This lecture was given on Feb. 3 and is in the past. We look forward to an improved atmosphere on the campus where there will be worthwhile academic discussions based on facts and history and not outlandish unsupported accusations. In regard to the proposed series of panels, I have a few questions.
- Who will represent the Israeli perspective on the panels?
- Can you provide adequate security to ensure civil behavior during the presentation and discussion period?
- Will these panel discussions be professionally recorded and posted on the Vassar College website for those of us who cannot be there in person?
I would like to suggest the participation of an organization that has a long history and commitment to telling the truth about the Middle East, CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America: www.camera.org).
Concerning your decision to allow the continuing discussion of the BDS movement on campus, it is important to consider the immorality of the BDS movement. It focuses exclusively on “the occupation” without any discussion of any of the other occupations such as those by China, Russia and Turkey. The BDS movement exaggerates the flaws of Israel and promotes a new variation on the world’s oldest prejudice, namely Anti-Semitism. At the very least the Vassar College administration has a responsibility to monitor carefully the campus BDS movement to be certain that it does not slip into blatant Anti-Semitism.
Joan Moskowitz Goldstein
Class of 1966