Barbarism on Display at Vassar College

“This lecture theorizes oscillating relations between disciplinary, pre-emptive, and increasingly prehensive forms of power that shape human and non-human materialities in Palestine. Calculation, computing, informational technologies, surveillance, and militarization are all facets of prehensive control.”

It may not sound sexy, but it was part of the announcement for a lecture given earlier this month at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. And the event was, in fact, well attended by an enthused throng.

The lecturer was Jasbir Puar, professor of women's and gender studies at Rutgers University, specialist in queer theory, and anti-Israeli activist. Before she began her talk, a Vassar professor asked the crowd to “silence your devices you brought with you….”

But as reported by William Jacobson, professor of law at Cornell and blogger at the conservative Legal Insurrection site, Puar’s talk was recorded anyway by a group at Vassar called Fairness to Israel. The group has a lot of work to do there because, as Jacobson notes, Vassar is a hotbed of anti-Israeli activity, up to and including “gross displays of anti-Jewish hostility.”

Jacobson himself, when he gave a talk to a student group at Vassar, couldn’t get a single academic apartment there to cosponsor the lecture. Puar, for her part, had no trouble getting academic backing. Her lecture was sponsored by the Vassar American Studies Department and cosponsored by a phalanx of other departments including Africana Studies, English, International Studies, Jewish Studies (no less), Political Science, Religion, and Women’s Studies.

And “according to reports I received,” Jacobson notes, “a dozen or so Vassar professors attended the event.”

This gathering had the privilege of hearing Puar praise BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel) activity at Vassar, and go on to say that:

[BDS is] a platform that emerges from civil society. It is such a minor piece of how Palestine is going to be liberated, it’s a liberal platform and it’s the very least that we can do to sign on to BDS. But 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.

“Armed resistance in Palestine” means, of course, terrorism. Having lived in Israel for over 30 years, I do not know what’s on the U.S. law books but I assume that incitement to terrorism is illegal. It occurred at Vassar, though, earlier this month; no wonder they didn’t want the event to be taped.

Puar, in the mode of the BDS movement and its friends, went on to paint a picture of Israel as a country so purely, irredeemably evil and monstrous that an uninformed or susceptible person would indeed come away thinking it has no right to exist and needs to be gotten rid of.