As noted in several critical responses (see partial list immediately below) Puar asserted numerous claims that either have no evidence to support them or are completely contradicted by the facts.
Worse, some of her claims echo age-old antisemitic tropes. These claims have been overwhelmingly rejected, for example here, here and here. Furthermore, organizations such as The Louis D. Brandeis Center and Scholars for Peace in the Middle East have called on the Vassar administration to condemn and/or distance itself from the demonization of Israel propagated by Puar.
Notwithstanding the outpouring of criticism and refuation by authoritative sources, a letter supporting Puar garnered some 1000 signatures, including those of U.S. academics who support BDS. They assert that Puar's work "is of the highest professional and scholarly rigor" and that "anyone who heard her Vassar lecture ... can attest, [that] her words are carefully chosen and grounded in serious scholarship and thorough research." Another letter of support came from The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
So "How Palestine Matters" attempts to offer different narratives of occupation, apartheid and settler colonialism that partake in unusual or generally avoided genres of storytelling to solicit less amenable or expected avenues of solidarity affiliations. So this is a project that seeks to invite new participants in the global quest for Palestinian liberation. It’s a solidarity project to open up political discourse, genres that might effect different entities into a relation to solidarity that might otherwise appear untenable.
(p. 35)... 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.
In other words, Puar acknowledged openly that her “solidarity project” is ultimately intended to support “organized resistance and armed resistance in Palestine.”
What follows are extended quotes from Puar's lecture, with the more egregious passages highlighted in boldface. Those passages will be analyzed in turn and their falsity demonstrated by links to relevant, reliable sources.
(Note: Puar's speech was recorded. The legality of recording was explicitly acknowledged during the introduction to her speech. From that recording, a transcript was prepared which reproduces the entire speech to the best of the transcribers’ abilities. The transcript has 48 pages and includes introductory remarks by a representative of Vassar’s American Studies Program, Puar’s lecture, and the question & answer session at the end of the talk. Portions of that transcript are provided here verbatim, with commentary. Page numbers refer to the page numbers of the full transcript except where otherwise noted.)
On Palestinian-instigated violence, Puar claimed:
(pp.11-12)Since October of 2015, new uprisings in the West Bank have ignited what many are now calling the third intifada. Protests, stabbings, flagrant refusals of IDF control, clashes and revived commitment to a peoples’ rumble have resulted in more than 120 deaths by field assassinations of young Palestinian men, largely between the ages of 12 to 16, by IDF soldiers. On January 1st, 2016, the Israeli government returns 17 bodies of these youth that purportedly lay in a morgue in West Jerusalem for two months. No explanation has ever been given for their detention. Some speculate that the bodies were mined for organs for scientific research. 17 ambulances, each with one body, stretched out along a convoluted route between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
The creative potential that Wynter and I point to is organized resistance, is resistance in the streets. It’s BDS, is the nonviolent platform. It’s 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.
What this prehensive control over the present in order to create a certain future might suggest is that the solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict may well, for Israel, be neither one state nor two states, rather, the present status quo and indeed, Netanyahu, in recent, since his re-election, has basically affirmed this, that there’s no plan to actually have a solution to this conflict. In other words, a terrifying implication is that Israel already has its solution and it is called settler colonialism. Prehensive time thus also signals a weaponized epigenetics where the outcome is not so much about winning or losing nor a solution, but about needing body parts, not even whole bodies, for research and experimentation.
I have been tracing the use of maiming as a deliberate biopolitical tactic on the part of Israel in the occupation of Palestine, especially as it manifested during the 51 days of Operation Protective Edge during the summer of 2014.
So I argue that Israel manifests an implicit claim to the right to maim and debilitate Palestinian bodies and environments as a form of biopolitical control and as central to a scientifically authorized humanitarian economy.
Targeting youth, not for death but for stunting, which is an official medical diagnosis, for physical and psychological and cognitive injuries, is another aspect of its biopolitical tactic that seeks to render impotent any future resistance. Future capacity to sustain Palestinian life on its own terms, thereby debilitating generational time. This is the epigenetics, the weaponized epigenetics.
One could cynically note that the “genocide in slow motion” perpetrated by Israel is surely the first one in history where the alleged victims are among “the fastest growing populations in the world.” One could also add that the UN Human Development Index ranks Palestine at 113 – just a bit lower than Egypt, which is ranked at 108 – out of 188 countries. So according to the UN, the populations of 75 countries and territories are worse off than the Palestinians; yet, as Puar writes in an article highlighted by her supporters as the basis for her talk at Vassar (“The ‘Right’ to Maim: Disablement and Inhumanist Biopolitics in Palestine”), the Palestinian plight is being “overshadowed” by Jews “exceptionalizing Holocaust victimization.”Question: Taking together the things you describe, does it rise to the level of genocide in slow motion?Puar Answer: Do you, it can be called that. I think one of the reasons why the term genocide is contested obviously is because it remains tethered to the Holocaust and cannot be removed from that association. So or that’s the kind of “ur” event of genocide. Right? So we would have to have a conversation about what genocide is. Which people are having as well. But is slow death a version of genocide? Then we are talking about a lot of populations. We are talking about a lot of populations. And again part of my argument is that keeping Palestinians alive is crucial to this economy and it’s precisely crucial to this equation of who is the genocided population. The Jewish Israeli population cannot afford to hand over genocide to another population. They need the Palestinians alive in order to keep the kind of rationalization for their victimhood and their militarized economy.
Given that Israel in particular and Jewish populations in general have thoroughly hijacked the discourse of trauma through exceptionalizing Holocaust victimization, Palestinian trauma is overshadowed, classified into impossibility through ‘an assemblage of laws, policies, narratives, symbols, and practices that re-named trauma and suffering of the dispossessed with colonial terminology’.
Petra Marquardt-Bigman contributed substantially to this report. See her related articles here, here and here.