Book claiming that Israel deliberately maims Palestinian civilians as a form of punishment wins award in women’s studies

According to the Algemeiner (yes, a Jewish site), a book by Jasbir Puar, Professor and Graduate Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, has won one of the two 2018 Alison Piepmeier Book Prizes awarded by the National Womens Studes Association (NWSA).  According to the Association, the prize is “for a groundbreaking monograph in women, gender, and sexuality studies that makes significant contributions to feminist disability studies scholarship.”

Puar’s book, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability, appears to be a postmodern work, with the main thesis, according to the Algemeiner article (click on link below) being that Israel maims rather than kills Palestinians as a way to keep them under control (see also Amazon summary below):

Published 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.”

This is the Amazon summary of the book (click on cover photo below to go there), so the Algemeiner apparently isn’t exaggerating the book’s thesis (my emphasis below):

In The Right to Maim Jasbir K. Puar brings her pathbreaking work on the liberal state, sexuality, and biopolitics to bear on our understanding of disability. Drawing on a stunning array of theoretical and methodological frameworks, Puar uses the concept of “debility”—bodily injury and social exclusion brought on by economic and political factors—to disrupt the category of disability. She shows how debility, disability, and capacity together constitute an assemblage that states use to control populations. Puar’s analysis culminates in an interrogation of Israel’s policies toward Palestine, in which she outlines how Israel brings Palestinians into biopolitical being by designating them available for injury. Supplementing its right to kill with what Puar calls the right to maim, the Israeli state relies on liberal frameworks of disability to obscure and enable the mass debilitation of Palestinian bodies. Tracing disability’s interaction with debility and capacity, Puar offers a brilliant rethinking of Foucauldian biopolitics while showing how disability functions at the intersection of imperialism and racialized capital. [JAC: reread that last sentence.]

I won’t go into the other article describing the ties of the Duke University Press to the BDS movement, but you might have a look at the link, because the claims, if true, are disturbing. It’s all part of academia’s continual demonization of Israel, which in this case seems to be based on deliberate distortion and lying, in contrast to the academically-approved extolling the Palestinian government, one of the most repressive and mendacious regimes around (propagandizing kids with anti-Semitic messages, using human shields, and so on). [NOTE: I was referring here to the government, not the people themselves. Though a lot of Palestinians behave reprehensibly under the sway of religiously-born hatred, I did not mean to imply that all or most of them do.]

I’ve requested the book on interlibrary loan so I can have a look at it it, but apparently it’s all online, as the Algemeiner piece gives this link.  Given the last sentence of the H-Disability review below, I don’t think I’ll enjoy the book.


This is from a review in H-Disability by M. Lynn Rose (my emphasis):

Chapter 3, “Disabled Diaspora, Rehabilitating State: The Queer Politics of Reproduction in Palestine/Israel” takes up “pinkwashing,” which is, Puar claims, Israel’s use of gay rights propaganda to detract attention from its occupation of Palestine. The focus on inclusivity, she asserts, is limited to cisgender and gender conformity, and stands beside gender segregation in Orthodox Jewish communities. In establishing Israel as a rehabilitative act (rehabilitating the debilitations of statelessness and genocide), the model Jewish body was decidedly nondisabled, masculine, and heterosexual. Rehabilitation banished the “Oriental” in the European Jew, recreated Europe in Palestine, and conceptually separated the Jew from the Arab. The fear of maiming then becomes “a spectacular imperial tool, projecting the fear of maiming by Palestinians onto Palestinians through the debilitating effects of the occupation; this mechanism is the displacement necessary to secure able-bodied citizenry of Israel” (p. 107).

“Will Not Let Die: Debilitation and Inhuman Biopolitics in Palestine,” chapter 4, focuses on the population targeted for injury, moving on from the focus in previous chapters on the population that is available for injury. Israel maintains biopolitical control through maiming, not killing; maiming, Puar claims, poses as a humanitarian manifestation of a “let live” mentality, but is actually a manifestation of the mentality of “will not let die” (p. 139). The section “No Future” takes up the fate of Palestinian children, targeted for stunting, PTSD, gunshot wounds, and so on. Puar calls her analysis an “anti-Zionist hermeneutic” (p. 153). “The ultimate purpose of this analysis,” she writes, coming full circle from her opening statement, “is to labor in the service of a Free Palestine” (p. 154).

The postscript, “Treatment without Checkpoints,” looks at debility within disability among the disability service providers at the checkpoints in Palestine, then extends the concept to other populations. Debilitated disability as a result of collective punishment demands a complicated activism. The desire for mobility extends beyond the individual body to the collective displaced population. Progress in achieving a positive disability identity, Puar concludes, will not come about until the end of Palestinian occupation.

The Right to Maim is not written for a general audience. It is a theoretical investigation into the meanings of disability, debility, capacity, queerness, and race in global biopolitical contexts. As such, it is not for everyone. Readers who have never worked their way through Mitchell and Snyder’s Narrative Prosthesis, for example, will find this work slow going. I do not see its place in any undergraduate class, though it could be useful in theory-based graduate seminars. Readers who are fluent in theoretical scholarship, especially in disability theory, will find this to be a fulfilling read.

The “pinkwashing” canard, in which gay rights in Israel were supposedly allowed as a distraction from the country’s nefarious colonizing desires, is simply stupid. If the Orthodox Jews demonize gays, then that’s their right, but they aren’t allowed to violate the law. But beside that stands the arrant fact that Palestine, along with many other Muslim lands in the Middle East has no gay rights at all! Being gay in Palestine will put you perilously close to execution, as it will in Iran, Pakistan, and other places. It’s ridiculously but conventionally postmodern to raise the cry of pinkwashing—an accusation which there’s no evidence save anti-Semitism—while ignoring the blatant homophobia (indeed, making gay acts capital crimes) of Muslim countries. Puar’s emphasis on pinkwashing discredits her as an objective scholar. But of course she’s not objective, as you can see in the second paragraph of the H-Disability review.

Puar’s claim that Israel aims to maim the Palestinians as punishment and control, a ridiculous claim on the face of it, is clearly in the service of her agenda: “to labor in the service of a Free Palestine.” Can anyway take her lucubrations seriously when she so openly states her aim? Regardless, however, I’ll look very carefully for evidence that Israeli government policy is to maim Palestinians as a tool to subjugate them. Until now I always thought that BDS and anti-Zionist claim was that Israel simply wanted to kill noncombatant Palestinians (something I see no evidence for, either), but now it’s devolved to maiming them. And if Israel shoots to maim people rather than kill them if those people are attacking Israeli soliders or civilians, I’d find that admirable rather than detestable. Isn’t it better to shoot someone in the legs than to kill them? If you wanted to control a populace, wouldn’t it be better to kill them rather than maim them? Isn’t death a better deterrent than maiming?

But of course no matter what Israel does to defend itself, it’s going to be criticized. I’m simply waiting for people like Puar to call out the Palestinians for firing rockets at civilian populations, using small children to build tunnels for terrorism, using human shields, and demonizing homosexuals (after all, Puar is involved in queer studies.)

We’ll wait a long time for that, as Puar has not just a beam in her eye, but a whole truckload of them. And her goal, as she stated, is to “labor in the service of a free Palestine”, which may well mean the elimination of Israel as well.

And shame on Duke University Press, Rutgers, and the NWSA for giving awards for and taking so seriously the brand of ideologically-motivated “scholarship” practiced by people like Puar. (I will of course revise my opinion if I find any evidence for her thesis.) In the meantime, this looks like just another example of academia rewarding anti-Semitism. I suppose academic discourse and publishing has always been arcane and ideological, but never in my lifetime have I seen it be so tendentious—at least in the humanities.

If you want to listen to Puar yourself, here’s nearly two hours of her 2013 keynote address from CLAGS’ (The Center for LGBTQ Studies) conference on Homonationalism and Pinkwashing at The Graduate Center, CUNY, New York City. Her talk begins at 02:45.


  1. dd
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I came out in the early to mid 70s.

    At that time, and in the decades following, Israel was a beacon for gay rights, and refuge for Arab gays.

    It also figured prominently in the debates over gays in the military, since is proponents would again and again cite the example of Israel in which you could have openly gay people serve in the military.

    • Posted September 18, 2018 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      I stopped identifying as left wing on being told (by several elfty friends) that the only reason that I was against FGM, gang rape of little girls, and throwing gays off roofs was because I was “secretly against brown people and islamophobic”. Ok then. Giuess, I’m not on that team then.

  2. Posted September 17, 2018 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    And of course remember this ridiculous claim that Israeli soldiers were punitively NOT RAPING Arab women because of racism?

    • Posted September 17, 2018 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      I had forgotten that. Thanks for the reminder.

      There really is no end to their depravity. They don’t rape, because of racism, and they don’t forcibly sterilize so that they have more victims in the future. I bet Israeli foodbanks just exist to prolong the process of starvation.

  3. Malgorzata
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 1:09 pm | Permalink


  4. DrBrydon
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I guess the charge that Israel is engaging in genocide isn’t working, so they have to turn not-genocide into something evil.

  5. Posted September 17, 2018 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    The foundational idea upon which much of this “scholarship” is based is that humans are capable of believing anything, therefore, people should start believing things that, in one author’s phrase, “do us some earthly good.” (Carey, 1989. “Communication as Culture”)

    What he meant is that people who want to achieve some particular goal should identify what beliefs someone would need to hold in order to bring about that goal, profess belief in it, and argue for its “truth” in order to gain converts. Carey also admits that some coercion might also be necessary.

    We used to call this lying.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted September 17, 2018 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      That looks like an interesting reference. I feel stupider for just having read the synopsis on Amazon. I’ll have to look at it more closely. Thanks. It is also relevant to Jerry’s earlier post about de-platforming Bannon. Obviously, in order to achieve the desired goal, not allowing dissonant speech should also be a tactic, since the goal itself doesn’t have to be supported by facts.

      • Posted September 17, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        Carey’s actually a mixed bag, IMO. Some of his work is quite good. See for example his essay on the effects of the telegraph on American culture (it’s available for free online from Georgetown U. Just Google “Technology and Ideology: The case of the telegraph”).

        I actually liked a lot of his stuff but, like much of ‘cultural studies’, it soon goes off the rails.

  6. JezGrove
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, given the Israeli government’s recent legislation (the Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish people bill) and its insistence on allowing illegal settlement-building there is really no excuse for making sh1t like this up just in order to criticize it.

    • mikeyc
      Posted September 17, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      Let me guess; you think that the Basic Law makes Israel an “Apartheid State”?

      • JezGrove
        Posted September 17, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        No, just that it is very unhelpful for anyone who is supportive of Israel but finds it straying beyond what they find defensible.

    • Sarah
      Posted September 17, 2018 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      On the other hand, Israel has been the “Nation-State of the Jewish people” since 1948. The new bill is not going to change anything for Israeli citizens of whatever stripe, because they will still enjoy all the rights they’ve had since 1948. Those “illegal settlements” turn out not to be illegal under any known law. Calling them illegal doesn’t make them illegal.

      • josh
        Posted September 17, 2018 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        According to

        various instruments of international law have found the settlements illegal.
        And of course, even if they were technically legal that would hardly excuse Israel from criticism over them.

        The book is clearly an embarrassing bit of nonsense, but that doesn’t mean Israel has acted ethically in other endeavors. One can accept the existence of Israel as a state without approving of it’s becoming an ‘ethnostate’.

        • Sarah
          Posted September 18, 2018 at 6:38 am | Permalink

          The 4th Geneva Convention is often invoked, but it specifically relates to *forced* movement into occupied land and was meant to apply to situations like Soviet citizens being moved into Estonia or the Chinese into Tibet. Nobody is forcing Israelis to live in any particular place. The whole situation is very interesting legally, because, uniquely, a would-be Palestinian state has been defeated in three wars but refuses to agree to a peace settlement or recognized borders–refuses, in fact, to become a state because then it would have to recognize that Israel is permanent, and the Palestine dream, constantly reiterated, is to replace Israel, not live beside it.

    • BJ
      Posted September 18, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Many European countries have similar provisions in their Constitutions. Regarding the UK, form Wikipedia:

      “The Church of England is the established church in England (i.e. not in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland). The monarch is ex officio Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and is required by the Act of Settlement 1701 to ‘join in communion with the Church of England’. As part of the coronation ceremony, the monarch swears an oath to ‘maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England’ before being crowned by the senior cleric of the Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury – a similar oath concerning the established Church of Scotland, which is a Presbyterian church, having already been given by the new monarch in his or her Accession Council. All clergy of the Church swear an oath of allegiance to the monarch before taking office.”

      The language seen above goes well beyond what Israel recently instituted, and it can be seen in several other free European nations. But most of the people whining about what Israel did has had a problem with such a thing before. It’s only been a problem for Israel, which didn’t go nearly as far!

    • Posted October 19, 2018 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      I don’t find anything wrong in either.

  7. Ken Phelps
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    “JAC: reread that last sentence.”

    Thanks, but no.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    … the Palestinians, one of the most repressive and mendacious groups of people around …

    The entire ethnic group? Or are you limiting that to its political leadership?

    • mikeyc
      Posted September 17, 2018 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      Have you seen their version of Sesame Street called “Pioneers of Tomorrow”? Palestinian culture is steeped in hatred of Jews, right down to their pre-schoolers.

      • Sarah
        Posted September 17, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        It is sickening on so many levels. The spectacle of happy little children singing songs about growing up to be suicide bombers and killing Jews is indescribably appalling.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 17, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

        No, I haven’t, Mikey, and I don’t doubt what you say. But I have an inherent antipathy toward labeling an entire ethnic group “repressive and mendacious,” even if many in a society have been invidiously propagandized.

        • mikeyc
          Posted September 17, 2018 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          Maybe so, Ken, but when a society accepts that kind of teaching to their own pre-schoolers I feel some condemnation of their culture and people is appropriate. At the very least, it demonstrates that the Palestinians are a people who hold core values that are violent and hateful.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted September 17, 2018 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

            History teaches the dangers of ethnic stereotyping, I think. It is often but a step from such group traducement to ascribing collective guilt, to visiting collective punishment. The perils are many; the blessings, few.

            • mikeyc
              Posted September 17, 2018 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

              Well, of course, and some white men can actually jump. But if I were to say “Americans love guns” would you call me out on it? Would think that because not all of us do that it is an unfair stereotyping of Americans?

              Palestinians, as a community, actively teach their children to hate Jews. Doesn’t that deserve to be noted? To be criticized? To be condemned? What about their treatment of gays and lesbians?

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted September 17, 2018 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

                FWIW, my vertical leap was never much to write home about, but I have a solid sense of rhythm and am pretty light on my feet, so have always done what I could to uphold white men’s reputations when it comes to shaking a leg & cutting a rug. 🙂

          • JezGrove
            Posted September 17, 2018 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

            Surely, you mean: “… that some Palestinians hold core values that…”? I’d hate to generalize about the “core values” of the citizens of the US of A right now…!

            • mikeyc
              Posted September 17, 2018 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

              If we tolerated the kind of child TV programming the Palestinians did, your whataboutery would be more effective.

              There is a lot wrong with our core values, but that fact implies nothing about the Palestinian’s.

    • Posted September 17, 2018 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, I meant the regime, not the entire Palestinian people, and I’ve added clarification to that above. There are, of course,Palestinians who behave reprehensibly under the sway of religiously-indoctrinated hatred of Israel and the Jews. But I didn’t mean to indict all of them or even most of them.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 17, 2018 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. You’ve helped incrementally to restore my faith in man’s magnanimity to man. 🙂

  9. Posted September 17, 2018 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Puar’s thesis is stretching credibility.
    As a reluctant conscript in a long war of attrition, I can assure Ms. Puar that my first concern in a threatening situation was self-preservation and niceties such as maiming the enemy were the last thing on my mind.

  10. mrclaw69
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    From her wiki page, in the section on her ‘thoughts’ on terrorism: “…[Puar] rearticulates the body of the suicide bomber as “a queer assemblage that resists queerness-as-sexual-identity”, a force with the power to converge, implode, and rearrange time, space, and body. ”

    Utter word salad. As bad as any transcript of an interview with Donald Trump.

    • Posted September 18, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Gibberish on the left deserves (and indeed, paved the way for) the gibberish on the right

    • BJ
      Posted September 18, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      They change the very laws of physics through the sheer power of their hatred and oppressive ideology! Remarkable! This is an incredible discovery. If what Puar says is true, we might be able to achieve faster-than-light travel through extreme antisemitism and genocidal impulses.

  11. CAS
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Pinkwashing? sparing lives? There is no way to get a rational, positive response from these people towards Israel.

  12. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Puar’s thesis is nuts.

    But a nitpick/question: “the Palestinians, one of the most repressive and mendacious groups of people around (propagandizing kids with anti-Semitic messages, using human shields, and so on).”

    Yes, such atrocities have been shown plenty, but surely Palestinians are not homogeneous? My understanding is that the larger part has a selected governing body and so can be held responsible – but probably has pacifists et cetera – while the Ghaza strip is held by force of terrorist criminals and all bets there are off. For example, the last border attacks lured (some willingly, for sure) civilians by terrorists using them for protection, and many of those who were shot were non-Palestinian mercenary islamist terrorists.

    • Sarah
      Posted September 17, 2018 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      I think it would be hard to find out the honest opinion of anyone if it differed from the party line. There might be pacifists under the PA or Hamas, but it would be very dangerous for them to say so. Under this steady drip of extreme antisemitic indoctrination it would take a very strong and independent mind to even think something different.

    • Posted September 17, 2018 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      As I said above, I’ve clarified above in the text that I meant the regime, not all or even most of the people.

  13. max blancke
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    I can weigh in on this one from personal experience. I have worked in Israel on several occasions, usually for a few months at a time.
    When I went there for the first time, I arrived with a pretty pro-palestinian attitude, and skeptical of the Zionists, at a minimum.
    My views changed with time and observation of the interactions between the two groups.
    Obviously it varies by individual, but I think you can say that in general, Palestinians view Israelis and all Jews as vermin to be eradicated. The power dynamic prevents them from following through with that goal.
    If the Israelis had that same animus towards the Palestinians, they would already have wiped them out.
    What I saw personally, time after time, was Israelis exercising almost unbelievable restraint while being under almost continuous attack from people who absolutely teach their children that the greatest accomplishment in life is to stab a Jew. Or lots of Jews.
    And when you witness some of the events that make the news, it becomes obvious that it takes absurd levels of misrepresentation and bias to present the Palestinians as victims.
    Certainly there are some Israelis, especially among the Orthodox communities, who take a hard line towards the Palestinians. But they are in the minority.

  14. josh
    Posted September 17, 2018 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand how a person like this can have a job at Rutgers, a respectable institution in many disciplines. I don’t care where she comes down on in the Israel-Palestine debate, even if she is rabidly anti-Israel and completely one-sided in her personal views. What I don’t understand is how someone could write such obvious dreck and have an academic career.

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted September 17, 2018 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

      Ms. Puar is obviously following in the footsteps of Gayatri Spivak and Judith Butler, among other academic eminences of the post-modernist, post-colonialist, feminist hustle. The method is to combine fashionable “radical” tropes with a fabric of self-referential gibberish. It worked for some. Lower level practitioners of the hustle typically concentrate on a particular “radical” trope, such as the protocols of the elders of Israel, as a way to avoid having to work at anything.

    • Richard
      Posted September 18, 2018 at 2:23 am | Permalink

      You forget that in this pomo nonsense a greater depth of dreck indicates a greater profundity of thought – or so its practitioners apparently delude themselves.

    • BJ
      Posted September 18, 2018 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Because she’s writing such hateful drivel about Jews and Israel. If she was writing it about any other ethnic minority — especially one as historically oppressed and suffering from continued violence as Jews, she would be out on her ass with thousands of articles across the left media destroying every last shred of her dignity and reputation.

  15. TJR
    Posted September 18, 2018 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    I look forward to her next work on the use of kneecapping by Sinn Fein/IRA.

  16. Posted October 19, 2018 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    I am not surprised, because I do not expect anything good from a discipline named “Women’s Studies” (or any other oppressed-group “Studies”).

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