It is unacceptable that while non-Jewish students get protection from microaggressions, Jewish students don’t merit protection from macroaggressions, especially when those aggressions have nothing to do with academic freedom.
By Lori Lowenthal Marcus is Legal Director of The Deborah Project.
“Wokeness” and cancel culture operate in reverse when it comes to the Jews. For all other minorities, the Woke Police eagerly sniff out barely perceptible (or non-existent) “harm” caused by a teacher’s stray phrase in a classroom, an actor’s comments, an author’s opinion, or a physician’s approval of biological facts. When such a “sin” is discovered, the woke world demands not merely retraction of the offending statement and a craven apology for the statement’s issuance, but also abnegation of the sinner. And then the offenders are often officially cancelled—literally removed from the rolls of respectability in “polite” society—driven from jobs, deprived of clients, their names rendered unmentionable by anyone who does not him or herself want to become the next victim of an auto-da-fe.
But then there are statements about Jews. For these, even the most outrageous and wildly unfounded assertions about Jews and/or the Jewish State are not only permitted to be uttered but also tweeted and retweeted, expounded upon and, most significantly, taught as truth in classrooms.
When someone is so naïve as to demand that a baseless and false attack on the Jews be treated the same way as a statement about any other minority, a unique phenomenon is revealed. In this case, the speaker is not embarrassed into a craven apology, or obliged to endure a struggle session in which he confesses his sin and promises to be an ally of the Jews. Rather, when Jews or Israel are the subject of such a statement, the same bevy of Moral Inquisitors who demanded cancellation of anyone allegedly maligning any other ethnic group piles on not to demand cancellation of the antisemites, but to protect the antisemites and to excoriate the Jews.
This precise drama is playing out at Princeton University, where Professor Satyel Larson will be teaching a fall course: “Decolonizing Trauma Studies.” The curriculum for this class includes a book called “The Right to Maim,” by Rutgers professor Jasbir Puar, which claims that the Israeli government directs soldiers to shoot only at the lower limbs of Palestinian activists engaging in violence. But this humanitarian policy aimed at avoiding death is instead alchemically transformed by Puar into an expression of the policy of “colonization,” intended specifically to permanently immobilize and debilitate Arab Palestinians in order to perpetuate control over them.
The Deborah Project, a public interest law firm of which I am the legal director, asserts and defends the civil rights of Jews, wrote to Christopher Eisgruber, the president of Princeton University, about the use of Puar’s book. We did not demand that the course’s professor be fired or that the book be withdrawn, as many other critics of the class have done. Instead we called Princeton’s attention to the legal problems they create for themselves when they protect political advocacy in their classrooms.
Both Puar and Larson have signed an online manifesto, Palestine & Praxis, in which they publicly assert and commit themselves to advancing a specific political ideology. As our letter to Eisgruber explains, signers are “committed to a particular political agenda.” Signers of the manifesto affirm that all their work, in the classroom and on campus centers the goals of the manifesto, to: