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February 29, 2016

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Jason Stanley

Dear Professor Lubet,

Thank you for your generous engagement. I'm sorry about the excessive rhetoric of my final comment, but I simply did understand why you attributed to me claims I did not make. And I did not issue a "correction". Plenty of people did understand my argument, but I agree it could have been clearer. That is not a "correction". It's a clarification to those who need help with a dense piece. Nor is this going to be a correction. Rather, I'm again going to argue that you are misrepresenting.

Now to counterpoint.

You write:

"Stanley also argues that the lack of objection during Puar’s Vassar lecture indicates that “what she was saying wasn't that objectionable.” Really? Does he apply that same standard to, say, Donald Trump, whose Islamophobic rantings draw only cheers at his rallies? Audience agreement tells us little or nothing about the content of a speech."

I deny the aptness of the analogy between Donald Trump rallies and an audience at Vassar (one that includes the Jewish Studies faculty). I think such an analogy is dubious, and yet is required for your argument. I would argue that audience agreement on the Vassar campus tells us a lot about the content of a speech. My point about the Heterodox Academy is that they are falsely representing campus culture to be analogous to the (left wing) version of a Donald Trump rally.

You cite the following two claims by Paur in her paper as evidence for her claim that she asserted that the Israeli government is mining organs for scientific research. Neither is evidence for this claim, and so your attribution is unwarranted. The two claims you cite are:

(a) "Some speculate that the [Palestinian] bodies were mined for organs for scientific research."

(b) "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."

Let's take claim (a). This claim, as far as I can tell, is true. Some have speculated this. Your claim is that Paur has *asserted* what some have speculated. I hope you can see that there is no logical or even evidential connection between A's claim that some have *speculated* that p and A asserting the content of that speculation. So (a) is just specious.

(b) is taken entirely out of its Foucaultian theoretical context. The point is that there is a concern about signaling something. It just is not at all the claim that the Israelis have harvested body parts.

So neither of your quotations provide evidence of your attribution - indeed they fall quite short of the mark. Paur is suggesting that the Israeli actions raises certain suspicions and worries, not on her behalf, but that others have made, and that this is part of some kind of disrespect. She is not asserting that Israelis have harvested body parts. The audience understood this, and so did not object as if she were making the claims you are attributing to her.

In other words, you persist in misrepresenting her claims. Once those misrepresentations are cleared up, it's clear why the audience didn't react as you think they should have. Because she wasn't making the claims you say she was.

Steve L.

Dear Prof. Stanley: "Some have speculated" is a rhetorical device, well known to politicians, propagandists, and (I have to admit) lawyers, who want to make accusations without accepting full responsibility for the claim. You can see it employed every night on Fox News, concerning, say, the "speculation" that President Obama was born in Kenya. You would not accept that sort of stuff from Rush Limbaugh, and I don't think you should accept if from Prof. Puar.

As to Foucaultian theoretical context, here is the full passage from Puar's Vassar talk:

"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."

As I think should now be clear to you, the subject was not "signaling," but rather Israel's alleged purposes for "intentional maiming."

There are more quotes, equally noxious. One can defend Puar's right to speak while still recognizing that she toys with blood libels.

Jason Stanley

Dear Prof. Lubet,

Hmm. I read Paur's "some have speculated" entirely differently, as a warning about the rumors that may occur if one does not treat enemy combatants with respect. So I really think you have misinterpreted here.

I'm going to pause to look back again at the context of the second passage, because I cannot quite believe you are interpreting it the way you are. Maybe its surrounding context would explain your reading of a passage that literally read is about "signals" of disrespect rather than actual actions. Hold on.

Steve L.

Right, and people would keep believing that Obama is a Kenyan if he doesn't release his long form birth certificate. The rumor was his fault. Just sayin'.

In any event, one should not take chances with blood libels. You and I apparently agree that people should stay far away from comments that even hint at racism. Can't we agree to exercise the same caution about Judeophobia? Trump only wants to ban Muslims "until we get things figured out." But c'mon, we all know the point.

Jason Stanley

Dear Prof. Lubet,

I can't find the sentence you cite in the article from Borderlands, so I guess it's in the transcript. The sentence itself is about "signaling" and "prehensive time". It's hard to fully interpret out of context, but I would take this to be the claim that spending a lot of time returning bodies of enemy combatants sends a bad message of disrespect and hints at terrible policies. I take it Paur is saying that giving rise even to the speculation that this is occurring is disrespectful (it's a "signal"). So she is saying that various practices give the message that Israel is doing things that its clearly not doing, but even suggesting that it's doing that to others is disrespectful.

Again, to those of us who have waded into the complexities of just war theory this stuff is not news. It's complicated how to treat enemy casualties. Is that controversial? I'm finding your reading very speculative on the basis of the evidence you have presented, sorry. It seems like just a discussion of just war theory. But again I would have to look at the whole surrounding context. The quote you provide is not strong evidence of that Paur is accusing Israel of harvesting organs. It suggests that Israel is exhibiting disrespect and sending bad messages in their treatment of the bodies of enemy combatants, but nothing is suggested about harvesting organs, only signaling that one is (which is taken as disrespectful). It sounds like Paur is making an accusation that Israel is unknowingly or uncaringly causing rumors of disrespectful behavior. But nothing you have provided even suggests an accusation that these rumors are true.

I'm sorry to ask so directly, but is there a sentence in the transcript that says "Israel is harvesting bodily organs"? Because that's what you are saying she said and I'm not yet seeing evidence that she said it.

Jason Stanley

But you know I can only spend a limited time on this. I'm not a scholar of these issues. What I find remarkable is that I have already gotten hate mail, simply by defending a scholar's right not to be threatened and attacked. And I support the existence of the state of Israel, I visit Israel and have academic connections there, and regularly speak out about anti-Semitism. I think things have gotten bad around this issue if someone like me is somehow getting ridiculously scary email (which I did yesterday). Ideas can stand on their own. I don't know Paur personally, but we have many mutual friends, and the charges seem, frankly, preposterous. The stuff about 1700 citations is just to show that she is a highly respected academic. I'm just not happy with having highly respected academics giving what I have no reason to believe are wildly illegitimate arguments (though obviously I'm in disagreement with her on many things). And nobody has yet given me evidence that she has said the things she is claimed to have said.

That said, I'm in a field in which people argue that there is just one thing. That is not a morally dubious claim, but it's another kind of dubious claim. I am used to controversy. We should be fine with controversy and not freak out. And I am utterly opposed to death threats, hate mail, and using the newspapers to vilify each other. I feel personally very strongly about that. I defend a right to basic personal safety even for those with whom I disagree. That's my position, and it seems to have earned me some hate mail already.

Jason Stanley

"In any event, one should not take chances with blood libels. You and I apparently agree that people should stay far away from comments that even hint at racism. Can't we agree to exercise the same caution about Judeophobia? Trump only wants to ban Muslims "until we get things figured out." But c'mon, we all know the point."

- Presumably you know that even Ha'aretz has denied the charge that harvesting of organs *would* be blood libel? That said, I can't see the basis for the attribution. It wouldn't even occur to me to interpret her claims this way. I'm being serious. It sounds to me she is saying that certain behavior towards enemy combatants can give rise to bad rumors and that in itself is disrespectful. And having been Jeff McMahan's colleague for a decade, well, this is run of the mill discussion in just war theory. It's only if we take it out of that context that it suggests anything.

I think the moral I'm taking from this is *never* to write on just war theory.

Steve L.

Puar's status as the friend of your friends does not insulate her comments from criticism. We should all be sensitive to what I have called the reverse Voltaire phenomenon: "Having defended your right to say it, I must now agree with what you said." Far better, I think, to retain or critical perspective. Using body parts for experimentation is but a half-step away from using blood in matzah. I am sorry that you cannot see that.

Puar has had ample opportunity to clarify, retract, or explain the implications of her statements at Vassar. Does she or doesn't she believe that Israelis harvest organs and use body parts for experimentation? As far as I can tell, she chooses not to say.

This will be my last comment on this thread, Jason. I invite you to have the last word.

Jason Stanley

Was the quote in the context of a discussion of "intentional maiming"? If so, then it is utterly clear it has nothing to do with harvesting of body parts. Intentional maiming leaves enemy combatants alive. That's the entire point of maiming rather than killing.

I hope you can see that I am now genuinely confused about the basis of the attribution.

Jason Stanley

Thank you Professor Lubet for your respectful engagement.

twbb

""Some have speculated" is a rhetorical device, well known to politicians, propagandists, and (I have to admit) lawyers, who want to make accusations without accepting full responsibility for the claim."

How would one mention this speculation, which is certainly something that seems an important thing to identify as existing, without phrasing it thusly? She could have emphasized that she didn't believe it, but she might think that she is not obligated to reassure a government that she is railing against. You seem to assume the "Some have speculated" must necessarily be in bad faith, but I don't think that assumption is warranted in this case, especially when she is talking about what she sees as an oppressive system as a whole. The belief of the victims of this oppression are perfectly germane to her critique; WHY do Palestinians cling to these kinds of conspiracy theories?

Also keep in mind not too many years ago the chief pathologist at Israel's forensic laboratory was found to have been illegally harvesting and selling organs of Palestinians (and Israelis and foreigners etc. etc.--there is no evidence that Palestinians were specifically targeted). This is not something under dispute, mind you, he was removed from his position after the authorities found out. So it is very likely that the organ harvesting rumor arises not out of some ancient historical anti-semitic narrative but out of recent events, interpreted and changed through informal cultural networks, by people who have every reason to distrust the Israeli government.

I also think, Steven, that you are misinterpreting the second line, that "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." If you read that in the context of Puar's work as a whole, the "research and experimentation" is clearly not meant as a literal statement of actual physical research on the body parts, but rather as experiments in what Foucault called "biopower" -- arguing that Israel "experiments" on the population as a whole through nonfatal injury as a way to weaken further resistance. The "body parts" line represents injury; she is arguing that Israeli policy is not always to seek whole bodies (i.e., kill resistors), but rather body parts (i.e., permanently injury resistors).

The passage is made a little more clear in the context of a longer passage from the same work that she (and you) quote from:

***
"Targeting youth, not for death but for ‘stunting’, for physical,
psychological, and cognitive injuries, is another aspect of this
biopolitical tactic that seeks to render impotent any future resistance,
future capacity to sustain Palestinian life on its own terms, thereby
debilitating generational time. It is especially cognitive and
psychological injuries that have long range, traumatic effects that
potentially debilitate any resistant capacities of future generations. It is
worth stating an obvious but perhaps unremarked upon qualification
here: this is a biopolitical fantasy, that resistance can be located,
stripped, and emptied. ‘Resistance itself’ becomes a target of
computational metrics: How to measure, calculate, and capture
resistance? But not only is biopolitical control a fundamentally
productive assemblage; the ontological irreducibility of ‘resistance
itself’ is elusive at best.

Samera Esmeir, writing of Israel’s ‘experimental wars’ in Gaza, claims
that ‘Gaza has become the literal testing ground for Israel’s various
experiments … as an occupying power, Israel transformed Gaza into
such a laboratory by imposing on it different forms of confinements
culminating in the siege imposed and maintained since 2006’ (Esmeir
2014). In the quest for complete air, space and ground control, a
thoroughly saturated economy of spatial and temporal control, what
are the terms of Gaza-as-laboratory? Is Gaza an experimental lab for
the production, maintenance, and profitability of biopolitical
debilitation, an experiment in mining the infinite potentialities of the
schisms between death, and debility, and the potentiating of nonhuman
time?"
***

Now you may still disagree with her argument, but I think you are overly simplifying and skewing it the way you present here.

Jason Stanley

"If you read that in the context of Puar's work as a whole, the "research and experimentation" is clearly not meant as a literal statement of actual physical research on the body parts, but rather as experiments in what Foucault called "biopower" -- arguing that Israel "experiments" on the population as a whole through nonfatal injury as a way to weaken further resistance. The "body parts" line represents injury; she is arguing that Israeli policy is not always to seek whole bodies (i.e., kill resistors), but rather body parts (i.e., permanently injury resistors)."

Twbb is exactly right. This is what I meant by the "Foucaultian theoretical context" above, namely bio-power. It really is a misreading to construe her as suggesting "using body parts for experimentation". It simply is not what is meant here. I have no horse in this race, I'm just saying objectively you haven't yet provided evidence for you claim that Paur made these assertions. Until actual evidence is provided - not out of context quotes that clearly do not mean this in context, not weird speculations about innuendoes, but actual evidence, it really is problematic to attribute these things to Paur. Much less in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Scott Rose

Hey Jason Stanely -- -- yes or no -- do you support Puar's call for "armed resistance" against Israel? You know, the kind that's going on now, with jihadists stabbing Jews and ramming their vehicles into Jews, with both Hamas and Abbas saying that those jihadists are martyrs who will be rewarded by Allah in heaven?

In her Vassar speech, Puar spoke approvingly of that jihadi violence against Jews in Israel.

And, in the matter of Israeli police or IDF members stopping the jihadist attackers, she referred to that as "field executions"?

So yes or no? Do you, like Puar, support the stabbing of Israeli Jews?

Yes or no? Do you, like Puar, think that Israel is carrying out "field executions" of the attackers?

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