RELEASE: Gottheimer Calls On Princeton University and University of Pennsylvania to Remove Antisemitic, Anti-Israel Speakers and Review Curriculum

Sep 13, 2023
Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. —U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) wrote to Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber and the University of Pennsylvania President M. Elizabeth Magill, calling on them to take action in response to their universities’ inclusion of antisemitic, anti-Israel, and hate-filled classroom curriculum and upcoming guest speakers. 

Gottheimer’s alma mater is the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Princeton University recently announced it will include antisemitic and anti-Israel literature, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability, by Jasbir Puar, among reading materials for a humanities course called “The Healing Humanities: Decolonizing Trauma Studies from the Global South.” 
  • The book veers into offensive, antisemitic blood libel and argues that the Israel Defense Forces, in efforts to oppress and control Palestinians, deliberately creates injury, keeping Palestinian populations debilitated. This claim of Israeli control over Palestinians to maintain dominance is egregiously false.
  • Puar is also known to traffic in vile antisemitic tropes and has egregiously and incorrectly claimed that bodies of Palestinian children “were mined for organs for scientific research” by the Israeli military, and said that recent conflicts in Gaza were driven by organ harvesting.
  • The University of Pennsylvania recently decided to host two well-known antisemitic and anti-Israel speakers — singer Roger Waters and former news commentator Marc Lamont Hill — at a University-sponsored Palestinian literature and culture festival this September.
    • Waters’ actions are so egregious that, in June 2023, the U.S. Department of State took note in a statement of his “long track record of using antisemitic tropes.”
    • U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt, called Waters’ stunt “Holocaust distortion.”
    • Additionally, Marc Lamont Hill was dismissed from CNN following unacceptable statements denying Israel’s right to exist and calling for its destruction.

“I am dismayed that this is now occurring at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. While policy discussions and differing views are a welcome and critical part of building cultural understanding, they cannot provide a bully pulpit for those who seek to divide others. If the University’s goal is to promote mutual understanding and bring students together, it will fail so long as antisemites and anti-Israel advocates are given a platform to spew hatred,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) in a letter to University of Pennsylvania President M. Elizabeth Magill. “As we begin the fall semester, I hope your Administration will consider disinviting these two speakers from campus, and instead welcome speakers who better reflect the University’s values.”

“Princeton University must protect all students, including Jewish students made to feel unsafe by curricula that incites violence and signals tolerance for Jewish hate and anti-Israel rhetoric. Given New Jersey’s strict anti-BDS laws and Princeton’s own anti-discrimination policies, the University is not only reminded, but obligated, to safeguard its students,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) in a letter to Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber.

Full text of the letter sent to Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber can be found here and below:

September 10, 2023

President Christopher L. Eisgruber Princeton University

1 Nassau Hall

Princeton, NJ 08544

Dear President Eisgruber:

I am writing to express my concerns about an unacceptable addition to a Princeton University humanities course reading list, and the decision by the University to provide a platform for professors to inappropriately engage in political activism at the expense of the safety of Jewish students. I am also interested in understanding Princeton University’s process for determining whether course materials at the University accurately reflect the subject matter they cover, and provide pedagogical value. As we enter the 2023-2024 academic year, I remain committed to ensuring our nation’s institutions of higher education, including private universities like Princeton, which receive federal research dollars, honor their responsibility to protect Jewish students and root out antisemitism and hate.

As one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, Princeton must uphold rigorous academic standards by utilizing course materials that match its caliber. The use of materials containing antisemitic tropes and anti-Israel sentiment in a Princeton classroom clearly contradict the University’s mission of inclusivity, which includes protecting Jewish students. In addition, I believe that employing a professor who has openly endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and has utilized her faculty position to promote beliefs antithetical to school values should alarm your administration. This is political activism masquerading as scholarship.

As you likely know, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability, by Jasbir Puar, is included among reading materials for a humanities course called “The Healing Humanities: Decolonizing Trauma Studies from the Global South,” taught by Satyel Larson, an Assistant Professor of Near Eastern studies. Released in 2017, the book veers into offensive, antisemitic blood libel. Puar argues that the Israel Defense Forces, in efforts to oppress and control Palestinians, deliberately creates injury, keeping Palestinian populations debilitated. This claim of Israeli control over Palestinians to maintain dominance is egregiously false. The author repeatedly casts the IDF and Israelis as the sole antagonist in a conflict defined by complexity and decades of strife.

Professors like Satyel Larson and authors like Jasbir Puar fail to acknowledge deadly terrorist attacks from the West Bank and Gaza that have threatened Israel for decades. Recent attacks are the direct result of incitement by radical Islamist and terrorist elements, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, all Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), that have called on Palestinians to murder Jews. In many instances, terrorism is rewarded with financial incentives, propagating a cycle of hate. Hamas and other terror entities orchestrate group and lone wolf operations against Israelis, including stabbings, arson, shootings, and rocket attacks. The IDF launched Operation Shield and Arrow in May 2023, in response to Palestinian Jihad targets in Gaza, which launched more than 100 rockets into Israel earlier that month.

In addition to hundreds of terror attacks this year alone, the Israeli military responds to near-daily instances of rock-throwing and Molotov cocktails from Palestinian attackers. Portraying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one sided is dishonest and wrong, and smearing Israel as an authoritarian regime is false. The IDF operates in a dangerous neighborhood, yet defends Israel from those seeking its destruction. Israel remains a hub for women’s equality and vibrant society for LGBT+ rights, in a region which shuns it. Arab Israelis serve in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and Druze even serve in the military.

I am disappointed that this book is on an assigned reading list at Princeton University, a school where antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric continues to make Jewish students feel unsafe. The University’s Undergraduate Student Government, in November 2022, refused to consider a referendum condemning antisemitism. In February 2023, Princeton hosted writer Mohammed El- Kurd, who in his remarks to the school community called the Anti-Defamation League the “Apartheid Defense League,” and refused to condemn Palestinian terror against Israelis. These incidents create a pattern of hateful and divisive activity that is unacceptable.

The University has publicized its commitment to diversity and inclusion, and must not misinterpret that mission to exclude Jewish students. Princeton should please reconsider allowing the work of an author like Jasbir Puar, who is known to traffic in vile antisemitic tropes, to appear on school-sanctioned reading lists. Puar is a noted antagonist of Israel, whose criticism clearly crosses the line into antisemitism. She has egregiously claimed that bodies of Palestinian children “were mined for organs for scientific research” by the Israeli military, and said that recent conflicts in Gaza were driven by organ harvesting. Accusations like these do nothing to properly educate students about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and merely stoke hatred.

Princeton University must protect all students, including Jewish students made to feel unsafe by curricula that incites violence and signals tolerance for Jewish hate and anti-Israel rhetoric. Given New Jersey’s strict anti-BDS laws and Princeton’s own anti-discrimination policies, the University is not only reminded, but obligated, to safeguard its students. With these concerns in mind, I ask that you kindly respond in writing the process by which Princeton reviews course materials, including Puar’s, to ensure they meet academic standards to ensure accuracy educational value.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Josh Gottheimer

MEMBER OF CONGRESS

Full text of the letter sent to University of Pennsylvania President M. Elizabeth Magill can be found here and below:

September 10, 2023

President M. Elizabeth Magill University of Pennsylvania

1 College Hall, Rm 100 Philadelphia, PA 19104

Dear President Magill:

As a Member of Congress and an alumnus, I am writing to express my deep concern about the University of Pennsylvania’s decision to host two well-known antisemitic speakers at a University-sponsored Palestinian literature and culture festival this September. On its face, this program could have served as a valuable learning experience for students. Instead, when unpacked, the University’s Wolf Humanities Center is providing a platform at its “Palestinian Writes” literature festival for known antisemites, including singer Roger Waters and former news commentator Marc Lamont Hill.

Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters has a track record of peddling antisemitic tropes and denigrating the Jewish State. He is a longstanding supporter of the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and has dubbed Israel an “apartheid.” Last year, Waters held a concert in Frankfurt, Germany where he invoked egregious anti-Israel sentiment and flaunted blatant antisemitic imagery. The singer dressed up in a uniform resembling the SS, the paramilitary arm that provided security to the Nazis, and compared the murder of Anne Frank to the killing of Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Images of pigs conducting shady business dealings were displayed on-screen — a clear antisemitic dog whistle. In previous shows, including others in Germany, Waters’ trademark inflatable pigs flew above concertgoers emblazoned with Stars of David and the logo for Elbit Systems, an Israeli company.

Waters’ actions are so egregious that, in June 2023, the U.S. Department of State took note in a statement of his “long track record of using antisemitic tropes.” U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt, called Waters’ stunt “Holocaust distortion.” In addition, EU antisemitism envoy Katharina Von Schnurbein, denounced Waters’ actions, and noted “Roger Waters’ obsession [with] belittl[ing] and trivializ[ing] the Shoah [and] the sarcastic way in which he delights in trampling on the victims, systematically murdered by the Nazis.” If allowed to speak on campus, the singer’s track record of blatant antisemitism will likely make Jewish and pro-Israel students feel unsafe, and will detract from the potential value of the event as a cultural exchange.

Additionally, I am concerned that the Wolf Humanities Center also invited Marc Lamont Hill, a former CNN commentator who was dismissed from the network following unacceptable statements denying Israel’s right to exist. At a 2018 United Nations gathering, Hill delivered a speech calling to free Palestine “from the river to the sea,” words universally understood to signal destruction of the State of Israel. Hill never adequately apologized for these remarks, and has since endorsed the antisemitic BDS movement. He has referred to Israel as a “Zionist project” and continues to promote anti-Israel rhetoric in various activist circles.

I have written to many university administrators and the U.S. Department of Education about the rise of antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses. I am dismayed that this is now occurring at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. While policy discussions and differing views are a welcome and critical part of building cultural understanding, they cannot provide a bully pulpit for those who seek to divide others. If the University’s goal is to promote mutual understanding and bring students together, it will fail so long as antisemites and anti- Israel advocates are given a platform to spew hatred.

As we begin the fall semester, I hope your Administration will consider disinviting these two speakers from campus, and instead welcome speakers who better reflect the University’s values. Doing so will help ensure students of all backgrounds, including Jewish and pro-Israel students, are comfortable engaging in programing designed to enhance the college experience. Thank you for your attention to this matter and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Josh Gottheimer

MEMBER OF CONGRESS

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