Chad Regan / The Silhouette
This past week, the Faculty of Humanities had Jasper Puar to speak on her work ‘Ecologies of Sensation, Sensational Ecologies: Sex and Disability in the Israeli Occupation of Palestine’ for their Whidden Lectures series. If the verbiage of the title doesn’t lose your interest, hopefully the borderline anti-semitic sentiment encapsulated by it will.
First, some pretext: I am an openly homosexual man, and a proud supporter of the state of Israel. Some, such as Ms. Puar, would call this intellectual schizophrenia; I call it logic.
Israel is a modern state, unparalleled in the Middle East for its liberalism, modernity, and acceptance.
Ms. Puar’s lecture, held on Jan. 14 and funded by the Faculty of Humanities, was an exercise in spitballing and seeing what stuck. Her lecture discussed two main themes: Israeli prenatal screening practises and ‘pinkwashing’. If you were unable to understand what those words meant without a Women’s Studies lexicon, join the club: her talk was as esoteric as a lecture could be, and with a purpose. Ms. Puar, who is from the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, made some rather outlandish claims that do not find their place in fact, but in an intrinsically anti-Israel political agenda.
To examine them is to familiarize oneself with the rhetoric of pseudo-intellectualism.
Ms. Puar began by discussing what she effectively described as a military-industrial fuelled eugenics program in Israel-Palestine. Citing the practise of prenatal screening, Ms. Puar somehow managed to say she was both pro-screening but simultaneously found the Israeli practise thereof to be deplorable, because it devalues disability: all of this, of course, is a result of the Israeli Defence Force’s lust for warm, healthy bodies to go out and perpetuate ‘the Occupation’ (a term she used both liberally and vaguely, a catastrophic combination when it comes to intellectual speakers).
Let’s set the record straight: Israel’s disabled rights movement began in 1988 (arguably) with the Special Education Law, and continues to this day with the National Insurance Institute providing benefits to children 3-18 year old.
After this, a series of equality measures were enacted, least of which included the Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law, and a series of integration laws to better include mentally and physically handicapped individuals in the broader society. With about 7.6 per cent of Israeli children (both Arab and Jewish) having some form of disability, the government provides grants for both home accommodations, and education accommodations. As of yet, these efforts have not been enough, with a need for about 30 per cent more coverage than current programs achieve: Israel, like most modern democracies, is not a perfect state – welcome to reality.
Regarding Ms. Puar’s claims of a ‘perfect baby syndrome’ amongst Israeli parents fuelled by the national military complex, this is simply an unfounded interpretation.
A prenatal screening process is much needed in a population historically afflicted with a disproportionately large number of Tay-Sachs and other genetically transmitted disease sufferers, particularly amongst Ashkenazi populations. While Ms. Puar expressed support for this, she seemed to reject the practise when conducted by Israelis, which seemed to be a thread throughout her discourse.
On that note, while Ms. Puar expressed support for rights for LGBT people generally speaking, when it came to Israeli LGBT rights, she preferred the term ‘pinkwashing’.
‘Pinkwashing’ is a nifty manufactured term used to claim that Israel’s stellar LGBT rights record is only used as a cover for its brutal occupation of ‘Israel-Palestine’.
While she acknowledged the progress the State of Israel has made, she downplayed it by claiming that the end of the occupation superseded rights for gay and lesbian Israelis. Israel’s long history of liberalism toward its LGBT population, starting with the de facto nullification of buggery laws in 1960 and culminating today with legal recognition for same-sex civil marriage, Right of Return to gay couples, and the adoption of one’s partner’s children.
Thankfully, all of this progress has occurred in spite of people like Ms. Puar, who seemed to convey that LGBT citizens could wait to have their rights dealt to them.
Any progress Israel makes is, in Ms. Puar’s eyes, tainted by the occupation and therefore ought not be made at all. As gays in Palestine are constantly maltreated and dealt with under Islamic law, gays in Israel enjoy the rights and freedoms afforded to any individual in a free, democratic nation. This is the reality whether Ms. Puar would like to remain blissfully ignorant to it or not. When this point was contended, the questioner was shot down: Ms. Puar’s ability to respond to critical questions was just about as good as her ability to make clear, decisive statements on the existence of Israel.
Throughout her talk, I felt the urge to ask Ms. Puar one simple question: What would your optimal State of Israel look like?
Deep down, however, I knew I need not even ask. Her answer was clear: it would look like nothing at all.