Recently, the most egregious of Puar’s claims resurfaced in an incident at Florida State University. The Student Senate President, Ahmad Daraldik, reportedly built a website that, among other things, accuses Israel of organ harvesting. But she adds a twist: Just as “the Nazis conducted many different types of experiments on the inmates of the concentration camps,” so, too, do the Israelis harvest organs.
In Puar’s case, the charge goes back to unsourced rumors concerning Israel’s activities during the “knife intifada” of 2015-16. In our student’s case, the charge goes back to the 1990s and concerns a single facility in which corneas, heart valves, and skin grafts were taken, sometimes without family permission, from approximately 150 cadavers. Among those bodies were, as Daraldik’s web site tells you, Palestinians. Also among them, as it does not tell you, Israeli soldiers and civilians.
To compare this incident, in which a pathologist broke a law and thereby harmed Jewish and non-Jewish families, to Nazi experimentation is gross Holocaust minimization and inversion. As Miriam Elman of the Academic Engagement Network says, the comparison is “unequivocally anti-Semitic.” Yet a Student Senate that quite recently, in an overwhelming vote, removed its president over remarks he’d made in an online group chat—he’d stressed the incompatibility between his Catholicism and queer and transgender politics on the other—voted to keep Daraldik in office. Perhaps they were motivated to do so by a letter, signed by numerous purportedly progressive organizations, that mentions Daraldik’s First Amendment rights, doesn’t mention the website, and pretends that Daraldik is the victim of a “smear campaign” to suppress legitimate criticism of Israel.
In fact, critics are instead perpetuating the view that Daraldik can be held to account for noxious views that—though it is unclear when exactly the website went up—he has not disowned.
John Thrasher, FSU’s president, has issued a statement affirming the university’s opposition to anti-Semitism. While he initially wrote merely of “offensive anti-Israel rhetoric,” the statement has since been modified to read “anti-Semitic rhetoric.” That is a heartening correction.
As a rule, I am not in favor of taking the extraordinary measure of removing someone from office over troubling remarks, even in student governments. Nor am I in favor of picking on young people who may well know better when they’re a little older. What we should object to and be concerned about is this: Even in a time of heightened scrutiny of people’s utterances and actions, even in a time when admissions offers are being rescinded for racist social media posts, anti-Semitism wins plaudits.
When it comes to anti-Semitism, the “woke” are fast asleep.