a15 – Book Review –

The Right to Maim by Jasbir K. Puar (Duke University Press)

If you read just one book about Palestine, read this one. Yes, it can be exhausting to discuss or even think about what is going on there. Yet, if you live in the United States, your tax money is going towards creating this situation. A great deal of disinformation has been spread about what is happening in Palestine, at a level even worse than the disinformation campaigns about climate change. Since the creation of the Israeli state in 1948, a regime of extreme colonial violence has taken place, turning Palestine into an open-air prison. This book explores the violence that roughly 6.8 million Palestinians live with every day. This includes what the author calls “the right to maim,” in which Palestinians are intentionally harmed with devices that remove their mobility, rendering them disabled. The author also explores the way Palestinian medical services are targeted, with occupying forces intentionally murdering Palestinian doctors and paramedics, systematically removing the means of healing the debilitating harm they cause. Because she is an academic based in the United States, the author writes about these things with great risk, as there has been a systemic silencing/blacklisting of academics who attempt to discuss the conditions in Palestine. 

Perhaps the most shocking details of this book include its exploration of the way Israel enacts literal apartheid, with the state banning marriages between citizens and Palestinians, while state-sponsored youth groups in Israeli are tasked with defending “racial purity.” While it is rarely discussed on the news, the white supremacy in Israel has been known to activists for a long time—in Oakland we have older Jewish people with darker skin who fled Israel after mistakenly moving there from North Africa when the Israel state was first being created, only to learn that the promise of freedom for Jewish people was a lie: darker skinned Jewish folks weren’t (and still aren’t) welcome in Israel. It is a white supremacist ethno-state. 

This book explores many ways that white supremacy continues in Israel today, with legal practices that would make even Americans blush, such as the practice in Israel to require Chinese laborers who enter the country to sign a contract that they will not have sex with Israeli women, a practice stemming from paranoia about creating mixed-race babies. Israel’s racist regime resembles the types of things other countries wish weren’t part of their history… If we are truly ashamed of white supremacy, colonialism, and genocide in the United States, why are we funding Israel? If we care about disabled people, why are we funding a regime that intentionally renders people disabled?

This book is like reading a hundred newspaper articles—it is packed with stories that would be in the news if not for the present regime of censorship. The book’s chapters are somewhat out of order (perhaps a symptom of having to sneak this information through). Ignore the dense academic jargon in the beginning. For best results, read this book’s chapters backwards, starting with the postscript. (Review by Leaf)