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Never mind that all this is true. For Schulman, it’s all “’pinkwashing’: a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.” In the sentences that followed, Schulman actually seemed to be trying to get away with implying that Palestinian “gay life” is comparable to “Israeli gay life”: “Homosexuality,” she wrote, “has been decriminalized in the West Bank since the 1950s, when anti-sodomy laws imposed under British colonial influence were removed from the Jordanian penal code, which Palestinians follow.” I would encourage Schulman to open a gay bar in Ramallah and see what happens.
Though “some people of good will…mistakenly judge how advanced a country is by how it responds to homosexuality,” insisted Schulman, things like “the relative openness of Tel Aviv are incomplete indicators of human rights.” Perhaps not, but they happen to be of a piece with every other single indicator of human rights in Israel relative to human rights in the territories now governed by Hamas – or, for that matter, in every Muslim country in the region. How about women’s rights, Sarah? Is the status of women in Israel, as compared to their status elsewhere in the Middle East, also an “incomplete indicator”?
Schulman, it should be noted, is a relic – sorry, veteran – of the Gay Wars of ancient times, which is to say the 1970s and 80s. Back then she was one of the shining stars of the minuscule but then powerful radical gay activist subculture, which subordinated the real interests and convictions of the overwhelming majority of gay people to its own far-left, anti-capitalist ideology. Back then, in its heyday, Schulman and her Marxist confrères called the shots in gay political activism; today, except in the academy (where they reign over the inane discipline known as “Queer Studies”), they’ve dwindled almost to utter irrelevance in society at large. Indeed, if Schulman singles me out for special obloquy, it may be because my 1993 book A Place at the Table: The Gay Individual in American Society helped spell the beginning of the end for her own brand of anger-driven, ideology-obsessed, and terminally counterproductive gay politics.
Which is not to say that Schulman is a lone voice. If only. That there exists a group with the grotesque name Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (under the auspices of which Schulman apparently gave a talk earlier this year) shows that the sick old strain of self-destructive gay politics is, in some quarters, not only still alive and kicking but more twisted than ever. To be sure, it never stops being remarkable to me that anyone who professes to care about human freedom – especially someone who is gay and a woman and a Jew! – can be anything but a fervent supporter of Israel, a small free country surrounded by Jew-hating, woman-oppressing, gay-killing neighbors that are intent on destroying it. But then this is what happens, alas, when a mind is so besotted with ideology as to blind itself to even the most obvious of realities.
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