The anti-Semitic impulses of some NYC college faculty departments apparently remain insatiable. Fresh off Brooklyn College’s political science department co-sponsoring a February 7 forum advocating boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) against Israel — during which four Jewish students were removed from the event — the City University of New York’s (CUNY) psychology and philosophy departments are co-sponsoring yet another bash-fest against the Jewish State. “Homonationalism and Pinkwashing,” is scheduled to be held on April 10-11. Departments and programs at Brooklyn College will also be underwriting the event.
According to conference coordinator, gay activist, and CUNY professor Sarah Shulman, “pinkwashing” is part of the “growing global gay movement against the Israeli occupation” that consists of a “deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.” In other words, despite the reality Israel is one of the most gay-friendly nations in the world, that ethos is little more than a smokescreen designed to deflect attention away from their alleged execrable treatment of Palestinians.
“Homonationalism,” a word coined by Jasbir K. Puar, Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, is defined as the “tendency among some white gay people to privilege their racial and religious identity,” due to the “emotional legacy of homophobia.” Thus, according to Shulman, the true nature of Israeli society remains misunderstood. “Increasing gay rights have caused some people of good will to mistakenly judge how advanced a country is by how it responds to homosexuality,” she contends.
There is no mistaking where most other nations in the Middle East stand. In 2005 in Dubai, more than two dozen homosexuals attending what police described as a “mass homosexual wedding” were arrested and threatened with hormone treatments forced upon them by the government, five years in jail and a possible lashing. That same year, two men were executed in Iran for being gay. In 2007, two men were sentenced to receive 7,000 lashes for sodomy.
Such examples only touch the surface of gay persecution in the Middle East. Several more examples can be found here.
And lest anyone get the idea that the so-called Arab Spring ushered in a new era of tolerance, that notion has also been disabused by reality. Last year, Tunisian Human Rights Minister Samir Dilou, after noting that “freedom of expression has its limits,” declared that homosexuality was a perversion requiring medical treatment, and that sexual orientation was not a human right. In Saudi Arabia, religious police, known as Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, arrested 49 gays who were having a party. Saudi Arabia has also instituted a ban against Saudi “gays and tom-boys” who are now not allowed to attend government schools and universities. In Pakistan in 2011, a group of conservative Islamic political and religious officials accused the United States Embassy of inciting “cultural terrorism” for its support of gay rights in that country. “[Homosexuals] are the curse of society and social garbage,” said a statement issued by the group. According to the UN, homosexual acts committed in Pakistan are punishable by whipping, imprisonment–or death.
Perhaps Shulman and her fellow traveler friends are willing to ignore such unpleasant realities to focus on the Israeli/Palestinian impasse. Yet Palestinian intolerance towards homosexuals is equally troubling. In 2003, the BBC reported that hundreds of gay Palestinians were fleeing to Israel, “due to Palestinian attitudes towards gay men.” In 2004, another gay man explained that he chose to live in Israel because revealing his sexual identity could potentially leave him “subject to random arrests, torture and random killings.” In 2007, several West Bank gays revealed that they too are more comfortable in Israel, because homosexuality among Palestinians is “strictly taboo, sometimes violently so.” In a story published a week ago by website vice.com, a 20 year old gay man contended that Palestinian Authority police are aware of his and other gays’ sexual orientation, and keep files on them so they can be blackmailed into working as spies and informants.
Such stories are hardly unique. As the Global Gayz website reveals, many Palestinian homosexuals view Israel as a sanctuary, even if it means living in the Jewish State as an illegal alien. In fact, two Tel Aviv University lawyers published a study in 2008 titled “Nowhere to Run: Gay Palestinian Asylum-Seekers in Israel,” criticizing Israel for not being accommodating enough to gays fleeing persecution by Palestinians. According to lawyer Shaul Gannon, who works for Aguda, an Israeli LGBT organization, approximately 2,000 homosexuals from the Palestinian territories reside in Tel Aviv, most illegally, at any one time. Few seek asylum because they are worried about collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian agencies that might result in them being outed in their Palestinian communities. Yet in two separate cases, in 2008 and 2010 Palestinian homosexuals were granted permission to stay in Israel to avoid persecution for being gay.
Thus, it is no wonder many gays prefer living in Israel, even under tenuous circumstances. In contrast to the Palestinian territories, Israel is a model of tolerance whose determination to enshrine gay rights began in 1992, when the Knesset banned gay discrimination in the workplace, followed by the 1993 abolition of all restrictions against gays in the military. And while Israel does not officially recognize gay marriage, they have recognized same-sex partner benefits in both the private and public sector, and full adoption and custody rights for same-sex couples. Furthermore, a poll conducted by American Airlines in 2011 revealed that Tel Aviv is considered the most gay-friendly city in the world, besting even New York by a more than three-to-one margin.
Yet for Shulman, none of this is relevant. “In Israel, gay soldiers and the relative openness of Tel Aviv are incomplete indicators of human rights–just as in America, the expansion of gay rights in some states does not offset human rights violations like mass incarceration,” she writes. “The long-sought realization of some rights for some gays should not blind us to the struggles against racism in Europe and the United States, or to the Palestinians’ insistence on a land to call home.”
Keynote speakers for the upcoming event include Rabih Alameddine, Jasbir Puar and Haneen Maikey. While Alameddine, an openly gay author, appears to be largely non-political, Jasbir Puar and Haneen Maikey embrace both the “pinkwashing” message and BDS.
Puar is on the Advisory Board of the “US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel.” In a column written for the Guardian in 2010, she accuses Israel of marketing itself as a gay-friendly nation in order to “counter its growing reputation as an imperial aggressor.” “These two tendencies should not be seen as contradictory, rather constitutive of the very mechanisms by which a liberal democracy sanctions its own totalitarian regimes,” she concludes. Last year at an April 2012 New York forum, Puar claimed the Israeli occupation “is one of the most contentious issues in queer organizing today.”
Maikey is a Palestinian gay activist and self-described “Palestinian citizen of Israel.” Why she would live in Israel remains a mystery. “It’s really pathetic that the Israeli state has nothing besides gay rights to promote their liberal image,” she told Ha’aretz in 2009. “Ridiculous, and in a sense hilarious, because there are no gay rights in Israel.” In 2011, she held a workshop in Amsterdam to “promote the BDS strategy in the queer context.”
Thus, one gets a good sense of what will occur, much as it did during the BDS rally at Brooklyn College, when that next manifestation of anti-Semitism masquerading as an “intellectual exchange” takes place at CUNY.
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, who sits on the Board of CUNY Trustees, and was instrumental in the attempt to deny playwright and Israel-basher Tony Kushner an honorary CUNY degree, is incensed by the thought of another Israel-bashing conference being held on campus. “It’s just amazing to me that one of the few free societies in the world like the state of Israel should be a target for people so stupid that they can’t recognize what their fate would be in any other nation in the Middle East,” he told The Algemeiner.
Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz further illuminates the intellectual bankruptcy that attends the claims of the “pinkwashing” witch-hunters:
“Are the media supposed to be so impressed with Israel’s pro-gay policies that they no longer cover the Palestinian issue? Well, that certainly hasn’t worked,” he writes. “Are gays around the world supposed to feel so indebted to Israel that they no longer criticize the Jewish nation? That surely hasn’t worked, either–witness the increasingly rabid anti-Israel advocacy by some radical gay groups.”
Dershowitz then gets to the real motivations animating the upcoming conference, explaining that “to the anti-Semite, it doesn’t matter how Jews manage their supposed manipulations. The anti-Semite just knows that there’s something sinister at work if Jews do anything positive. The core characteristic of anti-Semitism is the certainty that everything the Jews do is wrong, and everything that’s wrong is done by the Jews…Whenever the Jews seem to be doing good–giving to charity, helping the less fortunate, curing the sick–there must be a malevolent motive, a hidden agenda, a conspiratorial explanation beneath the surface.”
This then, is the essence of the conference being sponsored by CUNY. It is yet another indication that far too many college campuses have abandoned intellectual rigor in favor of dim-witted theories, and the free and open exchange of ideas in favor of one-sided, polemic outbursts, especially when they are directed against Israel. Even worse, universities are sponsoring, such events. Intellectual bankruptcy combined with anti-Semitism is not only welcome at ostensible “institutions of higher learning,” but underwritten by them. Pathetic.
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