Friday, February 22, 2013

Temple Mount in the news today

Palestinian protestors hurled stones at Israeli Police forces following the conclusion of Friday morning prayers at the Temple Mount. In a rare move, police forces entered the area and used stun grenades to disperse the crowd. 
Palestinian officials reported that ten protesters were lightly wounded by the stun grenades, and also said tension has increased in the surrounding area. The Jerusalem Police have said that Palestinians also threw firecrackers. After the crowd was dispersed, the police left the area, and relative calm was restored.
From Ynet:
Following Friday prayers at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Palestinians began hurling stones at security forces at the Old City's Mughrabi Gate. The forces stormed through the gate and dispersed the rioters with the use of stun grenades. Firecrackers were thrown at security forces as they entered theTemple Mount compound. Police said there were no injures. Order was restored a few minutes later, but at the same time much fiercer clashes erupted in Hebron and other locations across the West Bank.
There have been protests all week in the West Bank about Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, some of whom are hunger-striking. The clashes in Jerusalem seem to be part of this.

Effects of bullying last into adulthood

Effects of Bullying Last Into Adulthood, Study Finds

Great article, with heartbreaking comments. I was bullied in elementary school, and to a lesser extent in high school, but the worse memories are from when I was younger. I'm not surprised that the researchers found that the effects of bullying last into adulthood. In the comments some people in their sixties and seventies have written to testify that the effects of being bullied have lasted their whole lives.

One legacy from being bullied is that I've never believed that people are "inherently good," and that if it weren't for the strictures of society children would grow up unblemished. We all have the capacity within ourselves to be cruel to other people. We need to be taught to regard other people as precious, with valid needs of their own. I think it's a matter of learning that other people are as human as ourselves, and as deserving of care. I don't think we realize this "naturally," since there is a good deal of selfishness in human nature - what the rabbis called the יצר הרע, the inclination to evil.

And if children aren't taught to be kind to each other, because the adults in charge stand back and don't do anything when they are cruel to each other, then how can they learn? In my elementary school, the teachers rarely interfered when children abused other children. This allowed all sorts of horrible behavior to persist. I wanted to transfer to another school but wasn't able to. Things only got better in high school, when I was in a much bigger school and the bullies I had had to deal with 7 or 8 years were outnumbered by the other kids.

On the other hand, there were new kinds of bullying that I saw being inflicted on other students. The first day of freshman year the first year students were basically attacked by the upperclass students, especially freshman boys. Some boys knew this would happen - that the older boys would try to tear their clothes off - and they wore a bathing suit underneath their clothes so they wouldn't end up entirely naked. In later years, the school did try to stop this by having the first year students start school a few days earlier than the upperclass students, but I don't know if it really helped.

After the last day of high school I never saw any of my classmates again, except on rare occasions, nor did I want to. I've never been to a reunion - the thought fills me with horror. From reading the comments on the article, I now know that I'm not alone in this. The effects of being bullied last for a very long time.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Two lesbian scholars on "pinkwashing": Lillian Faderman vs. Sarah Schulman

I thought that it would be useful to my readers to learn about these notions of "homonationalism" and "pinkwashing" from Sarah Schulman, one of the academic initiators of these concepts. On November 22, 2011, she published an op-ed in the New York Times - "Israel and Pinkwashing," and on November 29, 2011, she published a longer version of the op-ed as "A Documentary Guide to Pinkwashing," in Prettyqueer.com. The comment thread beneath the Pretty Queer article is quite interesting, with a fierce back and forth between those defending the concepts and those defending Israel against charges of pinkwashing.

One of those who defended Israel is Lillian Faderman, who is a noted scholar of lesbian history and literature. This is her comment:
Sarah Schulman suggests that Israel, in its diabolically cunning way (now where have we heard that before about the Jews?), started a cynical campaign in 2005 to improve its image, and that campaign included an appeal to progressives who support LGBT rights. Yet the fact is that LGBT rights in Israel go back LONG BEFORE 2005. Since the 1980s and 1990s, Israeli LGBT people have enjoyed rights that predated or exceeded those rights given to LGBT people in America–and almost anywhere else in the Western world. And the struggle for them in Israel has been nowhere near as prolonged or difficult as it has been in America and most of Europe. 
I’ll limit myself to just a few examples of those rights enjoyed by ALL LGBT citizens of Israel, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim: 
–In 1988, all sodomy laws were abolished in Israel. 
–In 1992, Israel passed a law protecting any LGBT citizen (Jewish, Christian or Muslim) from employment discrimination. 
–In 1994, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on favor of spousal benefits for same-sex couples— regardless of whether they were Jewish, Christian, or Muslim . 
–In 2004, Israeli lesbian or gay couples (Jewish, Christian or Muslim) were given the right to qualify for common-law marriage status. 
–In 2005, the same year that Schulman says Israel began its suspicious attempts to show that LGBT people were welcomed there, Israeli legislation recognized all same-sex marriages performed abroad. 
The only place in the Middle East that Arab LGBT people can organize OPENLY is Israel. Al Qaws holds its “Palestinian Queer Parties” in a gay bar in Tel Aviv. Aswat, the Palestinian lesbian organization, held its conference at Tel Hai College in Northern Israel. Jerulaselem Open House hosts meetings of Arab Israeli LGBT people and organizations. 
Since 2002, the Refugee Rights Clinic at Tel Aviv University has been fighting for asylum for LGBT Palestinians who fear for their lives in the territories. A 2008 academic report NOWHERE TO RUN, on gay Palestinians who seek asylum in Israel, records experiences of, for example, a gay man living in the West Bank who was set on fire as punishment for his sins; another who was immersed for days in filthy water up to his neck; another who was sodomized with a coke bottle by West Bank police who taunted him, asking whether it was as good as a cock up his ass. 
Regardless of how much Sarah Schulman and her ilk disapprove of Israel, what else but insane, irrational, obsessive hatred would cause them to see diabolic cunning in social decency? What else but insane, irrational, obsessive hatred would keep them from acknowledging that Israel is an oasis for LGBT people in a region of absolute horror?
Faderman also wrote an opinion piece for the Advocate several months before Schulman's article (August 4, 2011), making the same argument: "If You Take Down Israel, What Else Goes With It?"

More on the absurdities of the "Homonationalism and Pinkwashing" conference

Elder of Ziyon quotes from an announcement about the upcoming CUNY conference on "homonationalism and pinkwashing" that does not appear to be on the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies website, and it contains even more outrageous statements about how gay people in the US have gained "full equality." (Note: it's available on the Internet Wayback machine). To quote:
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in all configurations around the world have always experienced dramatic differences in representation and power. Today, after generations of sacrifice and organization, some LGBT people have won full legal rights with different degrees of implementation. Once hard to imagine, protection from discrimination, full relationship recognition, and inclusion in representation are now daily possibilities for some. In the United States, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have been invited into an equality defined, not by rights, but by the ability to participate openly in immoral wars.
I would like to know which LGBT people, where, have won "full legal rights." This is certainly not true in the United States. Even in those states which have legalized same-sex marriage, same-sex couples are not able to gain the full advantages afforded to heterosexual couples. The Defense of Marriage Act forbids federal recognition of same sex marriages, and has been a particular barrier to married gay people in the military. Once again, the authors of this announcement do not seem to countenance the idea that belonging to the US military is anything but "participating in immoral wars." I wonder if the authors think that any of the wars that the US or other countries have ever participated in can be defined as justifiable.

The announcement continues:
The co-opting of some LGBT people by anti-immigrant and in particular anti-Muslim political forces is widespread and growing. Rutgers Professor Jasbir Puar has coined the term “Homonationalism” to define collusion between LGBT people and identification with the nation state, re-enforcement of racial and national boundary, and systems of supremacy ideology no longer interrupted by homophobia. 
I wish I knew what Professor Puar is talking about. Which LGBT people in the US have been co-opted by "anti-immigrant and in particular anti-Muslim political forces"? Do the likes of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer really welcome the participation of gay people in their anti-Muslim crusade?

From looking at Geller's website, Atlas Shrugs, it seems that she condemns Muslims when they oppress gays, but isn't particularly supportive of gay people in other contexts. One article that I found, from May 9, 2011, starts,
"HOMOSEXUAL SENSITIVITY TRAINING" AND GAY MARRIAGE IN THE MILITARY" Why would this become a priority of the military? Frankly, I don't care what two consenting adults do behind closed doors or when it doesn't affect anyone but oneself, but this is something else entirely.
She then quotes from a letter sent to her by a Marine. It's not grossly homophobic, but it's clear he opposes equal status for gays and lesbians in the Marines.

In a June 7, 2009 article she castigates the Obama administration for appointing Kevin Jennings, the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, to run the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools in the US Department of Education. The source she uses (Mass Resistance) claims that GLSEN ran a workshop in 2000 for teens (at Tufts University in Somerville) that taught various techniques of gay sex. Mass Resistance says about him, "He supports promoting homosexuailty and gender confusion as normative to even young students."

Geller comments:
You can't make this stuff up. Obama has appointed this radical to head up our "safe schools"? But who is going to keep kids safe from him? I have said this before: I don't care what you do in the bedroom - whatever rocks your boat, as long as it's two consenting adults, but don't bring it into the classroom. The left will twist this into some homophobic charge. I am not, and that is a fallacious argument. This is another terrible Obama choice. Do not traumatize children. Why can't the schools just teach reading, writing, arithmetic and civics? There is radical in every Obama appointee.
In a column entitled, "I am not a homophobe," published on May 19, 2005, Geller gets upset about sex education for teenagers that includes references to gay sex. She posts a brochure from the Massachusetts HIV/AIDS STD hotline that describes various gay sex acts and the possible risks of getting various STDs from them. The point of the brochure is to protect people engaged in these practices, not to advocate that people do them. She writes, "But this is ridiculous. When is this poisoning of the childhood waters going to stop? Can't kids be kids? Must we rip the veil of childhood oblivion  from our children's psyches?"

Geller seems to be particularly exercised when the idea of educating children about homosexuality (alongside heterosexuality) is raised - which to me certainly doesn't indicate a pro-gay rights stance.

On August 16, 2012, Geller also went along with the condemnation of the Southern Poverty Law Center by right wing groups, for its labeling as hate groups the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage, among others. The "Mass Resistance" group that Geller quotes from is also on this list. The SPLC lists these criteria for including a group: "Generally, the SPLC’s listings of these groups is based on their propagation of known falsehoods — claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups." The SPLC doesn't condemn traditional religious disapproval of homosexuality.

Geller writes:
More research and exposure of the subversive, communist organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center. AFDI has long warned Americans about the disinformation and antisemitic propaganda that the SPLC was manufacturing. Last year the SPLC was named to the AFDI Threat to Freedom Index.
Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) defames and attempts to marginalize conservative, pro-freedom organizations as “hate groups.” It uses its listing of “hate groups” to try to stigmatize, and ultimately criminalize, love of country and patriotism. It works to systematically destroy voices that are speaking out against oppression and persecution.
Contrary to what we might expect from reading the views of the organizers of the Homonationalism and Pinkwashing conference, gay people are not welcomed with open arms into the anti-Muslim movement by Geller, one of the most prominent anti-Muslim activists in the United States.

The Jihad Watch site of Robert Spencer also has many articles condemning Muslims oppressing gays, but as far as I can tell does not otherwise comment on gays and lesbians or on gay rights.

David Yerushalmi, who has spearheaded the creation of laws banning shari'a or Islamic law, is one of the most prominent anti-Muslim activists in the United States. Yerushalmi is also a white supremacist - in an essay named "On Race: A Tentative Discussion," he argues that whites are superior to blacks.

In an article posted to the website of Yerushalmi's organization, SANE (Society of Americans for National Existence), from the email update of September 23, 2009, he argues against the legalization of gay marriage. He writes, "Given the [Supreme] Court’s rejection of morality standing alone as a valid basis for criminalizing what most would consider aberrant or even deviant sexual conduct [in this case, sodomy between men], what does the future hold for the most “immoral” of sexual perversions, i.e., pedophilia?" He then proceeds to argue that reasoning used in the Supreme Court decision which lifted the ban on gay sodomy in Texas can (and will) be used to permit pedophilia. This rhetorical slippage between consensual sex between adults of the same sex and pedophilia is a favorite of anti-gay arguments, although in this case Yerushalmi does not single out same sex pedophilia. He ends his article by saying,
And, it is not hard to predict the future. Today, to speak in public of the moral abomination of homosexual conduct is to be set up for ridicule and, in some jurisdictions in Europe, possibly an indictment for hate-speech. But this was not always the case. Just a few years ago, it was a crime to engage in such behavior. As was the case with adultery and other such “moral offenses”. But in the science-democracy political order, we embrace “scientific advancement” as a measure of both time and social-political progress. In our new world order, we view technological advancement as human advancement simply. We have reduced “being” in human being to a historical ontology based upon the movement of matter. In a word, we have rid ourselves of what it means to be Man and replaced it with literally nothing.
It is hard to imagine gay people feeling particularly comfortable working alongside Yerushalmi in his anti-Muslim crusade. He certainly is not inviting gay people to work with him.

I haven't examined all of the anti-Muslim activists or groups in the United States for this blogpost, but this sampling of three of the most prominent anti-Muslim leaders reveals that two out of three could in no way be described as pro-gay rights, and thus it is hard to imagine that very many gay or lesbian people are involved in their anti-Muslim crusade. The authors of the Homonationalism and Pinkwashing conference's announcement have hardly proved their point that gay people who have gained "full legal rights" are flocking to join anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim groups because of their new-won social tolerance.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

More gun deaths - Gunman kills 3 in southern California

Gunman Kills 3 in Southern California Shooting Spree
Residents of several Orange County communities awoke to streets littered with yellow crime scene tape on Tuesday, after a gunman killed three people and injured at least three more before turning the gun on himself at the end of a shooting and carjacking spree, according to law enforcement officials.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Turning language inside out: "homonationalism" and "pinkwashing"

The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at CUNY are holding a conference in April on "Homonationalism and Pinkwashing." You may ask, what is homonationalism and what is pinkwashing?

To quote from the conference website:
Homonationalism occurs when sub-sectors of specific gay communities achieve legal parity with heterosexuals and then embrace racial and religious supremacy ideologies. The most obvious examples are in the Netherlands, Britain and Germany where white gays, most often males, increasingly join racist movements against immigrants and immigrations, especially from Muslim countries.
While I'm certainly not in favor of anyone, whether gay or straight, "embracing racial and religious supremacy ideologies," I don't see why racist gay people should be singled for special opprobrium over other racists. I'm also sure that gay people have always joined racist movements (like all other political movements) even before they managed to win legal equality. There were even gay men in the Nazi movement in Germany.

I would also challenge the idea that in any of the countries named above gay and lesbian people have actually "achieved legal parity with heterosexuals." The British House of Commons is only just now passing legislation to allow for same-sex marriage. Germany has repealed laws against gay sex, including the notorious Paragraph 175, which the Nazis used to persecute gay men and imprison and murder them in concentration camps. According to the Wikipedia article on LGBT rights in Germany:
There is legal recognition of same-sex couples. Registered life partnerships (effectively, a form of civil union) have been instituted since 2001, giving same-sex couples rights and obligations in areas such as inheritance, alimony, health insurance, immigration, hospital and jail visitations, and name change. In 2004, this act was amended to also give registered same-sex couples adoption rights (stepchild adoption only), as well as reform previously cumbersome dissolution procedures with regard to division of property and alimony.
There is, however, no legal same-sex marriage in Germany. There are other restrictions too -
There is no legal right to assisted reproduction procedures for lesbian couples, such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, but they are not explicitly banned either. The German Medical Association is against explicit legalization and directs its members to not perform such procedures. Because this directive is not legally binding, sperm banks and doctors may work with lesbian clients if they wish. This makes it harder for German lesbian couples to have children than in some other countries, but it is becoming increasingly popular.
Gays and lesbians are not barred from military service. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal in Germany.

And that's only one example. I would be interested to know if there is, in fact, any nation on earth where all LGBT people have complete parity with heterosexual people in law. Certainly not the United States or Israel, the two countries I know the most about, having lived in both of them. If the criterion for the existence of homonationalism is "legal parity with heterosexuals," then this category should not be applied to any to any nation where LGBT people still lack complete formal legal equality.

And what's pinkwashing? According to the conference website:
Pinkwashing is a practice by which a government points to or exaggerates gay rights in order to present itself as progressive.
I suppose this does occur. The Israeli government has run advertising campaigns aimed at showing how tolerant Israel is of LGBT people, especially in the Middle Eastern context where same sex relations are legally forbidden in all the surrounding countries. The situation in Israel certainly has really improved in the last 25 years. I lived in Israel for two years from 1987-89 and very few people were out, even those involved in the local gay/lesbian rights organization, האגודה לזכויות הפרט - The Association for Personal Rights, whose name in those years did not even allude to gay people! But in the early 1990s Israel made it possible for openly gay people to be enlisted in the Israeli army, long before the US. Now there are openly gay members of Knesset, and Tel Aviv is very welcoming to gay people and has a big gay scene.

Nonetheless, especially in religious cities like Jerusalem, there is a lot of outright bigotry from religious leaders of the three monotheistic religions. When the Worldpride gay pride march was planned in 2005 in Jerusalem, leading rabbis, priests, and imams got together at a press conference to denounce the idea as an abomination.


I cannot imagine that these religious leaders would have gotten together for anything else, except for hatred of gay people. These leaders are, from the left: Sheikh Abed es-Salem Menasra, deputy mufti of Jerusalem; the Rev. Michel Sabbagh, the Latin Patriarch; Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, the Armenian Patriarch; Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi, and Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi. The man to Metzger's left is unidentified in the New York Times article from which this photograph is taken.

To quote from the New York Times article about this rare amity:
Now major leaders of the three faiths - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - are making a rare show of unity to try to stop the festival. They say the event would desecrate the city and convey the erroneous impression that homosexuality is acceptable. 
"They are creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable," Shlomo Amar, Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi, said yesterday at a news conference in Jerusalem attended by Israel's two chief rabbis, the patriarchs of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches, and three senior Muslim prayer leaders. "It hurts all of the religions. We are all against it." 
Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi sheik, added: "We can't permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty. This is very ugly and very nasty to have these people come to Jerusalem."....
Interfaith agreement is unusual in Israel. The leaders' joint opposition was initially generated by the Rev. Leo Giovinetti, an evangelical pastor from San Diego who is both a veteran of the American culture war over homosexuality and a frequent visitor to Israel, where he has formed relationships with rabbis and politicians....
Neither he nor other evangelical American leaders were at the news conference in Jerusalem, which was called by the chief rabbinate of Israel. But by all accounts Mr. Giovinetti played a crucial role in spreading the first alarms among religious leaders about the gay festival. ....
Mr. Giovinetti circulated a petition against the festival, titled "Homosexuals to Desecrate Jerusalem," which he said had been signed by every member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party in the Israeli Parliament. Another American who helped bring together the opposition was Rabbi Yehuda Levin, of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, which says it represents more than 1,000 American Orthodox rabbis. At the news conference in Jerusalem, he called the festival "the spiritual rape of the Holy City." He said, "This is not the homo land, this is the Holy Land."
This disgusting exhibition of anti-gay bigotry is certainly proof that gay people have not achieved equal social recognition with straight people in Israel. A campaign which touts Israel's great gay rights record and omits information like this is certainly glossing over the considerable discrimination (legal and otherwise) and outright bigotry that Israeli gay people still face (and by "Israeli" I mean all citizens of Israel, Jews, Arabs, and anyone else). On the other hand, it does capture a certain reality in Israel - it's not completely untrue.

To continue with the definition of "pinkwashing."
Because LGBT people have been at the bottom of society for so long, many people mistakenly see some forms of “gay rights” (gay pride parades, gay people participating in military service, etc.) as an emblem of modernity. However because of Homonationalism and the shifting position of gay people this is no longer an accurate measure of social advancement.
I think is the most enraging part of the whole definition of "pinkwashing." Gay pride marches are NOT "emblems of modernity"? Do the people writing this definition have any memory of how exciting it was to go to gay pride marches in the 1970s (that's when my participation began)? Of how exciting it was to meet other gay people, in public, to take over the streets, not to be afraid to hold hands with your lover, to look defiantly at the anti-gay counter-demonstrators and overwhelm them with our loud voices? For one day a year to be out publicly and proudly? In many places in the US there has been a real, marked improvement in the lives of LGBT people, and do you know why that is? Because of the protests embodied in gay pride marches and other forms of activism (for example Act Out in the 1980s). Not because straight society graciously decided to give gay people equal rights (which we still don't have), but because we fought for our rights.

And we're still fighting for our rights. Only last year were gay and lesbian people able to serve openly in the US military. I suppose for the people who are putting on this conference it's not legitimate for gay people to want to serve in their country's military - that's a form of "homonationalism." Well, being gay is not some kind of rarefied identity that excludes one from the values of one's society - gay people have been in the US military probably from its beginning, and certainly in the 20th century, and have served honorably despite often being hounded from the service by anti-gay witch hunts. I suspect that the people putting on this conference think that no one should serve in the US military, straight or gay. In that case, why again is there a need to single out gay people who join the military as succumbing to a special form of nationalism - homonationalism? Why is homonationalism worse than other forms of nationalism? (That is, if you think that nationalism is always bad - which I certainly do not).
In some places where Homonationalism is active, gay people of the dominant racial or religious demographic may actually have far more secure social rights and political power than subordinate racial and religious communities, which of course themselves include LGBT people. This practice of obscuring or “whitewashing” racial or religious oppression with claims of “gay rights” is called PINKWASHING. Pinkwashing is of profound and engaged interest to scholars around the world who are interested in social justice and LGBT studies.
Even if there is no "homonationalism," gay people of the dominant racial or religious group will of course "have far more secure social rights and political power than subordinate racial and religious communities," because they belong to the dominant group, especially if they remain deep in the closet. What this has to do with "homonationalism" escapes me. Homonationalism has nothing to do with it - it has rather to do with (for example in the United States) our long history of white supremacy. And long before gay people in the US were close to gaining any rights, within the gay & lesbian rights movement there was certainly racism (and sexism and misogyny) - how could there fail to be? What's important is that people are trying to overcome racism while fighting for LGBT rights.

Postscript - if you look through the conference schedule, you will find an inordinate amount of attention devoted to the evils of Zionism and Israel. If homonationalism were really an international problem, why focus on one small country with no more than eight million inhabitants? The answer is obvious, of course - the organizers and speakers in many cases seem to be motivated by a general anti-Zionist and anti-Israel ideology, and a conference like this allows them to yoke LGBT identity to anti-Zionism. In fact, the conference seems intended to make it seem natural that one's sexual orientation should inevitably determine one's politics - which is the biggest lie of all.