Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bursting the Blue State Fantasy that Gay Enclaves Are ‘Safe’ to Be Out

Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend has written an important article - Bursting the Blue State Fantasy that Gay Enclaves Are ‘Safe’ to Be Out.
In the past week NYC has been rocked by a few incidents of hideous violent attacks against gays and transgender residents. There have been shootings assaults outside gay bars and a brutal killing of Mark Carson in another shooting in the Village.
Michelangelo Signorile, who also points out the unending violence against transgender residents that goes under-reported in the media: 
It’s sickening and enraging. And perhaps the shock I’m seeing expressed about it, particularly among younger LGBT people, underscores that many of us have been living with a false sense of security, intoxicated by the wins on marriage equality in the states and in the federal courts. It’s way too easy to grow complacent, fed by the desire to have the fight done with as well as by the seductive message of some in the media who’ve simplistically declared victory for the LGBT rights movement.

Victory is very far off, however, if we can’t walk the streets of even the most LGBT-friendly cities holding hands or expressing ourselves without fear of being taunted and violently assaulted. And for hundreds of thousands living in less tolerant places all across the country, openness has never been a reality. Until it is, we’re nowhere near victory.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that in New York City, in a state that passed marriage equality in 2011, hate crimes against LGBT people so far in 2013 are almost double what were at this point in 2012. And 2012 itself was a notable year nationally, with outbreak of anti-LGBT violence in some of the country’s most gay-friendly cities, like New York, WashingtonLos AngelesDallas and Atlanta. 2011 saw the highest number of anti-LGBT murders ever reported, with transgender people the hardest-hit victims. At least 13 transgender Americans were reported to have been murdered in 2012 alone. 
Putting LGBT equality on the books does not equal universal cultural acceptance. That anger from our ignorant opponents has to be channeled somewhere, and if they have no legal recourse, then look out. After all, it’s been decades since the desegregation in the schools, the Voting Rights Act and other means to bring full legal equality for minorities to the fore, and it’s pretty clear that racism has not been extinguished. In fact, the election of Barack Obama has so unhinged some Americans that they easily succumb to grotesque racist rants and behaviors that I think would otherwise have remained under the surface.
So much for the claim by the Pinkwashing and Homonationalism crowd that LGBT people in the US have it so good that we should be spending our time boycotting Israel, instead of continuing to work for equality and against violence in this country.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Gay Pride in Tel Aviv, June 7, 2013

In Tel Aviv, the Gay Pride Parade for 2013 is scheduled for Friday, June 7. For more information, see: Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade 2013.

Moscow's Gay-Bashing Ritual

When will the "Pinkwashing and Homonationalism" crowd get around to condemning the beatings and arrests of gay activists in Russia simply for trying to have a demonstration? 

Moscow's Gay-Bashing Ritual (New York Times)
A concerted effort by Moscow activists to secure a legal permit for an L.G.B.T. pride parade resulted, after several years, in a 2010 European Court on Human Rights ruling that directed the city authorities to allow the event to be held. Though Russia usually complies with E.C.H.R. decisions, this time the Moscow City Court responded by banning gay pride events for the next 100 years. That, and the pending legislation against so-called propaganda of homosexuality — passed in a number of Russian municipalities and likely to face a final vote in the national Parliament as soon as this week — have pushed L.G.B.T. issues to the foreground of Russian politics and L.G.B.T. organizing deep underground.  
Earlier in the day, a young woman stood up in front of Parliament with a poster and was attacked by a self-identified Orthodox believer before she had a chance to turn the poster to face the onlookers; she was then detained by the police. Then another woman unfurled a poster with the words “Love Is Stronger Than Hate” and had barely had time to say, “This is a legal one-person picket to protest the homophobic laws” before two policemen grabbed her and dragged her away. In all, at least 25 people were detained by the police in the early afternoon. Because what they had been doing was legal, they were eventually released without charge — but not before the 5 p.m. rally was over.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Jewish Identity Administration

The Israeli government is establishing a new unit in the Religious Services Ministry with a positively Orwellian name - the "Jewish Identity Administration." Apparently the goal of this new administration is to strengthen the Jewish identity of (presumably only Jewish) Israelis. It sounds more like the Jewish Indoctrination Administration - and into a very particular kind of Judaism. The person who will head this administration is Rabbi Avichai Rontzki, who used to be the chief rabbi of the IDF and who is currently the rabbi of the yeshiva in the Jewish settlement of Itamar. Rontzki said, “The goal is not hahzara betshuvah [bringing Jews back to religion], but strengthening the Jewish identity in the State of Israel." He says that the goal is not to make people more religious, but to "strengthen Jewish identity, " which he seems, however, to think of as exclusively religious. And who will be working in this new "administration"? Yeshiva students!

He also said: “This is not folklore, it is not Jewish knowledge, that they should know more Judaism and win trivia games,” he stressed. “This is to strengthen the connection of the people not to the land, but to itself, its heritage. This is in my eyes a matter of survival. A person who does not know the Bible will, in moments of crisis, not last here. Today Jewish identity is very weak.”

Since he is a settler rabbi, and since he thinks the ideal teachers are yeshiva students, I would assume that he will employ yeshiva students who are thoroughly indoctrinated into "settler Judaism," which sees holding onto the whole land of Israel as the supreme Jewish value. He won't want Israeli Jews to learn about the spectrum of Jewish belief and practice, the different Jewish movements, differing opinions on the roles of women in Judaism, much less the commandments to "seek peace and pursue it" and "do not oppress the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

This is a new low for Judaism in the state of Israel.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Joseph Massad's article on Al-Jazeera dropped from the site

As Petra Marquardt-Bigman reports on her Jerusalem Post blog, From Al Jazeera to Columbia University: Joseph Massad’s obsession with Israel, Al-Jazeera English pulled Massad's article. I wonder why Al-Jazeera decided to do this, given all the other anti-Israel articles they publish.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Why is Joseph Massad linking to Kevin MacDonald, White Nationalist and Jew-hater?

While reading Elder of Ziyon's accurate analysis of Joseph Massad's recent article in Al Jazeera English, I came across this sentence. He writes: "Massad helpfully links to the hard-to-find pamphlet written by the apparent coiner of the word "anti-semite." This is a reference to Wilhelm Marr's notorious antisemitic book, "The Victory of Judaism over Germanism," published in 1879. Massad provides the link to this book in this sentence in his article: "Their call would be espoused by many 'anti-Semites', a new label chosen by European anti-Jewish racists after its invention in 1879 by a minor Viennese journalist by the name of Wilhelm Marr, who issued a political programme titled The Victory of Judaism over Germanism." The link in Massad's article, The last of the Semites, is to a PDF of the English translation of Marr's book, translated by Gerhard Rohringer, copyright 2009. 

What website does Massad's link take us to? To an academic site that discusses antisemitism? No, not at all. The link is to Kevin MacDonald's website: http://www.kevinmacdonald.net/Marr-Text-English.pdf. To those who do not know Kevin MacDonald, he is a Professor of Psychology employed by California State University–Long Beach. He is also an academic antisemite who has written several books and many articles on what he considers to be the iniquities of the Jews.

He writes for the Occidental Observer, an online journal with the tagline "White Identity, Interests, and Culture." The Southern Poverty Law Center has a profile of him on their website that catalogs his white nationalism, racism, and antisemitism.
Kevin MacDonald is the neo-Nazi movement's favorite academic. A psychology professor at California State University, Long Beach, MacDonald, who also is a board member of the white supremacist Charles Martel Society, published a trilogy that supposedly "proves" that Jews are genetically driven to destroy Western societies. MacDonald also argues that anti-Semitism, far from being an irrational hatred for Jews, is a logical reaction to Jewish success in societies controlled by other ethnic or racial groups. After the publication of a 2007 Intelligence Report exposé detailing MacDonald's anti-Semitism, his teaching duties were reduced and many of his colleagues publicly condemned his racist research....
In the 1980s, MacDonald started reading up on Jews, trying to determine the reasons behind what he saw as their lockstep liberalism and hatred of all things Western. His inaugural effort, the first book in his trilogy on the Jews, was the 1994 publication of A People that Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy, which was published by Praeger Press and came out just after MacDonald was awarded his full professorship. Today, most of MacDonald's publishing is about Jews and the evils of the liberal immigration policies that he says they support. 
Through the late 1990s, MacDonald dedicated himself to his anti-Semitic intellectual odyssey. He produced two more volumes on the Jews, Separation and its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism (1998), and The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (1998). Taken together, the trilogy provides a whole new justification for anti-Semitism that has little to do with Nazi race theories, which blamed Jews for introducing evil social vices and other perversions into Nordic society and portrayed them as degenerates preying on unsuspecting, wholesome Aryans. MacDonald's basic premise is that Jews engage in a "group evolutionary strategy" that serves to enhance their ability to out-compete non-Jews for resources. Although normally a tiny minority in their host countries, Jews, like viruses, destabilize their host societies to their own benefit, MacDonald argues. Because this Jewish "group behavior" is said to have produced much financial and intellectual success over the years, McDonald claims it also has produced understandable hatred for Jews by gentiles. That means that anti-Semitism, rather than being an irrational hatred for Jews, is actually a logical reaction to Jewish success. In other words, the Nazis, like many other anti-Semites, were only anti-Semitic because they were countering a genuine Jewish threat to their wellbeing. To restore "parity" between Jews and other ethnic groups MacDonald has even called for systematic discrimination against Jews in college admissions and employment and special taxes "to counter the Jewish advantage in the possession of wealth." 
If Joseph Massad wants anyone to take his opinions about Jews, Zionism, and antisemitism seriously, I suggest that the very least he can do is not to link to websites run by blatant racists and antisemites like Kevin MacDonald.

It does make me wonder how Massad found this translation of Marr's article. Did he simply Google the title, find it on MacDonald's website, and put the link into his Al Jazeera article without paying attention to the source? I just did a Google search, and the PDF of Marr's book on MacDonald's website is the first result. The second one is the Wikipedia article on Marr, and the third and fourth are links to an article that MacDonald wrote for the Occidental Observer on Marr's book. Subsequent results on the first results page include links to MacDonald's website from Stormfront and Vanguard News Network, two neo-Nazi websites. The book can also be found on ebookbrowse.com and slashdocs.com. I think it would be pretty hard for someone linking to MacDonald's site to be unaware of the nature of the site. If Massad had wanted to link to the book without linking himself to a notorious antisemite, he could simply have gone to the two PDF aggregators.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Joseph Massad - homophobia and antisemitism

I missed this article when it was first published in the New Republic, about Joseph Massad, the tenured Columbia professor who attacks oppressed gay and lesbian people in Arab and other "non-western" countries for accepting the "colonial" Western view that they should not be oppressed for their sexual orientation.

James Kirchick wrote, in 2007:
According to Massad, a Palestinian Christian and disciple of the late Columbia professor Edward Said, the case for gay rights in the Middle East is an elaborate scheme hatched by activists in the West. Massad posited this thesis in a 2002 article, "Re-Orienting Desire: The Gay International and the Arab World," for the academic journal Public Culture, and he has expanded it into a book, Desiring Arabs, published this year by the University of Chicago Press. In it, he writes that such activists constitute the "Gay International" whose "discourse ... produces homosexuals as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist." The "missionary tasks" of this worldwide conspiracy are part of a broader attempt to legitimize American and Israeli global conquest by undermining the very moral basis of Muslim societies, as the "Orientalist impulse ... continues to guide all branches of the human rights community." Massad's intellectual project is a not-so-tacit apology for the oppression of people who identify openly as homosexual. In so doing, he sides with Islamist regimes over Islamic liberals.....
State repression against gay people happens on a frequent basis across the Middle East. Massad, however, who claims to be a supporter of sexual freedom per se, is oddly impassive when confronted with the vast catalogue of anti-gay state violence in the Muslim world. Massad, unlike Ahmadinejad, does acknowledge that "gay-identified" people exist in the Middle East, but he views them with derision. Take, for instance, his description of the Queen Boat victims as "westernized, Egyptian, gay-identified men" who consort with European and American tourists. A simple "gay" would have sufficed. He smears efforts to free the men by writing of the "openly gay and anti-Palestinian Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank" and the "anti-Arab and anti-Egyptian [Congressman] Tom Lantos" who circulated a petition amongst their colleagues to cut off U.S. funding to Egypt unless the men were released. He then goes onto belittle not just gay activists (one of whom, a founder of the Gay and Lesbian Arabic Society, referred to the Queen Boat affair as "our own Stonewall," in reference to the 1969 Stonewall riot when a group of patrons at a New York City gay bar resisted arrest, a moment credited with sparking the American gay rights movement) but the persecuted men themselves. The Queen Boat cannot be Stonewall, Massad insists, because the "drag Queens at the Stonewall bar" embraced their homosexual identity, whereas the Egyptian men "not only" did "not seek publicity for their alleged homosexuality, they resisted the very publicity of the events by the media by covering their faces in order to hide from the cameras and from hysterical public scrutiny." Massad does not pause to consider that perhaps the reason why these men covered their faces was because of the brutal consequences they would endure if their identities became public, repercussions far worse than anything the rioters at Stonewall experienced. "These are hardly manifestations of gay pride or gay liberation," Massad sneers.
Massad's point of view reminds me of those academics who have invented "Homonationalism" to identify those gays and lesbians whom they despise for their supposedly atavistic attachment to the United States which they demonstrate by enlisting in the US military and getting married.

This is the same Massad who has just published an anti-semitic screed on Al-Jazeera English - http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/05/201351275829430527.html.

Tell me again, why did Columbia give tenure to Massad?

Liam Hoare wrote a good take-down of Massad's antisemitic screed: http://youngcontrarian.tumblr.com/post/50430800882/joseph-massads-problem-with-rooted-cosmopolitans

Monday, May 13, 2013

Once again, calling Jews by their name: genteelism, not gentilic

Oliver Kamm, in his column The Pedant in the Times of London, also just wrote about the curious reluctance of some people to use the word "Jews" when they are, in fact, writing or speaking about Jews. In his case, he discovered this usage in the recent document published by the Church of Scotland denying any connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. The church's argument is based on the ancient Christian doctrine of supersessionism - the belief that the people of Israel has been abandoned by God and that the promises made to Jews have been transferred to Christians.

This document rarely uses the words "Jew" or "Jews." It predominantly uses the term "Jewish people" to mean "Jews," but without the article (above I used the phrase with the article in order to indicate Jews as a collectivity, or as a gentilic - look it up).

Kamm quotes a sentence from the report to give a feel for how it uses the term "Jewish people": “There has been a widespread assumption by many Christians as well as many Jewish people that the Bible supports an essentially Jewish state of Israel.”

In this sentence the word "Jews" would have been perfectly natural in the place where "Jewish people" occurs.

He comments:
The phrase “the Jewish people” is, of course, not only legitimate but an exact description. To be Jewish is not necessarily to be religious; it is to be part of a people. But the report’s authors didn’t mean the Jewish people collectively, otherwise they’d have used the definite article. By “Jewish people” they meant, simply, Jews. 
The Church has belatedly removed the document from its website, so I can’t check this, but I recall from it not a single use of the noun “Jew”. I can only guess why this should be and offer my opinion that the authors’ use of language should not be emulated. [RL - actually, the nouns "Jew" and "Jews" do occasionally appear].
The term “Jewish people”, with no preceding article, is a genteelism. A genteelism (the word is a nice coinage by H. W. Fowler, the lexicographer) is a word or expression thought by its utterer to be more refined than a common synonym. There is a widespread if unexpressed premise that the word “Jew” is blunt and that politeness requires that it be softened. 
It’s a bizarre and misconceived notion. I’m confident, however, that it explains the linguistic diffidence of the authors of the Church of Scotland report. It’s a modest irony that they’ve couched their argument in unnecessary euphemism while failing to anticipate the inflammatory nature of their conclusions. 
My advice on language is to embrace the noun “Jew”. Writers who avoid it are typically just averse to plain speech, but it has a less benign connotation too. The Church report provoked outrage because, among other things, it contrasted Jewish particularism with Christian universalism. This used to be a common theme of Christian theology but is now little heard. The implication is that Christianity supersedes its Jewish origins, and thus that the survival of the Jews into modern times is in some sense historically aberrant. That notion has come to be seen by most Christian churches as outmoded and insensitive since the Holocaust. 
This isn’t the place for an assessment of the ideas behind the Church of Scotland report, but its critics’ allegation that it is anti-Semitic is on my reading correct. That conclusion is reinforced by the authors’ fastidious aversion to using the term “Jew”. In attempting to avoid the taint of insensitivity, let alone prejudice, they have haplessly conveyed a highly traditional anti-Jewish stance.
If you would like to read the original document (it has been removed from the Church of Scotland's website because of the objections raised to it), you can go to Scribd - The Inheritance of Abraham and judge for yourself its use of the terms "Jew," "Jews," and "Jewish people."

Friday, May 10, 2013

Calling Jews by their name

It's the end of the semester so I'm grading papers and projects for my courses. I'm coming across an odd phenomenon that I've encountered before. Some students simply will not use the word "Jew" or "Jews" in their papers. They come up with all different kinds of circumlocutions - "Jewish people," "Jewish followers," "followers of the Old Testament," "followers of Judaism." There's even the occasional "Hebrew"! I've asked students about their reaction to the words "Jew" or "Jews" before, in my Judaism course, and some of them say that they feel uncomfortable using the word "Jew," as if there is something derogatory about it. I've heard this reaction from non-Jewish students who don't wish to say something offensive. I explain to them that this is not the case, that the word "Jew" is not offensive. Still this strange phenomenon continues.....

Saturday, May 04, 2013

On "Islamophobia" and hatred of Muslims

Martin Robbins in the Guardian has an interesting article about Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris and whether they cross the fine line between criticism or mockery of Islam and Islamophobia.
On one hand, critics of the term "Islamophobia", like Oliver Kamm, rightly point out that it's ludicrous and censorious to conflate hostile coverage of areligion to xenophobia, as Mehdi Hasan appears to do. On the other, it's clear that there's a very real phenomenon of bigotry directed against Muslims, recklessly inflamed by elements of the press, that blurs at the edges into something barely distinguishable from racism, the last acceptable form of racial prejudice. Kamm described it neatly last year:
"There is something disturbing in public discourse about Islam. A segment of opinion cannot distinguish between Muslims and the theocratic fanatics of al-Qaeda. It holds to a conspiracy theory that genuinely does recall the ancient prejudice, given modern garb in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, against the Jews. This is not only a problem but a pathology and an evil."
Whatever you choose to call this phenomenon, it's clear that there's a line between criticism (or ridicule) of Islam, and bigotry against Muslims. Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have blundered into that line with an alarming degree of recklessness.