Category Archives: hate groups

Gay and anti-Israel; Why ?

The Homosexual Factor

Among the most vociferous and the most radical of the Jews who have declared themselves against Israel — think Noam Chomsky, think Judith Butler, think Glenn Greenwald, think Norman Finkelstein — a good proportion, say 50%, also declare themselves gay or lesbian. (In this abbreviated listing that would be Butler and Greenwald. ) So here is a kashe, as we say in Yiddish, a hard question. And not only is it a kashe, it’s considered absolutely impolite to even mention it (so much more reason to pose it) : Why are many of the publicly visible, radical anti-Israel Jews also publicly gay ? There does not appear to be any necessary or logical or indeed reasonable connection. And yet, I will argue, the connection is as observable as it is puzzling and it cries out for investigation.

 

When I was a young graduate student in New York in the 1950’s, I became interested in why so many Communists were Jewish, a question on which I wrote my PhD in 1956. The answer at which I arrived was basically historical, having to do with the traditional European political Left/Right alignments in which the Left supported, and the Right opposed, the emancipation of Jews. My dissertation work elicited a certain amount of pushback from people who feared that the airing of the question would enflame anti-Semitic prejudices. The editors of one influential journal of opinion (which exists to this day) accepted an article I wrote based on my dissertation, only to have its board members spike it. But overall, my work soon became accepted (and would today be considered just a piece of conventional wisdom).

 

Among the similarities to what I propose here, I never suggested that most Jews were Communists, only that a very disproportionate number of American Communists were Jews. That was simply a fact in that period. My work differed from the conventional views at the time in that I looked for explanations beyond the professed ideology of the people involved, the Jewish Communists. They of course insisted that the motives for their political commitment be found in the humanitarian professions of their movement. My explanation, in contrast, looked to non-professed factors, in this case the social position of Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries. Similarly, I will argue here that the RJAI(Radical Jews Against Israel)-LGBT entanglement must be explained by factors beyond the professed views of the participants.

 

Now, back to the issue at hand, the RJAI movement of our day and its entanglement with the LGBT phenomenon. To begin, some disclaimers.

 

1) I do not say that all, or most, or even a disproportionate number of gay Jews are anti-Israel. The high proportion that I will describe is not an attribute of group JG (Jewish gays) but rather of group RAIJ (radical anti-Israel Jews). Of these, the RAIJ’s, a high proportion is (probably) gay.

 

2) While my main concern is with the radical group of anti-Israel folks, the line between radical and moderate is sometimes fluid. Moreover, radicalism sometimes (mis)represents itself as moderation.

 

3) The evidence that I will adduce is, on the whole, suggestive rather than conclusive. To put this another way, I would describe my case as one of a balance of probabilities rather than of a proof beyond reasonable doubt.

 

The most basic fact to keep in mind is the actually very low number of gay people in the population. The actual proportion seems to hover around two or three percent, depending on how the data are gathered and interpreted. But though low in numbers, and possibly because of this, homosexuality is widely noticed, and the impression is created that it is more common than it actually is. There is a German saying, bekannt sein wie ein bunter Hund, well-known like a rainbow-colored dog. Rainbow-colored dogs are not common, but (if and) when they occur, they arouse attention. An expression from Latin, rara avis, rare bird, carries the same meaning.

 

This actually very low incidence of homosexuality in the general population implies, of course, that the statistically expected number of homosexuals in any sub-group is also very low. But the empirical investigation of the question is made difficult by the fact that, generally, it is not publicly ascertainable who is and who is not gay. But in certain exceptional cases we do have figures that are reasonably reliable.

 

The great public interest in the personal lives of politicians has resulted in an apparently reliable counting of gays in the US Congress. It appears that of the 100 current members of the Senate, one is gay; of the 435 current members of the House, six are gay. So out of 535 members of Congress, seven, or 1.3%, are gay. This is somewhat lower than the expected proportion, but, given all the imprecisions of available data, well within expected margins.

 

The point to remember here is this: it is unusual to find more than, say, five percent in any group that is homosexual. As we saw, the percentage is exactly 1.3% among the leading American politicians who constitute the Congress, . A homosexual, statistically, is a rara avis in most social environments. And if we find a group or profession or movement in which the proportion of homosexuals is at all substantial, that circumstance requires attention and analysis.

 

In some ways similar to elected officials, pulpit rabbis commonly disclose their sexual orientation. And more to the point for our present purposes, their views on Israel are also generally known. In the city of New York, there are at least two pulpit rabbis who are harsh opponents of Israel. Both are lesbian.

 

Rabbi Ellen Lippmann is the spiritual leader of Kolot Chayenu, an anti-Israel synagogue in Brooklyn. Her wife, Kathryn Conroy, is not Jewish but is called the “rebbetzin” of the congregation. She explains that she will not convert (to Judaism) because “I cannot convert to anything because I am already who I am and what I am going to continue to be.” As for the Rabbi herself, it would be tedious to enumerate all the anti-Israel declarations she has signed; here is one.

 

The other anti-Israel congregation in New York is Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan, whose spiritual leader is the lesbian Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum. Unlike Rabbi Lippmann’s, Rabbi Kleinbaum’s partner, Randi Weingarten, is Jewish.   There is some question, as there is indeed also in the case of Lippmann, whether Kleinbaum’s anti-Israel positions are extreme or more moderate. My own take is that these positions are indeed extreme but are often veiled in moderate-sounding formulas. The issue is discussed in an article by Debra Kamin.

 

There are not many openly anti-Israel pulpit rabbis in North America, and some of these, for example Brant Rosen of Chicago and David Mivasair on Vancouver, are not homosexual. It may well be that homosexuals among the anti-Israel rabbis are a minority. But they are not the very small minority, as the homosexual proportions in the general population would lead us to expect. At the very least, they are a substantial minority.

 

Both Rabbi Lippmann and Rabbi Kleinbaum sit on the Rabbinic Council of the radically anti-Israel Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), together with at least two other lesbian rabbis (Nancy Wiener and Carrie Carter). That makes at least four lesbians on a board of sixteen.

 

As for JFREJ, I have written about the group in 2013 and again in 2015. Briefly, it is as radical an anti-Israel formation as is imaginable. At the same time, to quote from its own website:

 

(Question) I came to the Meyer Awards on the last night of Hanukkah and I noticed that there were a lot of queer Jews. JFREJ isn’t explicitly [gay] but it seems pretty queer. It seems to me that being a LGBTQ individual and JFREJ sort of go hand in hand.(Answer) JFREJ is not exclusively queer but we work within an explicit anti-oppression framework. Because of that JFREJ is safe place for LGBTQ people as well a place  to celebrate the LGTBQ community. We’re not explicitly queer but, yeah it can be pretty gay.

 

JFREJ is a New York organization. As I have shown on my blogs, its leadership overlaps to a large extent with the national Jewish Voices for Peace.   JVP, in turn, is recognized as the most vocal, the most aggressive, and the most visible of the (ostensibly) Jewish anti-Israel formations. Camera has given us a useful summary of the available information on this group.

 

To what extent is JVP gay or lesbian ? For obvious reasons there are no hard data, but the impression created by the overlap with known gay-related groups, such as JFREJ and Kolot Chayenu, is that there is a disproportionately high gay, especially lesbian component in JVP. When I looked at the group’s IRS disclosure form in 2010, I found that two of the five female board members were also active in lesbian causes.

 

Phyllis Chesler, in a revealing article some four years ago, has contributed some valuable first-hand observations of the obverse of our problem, what she calls the “Palestinization” of the radical lesbian movement; i. e. the fact that among the radical lesbians it is taken for granted that participants are also militant foes of the Jewish state.

 

In short, there is the inescapable conclusion of a sizable overlap between Jewish anti-Israel activism and the politicized section of the homosexual movement. Again, whether we speak of the absolutely rabid Max Blumenthal or the more moderate Tony Kushner, or the Trotskyist Sherry Wolf, we see a disproportionately high number of homosexuals among the Jewish foes of Israel. Of course there are counter-examples. Noam Chomsky is not gay, nor is Naomi Klein, nor are any number of others. But keeping in mind the demographics of homosexuality that I have stressed, anything higher than, say, five percent homosexuals among the RAIJ would be disproportionate. The actual percentage — impossible to state with precision — is likely to be ten times that or more. Another way of putting this is to observe that If the number of gays and lesbians in the RAIJ movement were proportionate to their representation in the general population, we would have to find between twenty and thirty straight RAIJ folks for every gay one. You will not find anything like that.

 

So here is the nexus: homosexuality/RJAI. That is not a hard thing to recognize. What is hard and possibly impossible to answer, the real kashe, is the why. Why is there this nexus ? What explains it ? What are the motives ? Why, in other words, controlling for the demographics, is it so much more likely for a homosexual to become RJAI than for a straight person ?

 

To begin, it is helpful to consider two questions separately: a. professed motivations, and b. the possibly non-professed motives behind the nexus.

 

If we were to ask a homosexual RJAI about his or her dual commitment, we might get a reply something like this: homosexuals belong to an oppressed group and they therefore have a natural affinity for other oppressed groups, in this case Palestinians. We Jewish LGBT people are the natural allies of all the disadvantaged and oppressed, and in particular favor the struggle against Zionism, against Islamophobia, against homophobia, against racism. I think that this is a fair restatement of the language found on RJAI pronouncements; the professed motivations are invariably couched in universalist humanitarian terms.

 

I will not belabor the illogic of this professed humanitarianism. The flaws have been pointed out many times, for instance by Cary Nelson with regard to Judith Butler, and are as familiar as they are disheartening. In a word: the self-professed humanitarian concern by RJAI for Palestinians is not matched by any comparable concern on their part for the gross human rights abuses in the Islamic world. The most striking hypocrisy of the LGBT-RJAI’s, of course, is their quietism — read implied approbation — of the persecution of gay and lesbian people by the militant Islamic regimes, most particularly in Gaza and Iran.

 

The very extreme nature of the RJAI agitation against Israel is an important aspect of this movement. Greenwald and Blumenthal in particular (together with Chomsky) are rarely far from demanding the physical annihilation of Israeli Jews. In view of the sometimes extreme malice in this agitation it is often difficult to maintain detachment in discussing this topic.

 

Now, if the professed motives for the (militant) LGBT-RJAI nexus must be dismissed, there remains the set of non-professed, and perhaps non-conscious, and in any case illogical motivations. Here we enter a murky field of interpretation and speculation. The easy psychoanalytic social interpretations that served previous generations, having generally been found wanting in their explanatory value, are no longer available to us, tempting as they may seem.

 

I have read a fair amount of the self-explanations by LGBT-RJAI individuals, and I have encountered a fair number of such people, mostly young, in person. I will give my impressions with the proviso that I do not insist on them as the final word.

 

The LGBT-RJAI folks I have met and read are often angry in a very diffuse way.   Not only are they furious at Israel, they also tend to identify with the other political radicalisms of the day;  they like to think of themselves as in revolt against everything that the Left-du-jour  is against.  They often feel that their straight parents and the straight people of their parents’ generation do not understand them or their special needs and gifts. Most of all they are angry at what they conceive as (straight) conventional society and (straight) conventional values. The “establishment” is seen as a threat and an enemy. This “establishment,” also known as the One Percent, is supportive of Israel. And Israel, like any part of an establishment, can easily be shown to fall short of the absolute purity that is traditionally demanded by absolutist radicals of all persuasions. As Nelson writes of Judith Butler, there is “the deployment of an abstract, universalizing concept of ‘justice,'” but only, of course, when it comes to the domains controlled by the enemy.

 

In other words, LGBT-RJAI is angry, angry, angry. I do not think that anything that Israel could possibly do or say would reduce this anger, no more, indeed, than anything that the (straight) “establishment” could do or say. My suggestion here is that the professed ideology of the LGBT-RJAI movement — humanitarian idealism — is largely irrelevant to the actual motivations and energies and furies of these largely young people.

 

So, my answer to the kashe that I posed at the beginning is this: the relatively small cadre of gays and lesbians within the RJAI movement is driven by personal furies to energize and stimulate and mobilize a movement that is larger than they. Given the anti-Semitic implications of their work, these Jewish “militants” may very well live to regret the consequences of their activities.

 

Hat tip:  Rita Cohn, Richard Klagsbrun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chomsky’s Followers: A Cult of Rancor

chomsky copy When I recently caught up on my pile of unread copies of the Times Literary Supplement,  I came across a piece of ill-natured polemic in the ostensibly technical field of linguistics.  Professor Kenneth Wexler of MIT, writing in the Letters columns of TLS (10/19/2012),  opined that a distinguished scholar with whom he disagrees  “lives in an alternative universe to the truth.”  The truth, according to Wexler, is the one established by Noam Chomsky, viz. that there is a Universal Grammar underlying all human language.

Concerning the scientific standing or otherwise of Chomskyan linguistics, see the recent work by Christina Behme, here and here.  Unlike Behme, I have not studied these issues in depth and can hardly claim to have an informed opinion.  But, as any Google search will readily confirm, I have a long-term interest in Chomsky’s hostility to Israel (and, I would say, to the Jewish people), and, when I once caught him in an outrageous lie,  I even had the honor of being labelled a “pathological liar” by him.

So it occurred to me that Wexler may be bound to Chomsky by more than theoretical linguistics.  Could it be that he also shares the animus toward Israel ?  We cannot know what is in a man’s heart, but, in these days of Google, we can know what he has chosen to put into the public record about his political commitments.  And, indeed, Professor Wexler is on record as an adversary of the State of Israel.  (See below).

Wexler’s dual ties to Chomskyanism, in and of itself, would not be greatly interesting.  But, as it happens, a check of the best-known linguistic supporters of Chomsky yields at least seven others, for a total of eight,  with such dual ties.  Here is the list:

John Collins, U. of East Anglia, 1/15/09

Norbert Hornstein, U. of Md. 2/24/09

Richard Kayne, NYU, 11/14/11 

David Pesetsky, MIT, 5/7/02

Luigi Rizzi, Siena, 11/14/11 

Tom Roeper, U. of Mass., 11/14/11 

Neil Smith, Univ. Coll., London, 1/15/09

Kenneth Wexler, MIT, 5/7/02

In each case, the date represent links to where the anti-Israel statements can be found.  Not all the statements are equally vitriolic or hostile, but the one of 1/15/09 gives an idea of the tenor of most of them:

Israel must lose. It is not enough to call for another ceasefire, or more humanitarian assistance. It is not enough to urge the renewal of dialogue and to acknowledge the concerns and suffering of both sides. If we believe in the principle of democratic self-determination, if we affirm the right to resist military aggression and colonial occupation, then we are obliged to take sides… against Israel, and with the people of Gaza and the West Bank.

There are at least some linguists associated with the Chomsky school who are not on record  against Israel, and, of course, there are many non-linguist academics who are.  On the other hand, not everyone who feels rancor and resentment against Israel will go on public record.  So my list is an indication of the very minimum of those so aligned.  Moreover, I  have not found a single case of a Chomsky-aligned linguist who is on record as supportive of Israel.  (My internet search was not exhaustive.)

All in all, these materials give  persuasive anecdotal grounds for believing that the Chomsky cult, in both linguistics and politics, is at least in part based on grounds that are neither rational nor scientific.  Neither reason nor science can account for the striking circumstance that so many who are committed to Universal Grammar also happen to be committed to opposition to Israel.

Addendum, Aug. 13, 2016

Here are two more Chomsky-supporting linguists who are also on record as opposed to Israel:

David Lightfoot

Marc D. Hauser

READ ALSO:  “The Marketing of Noam Chomsky,” by Jean-Charles Chebat. (In French.) 

 

The Enmity Movements

Dr. Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945)
German Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda
One of man’s most persistent traits is hate.  Is it an “instinct” and absolutely universal in the human species, or is but a response to frustration, as the “frustration-aggression” theorists would have it ?  While varying in degree and type among cultures and individuals, one would be hard put to find humans altogether without it.

It also seems clear that certain groups and individuals seem to have more than their share.  In fact — and this is the subject of this blog posting — there are organized movements that specialize in the theory and practice of fostering enmity and hate.  The historical examples are of course clear:  pre-eminent among them are the totalitarian movements of the last century.  But I will not focus on these here.  Instead, I propose to turn attention to some examples in contemporary America.First, some preliminary observations.

World literature has some outstanding haters, and it would seem that the enmity groups of today have been inspired by these, at least in part.  (I have looked in vain for something like a history of vituperation among the famous writers of the past, but,  as far as I can detect, a book like that is no more than a desideratum.) Some of the great haters of the past include, at a minimum, Martin Luther, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Adolf Hitler.

Hatred against Jews is prominent among historical hatreds, but it is not the only such enmity that is captured in the great literature of the past.  Be that as it may, in the case of Luther and Marx (and of course Hitler), it plays an outstanding role.

As to Luther, according to Wikipedia:

Luther describes Jews as a “base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage,circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth.”[1] Luther wrote that they are “full of the devil‘s feces … which they wallow in like swine,”[2] and the synagogue is an “incorrigible whore and an evil slut”.[3]

And here is Karl Marx:

Let us consider the actual, worldly Jew – not the Sabbath Jew, as Bauer does, but the everyday Jew.
Let us not look for the secret of the Jew in his religion, but let us look for the secret of his religion in the real Jew.
What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.
Very well then! Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our time.

Most of the descriptive literature of these classic haters mentions their violent, vituperative, vitriolic polemical style.  But this style is usually considered as no more than an aspect of the particular issues of the time.  I think that it deserves a treatment all of its own.  I think that this style, in its radical disregard of the personhood of its targets, often seeks no less than the physical annihilation of enemies.  Wishing the death of opponents, and the attempted and sometimes accomplished murder, are fairly common features of the hate groups, as we shall see.

When we come to enmity groups in contemporary America, it would seem that certain religious and political sects give us the most conspicuous examples.  None of these groups are very large, but neither are they, in their totality, too insignificant to deserve attention.  (There are also enmity groups that cannot easily be described as either religious or political — e.g. Scientology and the Larouche cult — for which there are ample descriptions on the internet.)

The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka is perhaps the most extreme example that one can find of an enmity group.   Their in-the-face hate picketing in various parts of the country — “God Hates America,” “God Hates Israel,” “Fags Eat Poop,” — give the impression of parody, but that does not seem to be the intention.  Their latest antic was to declare that “God Sent the Shooter” at the funeral of Sandy Hook victims.

Not all groups that start out as hate groups remain so forever.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses of the 1930’s certainly promoted enmity.  Their favorite slogan — “Religion is a Snare and a Racket” — was used by them to shock Catholics.  On one occasion, June 25, 1939, there was a bloody brawl between JW members and those of another hate group, Charles Coughlin’s  Christian Front.  These combative years of the Witnesses seem to have been confined to those of J. F. Rutherford undisputed leadership (1917-1942).

A number of other religious sects have enmity practices that are mostly internal:  one faction opposes another, using extreme verbal violence that sometimes becomes physical assault.  We have such reports regarding Satmar Hasidim and occasionally other Hasidic groupings.  And back in 1933, the American-Armenian Archbishop Leon Tourian was assassinated in New York by members of an opposing Armenian faction.  And so forth.

One religious enmity group, or rather a set of such groupings, are known as the Closed Brethren divisions of the larger Plymouth Brethren movement.  These Closed Brethren, best described by the late Bryan R. Wilson in a series of publications, have now been with us for almost two hundred years.  Their history is one of holier-than-thou and mutually antagonistic grouplets, marked by excommunications, shunning, and extremely hateful language toward one another.  The fact that their numerous antagonisms concern mainly their inner politics, and also the fact that — as far as I know — there have been no reported cases of physical violence, would explain why these people have not generally attracted the attention of mainline media.

Coming now to the more political enmity groups, there are of course the classic haters like the Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Nazis, etc.  Their hatreds are well documented and obvious, and need no more discussion here.

The old American Communist Party, on the other hand, is not conventionally classed as a hate group.  And perhaps, if it were not for the excellent writings of some ex-Communists, most of us would simply not know about the culture of enmity in the old CP, i.e. in the years of its virulence, roughly from 1930 to 1960.  (The Party today is of course but a pale shadow of its past, and I do not discuss its current situation here.)

The historian Aileen S. Kraditor, having spent about a decade in the CP beginning in 1947, published her remarkable book “‘Jimmy Higgins’, The Mental World of the American Rank – and – File Communist” in 1988.  No other work, to my knowledge, has given us as much detailed and insightful information about the Party’s internal atmosphere of hatred, which was directed as much against perceived “renegades” as against the ostensible main enemy, capitalism. Kraditor devotes her fourth chapter specifically to “the rationale of hate” in the Party, a hatred which, from time to time, explicitly called for the death of opponents.   And she quotes from a 1937 article in a party journal:

It is from Marx we inherit the quality of fierce partisanship rising from objective historic analysis ;  his writings live today not as disembodied , cold philosophy, but, because of their intensive scientific objectivity, bright with the fires of hatred for the oppressors, which is but the other aspect of love for the working class and its vanguard.

The old CP is dead, more or less, but Marxist-Leninist enmity promotion still lives in America. It seems most virulent today in a group that had been a prime target of Stalinist hatreds, the Trotskyists.

Now as ever, Trotskyism is divided into numerous quarreling little sects, much like the Esclusive Brethren mentioned above.  Many of these groupuscules have been around for years, others arise and fall because of splits and mergers, and some seem to die due to pure exhaustion.  But there is one group, the International Socialist Organization, that, more than any of the others, seems to show signs of energy at the moment.

The ISO is “Cliffite,” e.g. it adheres to that branch of Trotskyism that was founded by the late Tony Cliff of the British Socialist Workers Party.  Unlike most of the other Trotskyist groups, the Cliffites did not defend the Soviet Union as a “workers state,” insisting, instead, that it was marked by “state capitalism.”  But while it was thus more reasonable in regard to Stalinism, Cliffism has been,  at some distance, the most rejectionist about Israel in this overall anti-Israel group of organizations:  for the Cliffite groups that there is no right of Israel to exist, no matter how tiny its borders. The issue is discussed here by one of the SWP”s Trotskyist rivals in Britain, Workers Liberty.

The verbal violence of the ISO is remarkable, certainly for a post-Stalinist organization.  Here is a video of an ISO meeting last year in Chicago

 

ISO’s Comrade Sherry Wolf tells us that she wants to “piss on Reagan’s grave” (see below at 33:24)

Over in England, the Cliffites have a friend and collaborator in the House of Commons, the Honourable Gentleman from Bradford West,  Mr. George Galloway.  Here he appears at a debate at Oxford, February, 2013

Finally, we have a talk on the website of the New York ISO branch that features Ms. Lannis Deek, an Arab-American lawyer and supporter of Hamas,  in which she claims that “Zionists” like David Ben Gurion have advocated and practiced the cold-blooded, indiscriminate murder of Palestinians:

Comrade Deek purports to cite Ben Gurion.  I have been unable to receive a reply from her when I inquired about the source of this alleged quotation.  The text is, however, listed in a compendium of false “Zionist” quotations that has been made available by CAMERA.  Comrade Deek is a member of the NY State Bar, whose Rules of Professional Conduct (Rule 8.4(c)) prohibit a lawyer, ISO member or not, from  “[engaging] in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” She may wish to review these Rules.

The history of enemy groups — which I have tried to sketch from Martin Luther to, if you will excuse me, Lannis Deek — is obviously part of our tradition, and is unlikely to end in our times.  I offer these comments in the hope that a greater understanding of such groups will help to mitigate the harm that they do.

See also

The Language of Hate: Animal Attributions

The Trotskyist Movement’s Changing Positions on Israel