Stand With Us is the new Chabad. The difference is that while Chabad inveigles secular Jews to return to their religion, SWU evangelizes a pro-Israel message to Jewish gays otherwise ignorant on the subject. For those not in the know, SWU is a militantly pro-Israel propaganda group here in the U.S. A member of the board of its local Seattle chapter sent me an e-mail saying I should be publicly spanked for my views. And this guy is also a board member of my synagogue, and a social worker at the local Jewish old age home, if you can believe it!
The Jerusalem Post features a mind-boggling story about a new SWU program tied to Israel’s Gay Pride rally which will bring thousands of Jews from abroad to mingle with Israel’s gay community. Roz Rothstein and her fellow SWU Politburo members must’ve thought: “Hey, what better time to convert some of those ignorant, sexually-starved Galut gays to pro-Israelism than this??” Out of this came iPride, which is meant to join the notion of gay pride with pro-Israel pride.
As part of the campaign, SWU is taking a page from the Aipac playbook, bringing 15 key gay opinion-molders to Israel for a round of indoctrination in the guise of studying Israel’s gay culture:
A group of prominent gay opinion-shapers from around the world are to visit Israel to grapple with the country’s sexuality issues on a five-day seminar centering around Tel Aviv’s gay pride parade, scheduled for Friday.
iPride, a project created by international Israel advocacy organization Stand With Us, will begin on Wednesday and focus on showing participants a side to Israel that does not revolve around “conflict” in the traditional military sense.
Instead, the group will hear from speakers discussing the issue of sexuality within Israeli institutions such as government, the IDF and Israeli film, and discover more about Israel’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The event will bring together around 15 magazine editors, reporters, academics and activists from Harvard, Berlin, the UK, Spain and Italy, including Queer Eye for the Straight Guy presenter Brian Kelly. Speakers at the seminar will include influential figures from Israel’s LGBT community, such as Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz and movie producer and Kochav Nolad (“A Star is Born”) TV judge Gal Uchovsky.
The idea is to improve Israel’s image across the globe, according to Noa Meir, coordinator of iPride.
In addition to the gay Israel mission, SWU has created a fellowship program to groom Israeli leaders of tomorrow to be mouthpieces in the campaign on behalf of Israel’s image at home and abroad:
Meir is participating in the Stand With Us fellowship program, which recruits 20 people on the Tel Aviv University campus and 150 students from around Israel in an effort to groom the country’s future leaders.
Why is SWU doing this? Because they truly want to paint Israel as a shining example of western liberalism and sexual tolerance? Maybe, though I’ve never before known SWU to take any role in issues of gay rights. I think rather, there is a more sinister motive that goes a lot farther in explaining the group’s motivation.
These gay pro-Israel Manchurian Candidates will not merely speak nicely of Israel, they will also, at key junctures, help Israel advance its policy agenda abroad. A perfect example is the current campaign to smear Iranian democracy in the run up to tomorrow’s presidential election. The Israeli foreign ministry is staging mock executions of women and gays out side Iranian embassies in order to point out that the country is a sham democracy and absolutely medieval compared to the west. All this helps Israel soften public sentiment for war. Two key constituencies Israel seeks to draw on board are gays and feminists who they’d love to see leading these demonstrations.
So the SWU project is perfectly timed to that end. Another thing should be pointed out here. SWU, as with other pro-Israel lobbying groups like the Israel Project and Aipac, is not simply a movement of good-hearted volunteers dedicated to Israel. It is a group of professional propagandists whose agenda is closely coordinated with the Israeli diplomatic, military and intelligence communities.
To give you an idea how they fudge when it comes to their true mission, here is what they write at the iPride website about “who we are:”
iPride is an Israeli project under the auspices of StandWithUS – an international, non-profit organization that promotes a better understanding of Israel, through examination of diverse issues.
The StandWithUs fellowship gives Israeli students the opportunity to be active in areas that are close to their hearts, and promote social activism on various levels.
This is rhetoric meant to pull the wool over the eyes of unsuspecting Jewish gays unschooled in the ways of hasbara. It’s precisely the same as the Chabadnik who stops you on Venice Beach and asks you if you’ve laid tefillin that day. They begin with the soft pitch. Later they get to the hard stuff.
iPride supposedly doesn’t touch the hard stuff (has v’halilah) like the Israeli-Arab conflict. Where is the need? They can program that once they’ve reeled you in as a convert:
Although the event deliberately avoids the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the idea for the project was partly inspired by reactions to Operation Cast Lead – specifically one incident in San Francisco which saw a gay group identifying with the Palestinian cause and publicly calling to “free the gays in Israel.”
“We know that gays around the world are liberal usually and they tend to identify with the Palestinians,” explained Meir, “and we find it a bit ironic because you can’t really be gay in the Palestinian territories.”
Meir’s gonna have to tell that to the tens of thousands of gay Palestinians. Tell me: just what the hell does this guy know about Palestinians, gay or otherwise? Gornisht, that’s what.
Let’s close with this delightful paean to the fraudulent dream of Israeli multiculturalism:
“We’re hoping to show that Israel is a liberal country, a multicultural, pluralistic country,” emphasized Meir. “That is a side of Israel we are very proud of and that we think should be shown around the world.
“Unfortunately it’s a side that doesn’t get enough attention… As far as a lot of people are concerned, Israel is Gaza and the West Bank and tanks, and they don’t see the beautiful culture and the liberal side.”
Let me ask one itty-bitty question: how can Jewish gays be truly free at the expense of 20% of the inhabitants who are even less free than they? Not to mention the 700,000 expelled in 1948? Can gays celebrate their alleged freedom to be themselves when millions of other Israelis and Palestinians are disenfranchised? I hope everyone reading this will ponder Michael Levin’s masterful poster above.
RE: “Why is SWU doing this? Because they truly want to paint Israel as a shining example of western liberalism and sexual tolerance?”
SEE: “Israeli MP blames quakes on gays”, By BBC News, 02/20/08
(EXCERPT) An Israeli MP has blamed parliament’s tolerance of gays for earthquakes that have rocked the Holy Land recently.
Shlomo Benizri, of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas Party, said the tremors had been caused by lawmaking that gave “legitimacy to sodomy”.
Israel decriminalised homosexuality in 1988 and has since passed several laws recognising gay rights.
Two earthquakes shook the region last week and a further four struck in November and December….
ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7255657.stm
Alex Stein says
“Meir’s gonna have to tell that to the tens of thousands of gay Palestinians. Tell me: just what the hell does this guy know about Palestinians, gay or otherwise?”
Richard, it’s perfectly possible to be for Palestine and against homophobia – http://www.workersliberty.org/node/2139.
Richard Silverstein says
That wasn’t my point nor was it Meir’s. His point was that one couldn’t BE gay and be Palestinian, which was beyond stupid.
Actually, I believe Meir’s comment was intended to show that you couldn’t be publicly out of the closet in the Palestinian territories these days.
Btw, in Israel Noa is a girl’s name.
Alex Stein says
I think you’re reading him too literally; it seems clear to me that he’s talking about openly practicing your homosexuality in the territories.
Richard Silverstein says
That’s not what he said. He said you can’t be homosexual in Palestine. I usually give people the credit of interpreting what they say, and not what they might’ve meant to say if they’d only expressed themselves more clearly (since I have no idea what he might’ve meant to say).
Joachim Martillo says
While Arabs don’t like public displays of sexuality whether hetero or homo, many Arab and Islamic countries have more than sufficient opportunities for the gratification of homoerotic desires.
Interesting stuff. Hasbara is taking a serious gamble with gays – a visit from, say, human rights activist Peter Tatchell could blow this whole thing up in Israel’s face.
I was reading this and wondering if, after Max Blumenthal’s ‘Feeling The Hate’ video, Jerusalem will be out of bounds for those that iPride indoctrinates, because again, that could blow this thing up in Israel’s face.
Joachim Martillo says
I have tried to summarize the historical role of gay discourse within Jewish politics (no just Zionist) in Origins: Zionist Gay Pubic Diplomacy.
Before critics grab their long knives, I am not taking any position on anything within the article. I am trying briefly to explain the intellectual history of a type of political discourse within the political economics of identity.
I don’t think you have anything to worry about it. It seems that most politically militant homosexuals are very pro-Palestinian and hostile to Israel. I would attribute it to the fact, that for better or for worse, most of the world associates Israel with Judaism and the Jewish people (I am not talking about the internal Zionist dialogue which of course includes anti-religious and “Canaanite” trends, but how the outside world, particularly non-Jews who are not knowledgable about these things view Israel). Of course, much of the traditional opposition to homosexuality in the Western world comes from the Bible and so, as these militants view the opposition to their lifestyle as coming from the Jews and Judaism, so those who oppose the Jews (regardless of their own attitudes towards homosexuals as opposed towards Israel’s) as being the original bearers of this message would naturally be attracted to their enemies, as they see it. I think Jean Genet would be an example of this.
Thus, you don’t have to be worried that a large number of homosexuals will be taken in and become “pro-Israel” simply because Israel treats them better than the Palestinians or Iran do. It’s the principle that counts.
Richard Silverstein says
Whoa, that’s scary. Are they the ones who impose their aberrant lifestyle on our children & commit serial heinous acts to offend the public order??
And as Nate wrote earlier, I guess Peter Tatchell might qualify for this category yet he’s quite pro-Israel. Such generalizations are entirely ridiculous. But that won’t stop you fr. making them.
But you & I won’t make that mistake, now will we?? Israel is not Judaism and not even the Jewish people (as a whole). It is a prominent motif within Judaism and an aspiration of much, but not all of the Jewish people.
What total blather. Gays blame the Jewish people for antagonism to homosexuality?? Really.
Considering he died about 30 yrs ago & hardly anyone knows anything he might’ve said on this particular subject, I’d say it’s a tremendously useful reference.
Regarding “bigotry” which everyone is talking about because of MODOWEISS’s video of the American kids in Jersualem making unkind remarks about Obama, it reminds me of a poll you quoted some time ago about racism in Israel. The poll showed many Israelis don’t trust Arabs. Given the way the “progressives” have been using this video, in addition to polls like this and the relative success of Lieberman’s party in the last elections, the “progressives” have launched a campaign to show that Zionism is racist to the core and anyone who supports it is, ipso facto, a racist and a bigot. In your comments about this, you then added that Arabs, on the other hand, are not racist. Your comment has stuck with me because as we keep hearing about the news from Iraq where Shi’ites and Sunnis keep slaughtering each other and other such atrocities, most people here would find that statement hard to believe (see if a Jew could buy an apartment in Um El-Fahem or other Arab towns the way Arabs are buying apartments in Jewish towns).
Well, here is a comment by “Angry Arab” As’ad Abu-Khalil. He is not someone that could be called “pro-Israel” or a “Hasbarist”. See what he thinks about “Arab racism”:
Richard Silverstein says
I’ve featured that video here & written an entire post about it & consider myself “progressive.” Would you care to prove that I’ve said anywhere that Zionism is “racist to the core” and Zionists are racists & bigots?
Hardly, because I don’t believe this. There are Arab racists just as there are Jewish & ZIonist racists. But not everyone in any of these camps is racist.
RE: ‘STAND WITH US’ PRO-ISRAEL GAY FRAUD
*FROM JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE: “Tell Israel not to jail Ezra Nawi”
Join Naomi Klein, Neve Gordon, Noam Chomsky and thousands of others and tell Israel not to jail Ezra Nawi, one of Israel’s most courageous human rights activists.
His crime? He tried to stop a military bulldozer from destroying the homes of Palestinian Bedouins in the South Hebron region.
Nawi, a gay Jewish Israeli of Iraqi descent, is a threat to the settlers and the Israeli government because he has brought international attention to efforts to illegally remove Palestinians from the Hebron region. He will be sentenced in July.
*TAKE ACTION – http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/301/t/9462/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27357
Ayala Shani says
See a report about an action against it here:
Richard Silverstein says
Thanks for that.
Sorry, but it’s abundantly self-evident that Meir’s comment about the challenge of being gay in Palestinian society was about being OUT as gay. And about having any legal or civil rights. You then argue that:
“That’s not what he said. He said you can’t be homosexual in Palestine. I usually give people the credit of interpreting what they say, and not what they might’ve meant to say if they’d only expressed themselves more clearly (since I have no idea what he might’ve meant to say).”
Oh, really? So it was in the same spirit of objective and respectful debate that you created the fictitious quote below, which you attributed to “SWU Politburo members”?:
“Hey, what better time to convert some of those ignorant, sexually-starved Galut gays to pro-Israelism than this??”
What a hypocrite. I agree that one can and should engage in a respectful debate about the various PR and advocacy campaigns created by the Israeli government and it’s supporters. But if you’re going to demand that the targets of your anger stick to the facts and speak clearly, then do the same.
And on the content of that statement attributed to Meir, to factual basis of it is beyond dispute. Being openly gay in the Palestinian territories is very challenging and often dangerous. Gays in the West Bank and Gaza (especially men) are regularly harassed, and are often the victims of anti-gay violence. There is no protection against this sort of bias from the Palestinian Authority or the police.
Of course, there are plenty of gay Palestinians, there are entire underground subcultures of gay society in the West Bank (particularly in Ramallah) there are some closeted senior officials in the PA, and there are even small pockets in the West Bank where gays can be discreetly “out” (certain restaurants and cafes). This is abundantly well documented. For some examples, go to asylumlaw dot org and look for the Palestine/Occupied Territories case support.
Does saying it’s bad for gays in the West Bank and Gaza mean it’s heaven for gays in Israel? No.
And the situation for gay Palestinians (including Israeli Arabs) within Israel is complicated, and often quite bad and poorly addressed by Israeli authorities. But belittling Meir’s statement is not dealing with that. Wouldn’t an objective and respectful debate be equally critical of Palestinian treatment of LGBT people as it is of inflated claims of social tolerance from Israeli-government backers?
Richard Silverstein says
Sorry, but that’s not what Meir wrote. I don’t read people’s minds. If they have something to say it’s their responsibility to say it. I base my view on what they actually say unless it’s abundantly self evident what they meant to say. Contrary to yr view, Meir’s comment wasn’t. It was sloppy & sloganish & precisely in accord w. typical Stand With Us propaganda.
You’re being disingenuous. The “quote” I created below was meant as politcal satire & clear to any reasonable person (esp. through my exagerrated phrase “SWU politburo members”). If you took the passage literally then you ought to do some reading in the art of political satire & use of hyperbole to make a rhetorical pt.
It is as difficult to be gay in Palestine as it would be if Israel were a theocratic state and the ultra-Orthodox (or settlers) ran society. In other words, Palestine is a largely traditional society in which such social issues will gradually evolve as society brushes up against more tolerant, western attitudes on the subject.
You may or may not realize that propaganda groups like SWU make a point of talking about how much more open & tolerant Israel is than Palestine. They tout Israel’s alleged feminism and tolerance of gay lifestyle, which is precisely why they attempted to hijack the Gay Pride event to proselytize to international gays about Israel. Either you aren’t aware of this hasbara tactic or you deliberately downplay it.
Why don’t you create your own blog and do that yourself? I encourage everyone who has a voice & pt of view to make their perspective heard through blogs. I have my own perspective on what’s important for me to add to the blog world. I know a good deal about Palestinian society but I’m not Palestinian & not gay. So for me to attack the alleged bigotedness of Palestinian society would appear quite condescending I think. HOwever, I am critical of Palestinian values and politics. If you spent any time here you would know that. But that is not the theme of this blog. I’m far more knowledgeable and passionate about Israel. That’s my subject.
Of course this is an old post, but very interesting stuff.
This may be a stupid question, but I am curious if anyone knows the pervading views of Israeli settlers on homosexuality. Presumably it is considered a sin and and totally unacceptable, but I am just wondering if anyone has first hand experience with this. My relatives there (while I totally disagree with their politics) are fairly open-minded about quite a few social, environmental and spiritual issues. I am not sure what will happen when I come out to them.
Richard Silverstein says
Please take it slowly & carefully so as not to be too disappointed or angered if the reaction wasn’t what you’d hoped. If yr relatives are Orthodox it’s considered a grave sin by most Orthodox Jews (though not the englightened ones). I wish you luck & hope it works out for you & them.