“Rabbi” Shmuley Boteach’s multi-million dollar hasbara ad campaign financed by Sheldon Adelson continues with a new series of pinkwashing ads in the New York Times, Washington Post and other papers. This is the latest ad in a propaganda series. It is is co-sponsored with StandWithUs, which also has made pinkwashing a hallmark of its pro-Israel advocacy. The ad features a gay non-Jew named Rennick Remley, who claims to “love Israel.” Boteach expands upon the ad in this Jerusalem Post broadside.
What the ad doesn’t tell you is that Remley isn’t simply a gay non-Jewish lover of Zion. In fact, he’s a paid Republican political gunslinger who’s run campaigns for many right-wing candidates, including Boteach himself in his unsuccessful bid for a New Jersey House seat. Remley’s LinkedIn account reveals he’s also worked for, or run campaigns for Ryan Costello, a failed GOP Pittsburgh county-executive candidate, and Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson’s short-lived presidential campaign.
R is clearly a gun for hire. This ad represents the power of Sheldon Adelson’s money to buy support in the gay community. Remley has joined the right-wing pro-Israel gravy train. He’s a ventriloquist’s dummy spouting views that are convenient to Boteach and Adelson’s Islamophobia.
On what basis does Remley make his judgement that Israel is a “model” state for gays? On living there? On long-term interaction with Israeli gays? On credible media or academic sources? On what basis does he claim knowledge of the status of gays in Palestine or Iran? He acknowledges no sources, facts or even personal experiences that support his claims.
This Wikipedia article is one good place to start. It notes that Jordanian law passed in 1951 decriminalized homosexuality in the West Bank. But British mandatory law remains in effect in Gaza, which continues to criminalize homosexual acts. The article makes no reference whatsoever to torture or murder of Palestinian gays.
That doesn’t stop Remley from spreading unsubstantiated rumors:
Gay Palestinians have been tortured and killed.
There are Israeli sources like Shaul Gannon, who have made such claims. But he has never authenticated such claims. It’s also worth noting that Shaul Gannon has pled guilty to having sex with a Jewish minor while he was director of the gay community center which was attacked in Tel Aviv (see below). He’s not the most trustworthy source. In fact, it was originally claimed by the police that Gannon’s alleged rape had spurred the victim’s relatives to attack the community center in revenge.
Israeli police are not above using the gay “blood libel” of Palestinian honor killing when it suits their purpose. A Shin Bet or police source first claimed that Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who’d been burned to death in a terror killing by Jewish terrorists, was killed by his family in a gay honor killing.
Let’s examine these claims of the ad for veracity:
If I lived in Gaza or Israel’s neighboring states I would be thrown in jail, mutilated or killed…Israel is the only country in the region where I can live without fear.
This is entirely false. Of course, you must begin with a nuanced examination of Israel’s neighbors, something alien to Boteach’s propagandist approach. Beirut has a flourishing gay community. And there are gay communities (though in many places they cannot be “out”) in almost every one of these states. Of course, traditional Islam, just like Orthodox Judaism, views homosexuality with great hostility. So even though there are gays among both Orthodox and traditional Muslim communities, many conceal themselves for their own protection.
Gays are not killed in Gaza as Remley claims. Neither are they especially welcome there. Nor are they especially welcome in Israeli Haredi communities. In fact, an Israeli homophobe mass-murderer killed two Israeli gay teenagers in a community center in Tel Aviv. The crime still has not been solved years after the tragedy, which traumatized Israel’s gay community. No mention of this inconvenient fact in Shmuley’s ad. Nor of the knifing of an Israeli participant in the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade several years ago. Fear? Israeli secular gays still live in fear. Though not as much as gays in some Arab states.
Nor the fact that Israeli gays may not marry since marriages are performed by Orthodox rabbis who, you guessed it, would consider gay marriage an abomination. Even civil (which would have to be performed outside Israel since there is no civil marriage in Israel) gay marriage is not recognized in Israel. That means Israeli gay rights are behind those of 30 U.S. states. No mention either of the relatively low level of acceptance of homosexuality in Israeli polls (40% compared to 60% in the U.S.). Nor the fact that there have only been two “out” MKs and they were both from Meretz, a party Boteach despises. There has never been an “out” gay Likud (or any other right-wing party) MK.
Here’s some more ad copy worth reviewing:
Hamas calls homosexuals subhuman, accusing us of engaging in a “filthy practice” that is punishable by death.
Hmm. Apparently Boteach, who is an Orthodox rabbi, neglected to tell his former employee that Judaism levies the death penalty against gays as well:
“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
Of course, no Jew would pursue such recourse and such punishments are no longer taken literally (as they generally aren’t in Arab lands). But the hostility behind these attitudes remains strong. In fact, were Remley to convert to Orthodox Judaism as an ‘out’ gay, he would not be welcome in any Orthodox community where Boteach is currently welcome. Lucky for him he hasn’t converted.
Shmuley himself has a tortured attitude toward homoesexuality as this NY Observer column he penned notes:
I am an orthodox Rabbi, and I freely acknowledge that the Bible clearly labels homosexuality a sin. However, it is not a moral sin but rather akin to the prohibition of lighting fire on the Sabbath or eating bread on Passover. It may violate the divine will…
If you follow me, being gay is a religious sin that “violates divine will.” That somehow is less grave a sin than a moral sin. All Jewish gays should breathe easily now. Reb Shmuley has just made them kosher, at least in his own eyes, if not the eyes of any other Orthodox rabbis.
In this earlier interview when he was still at Oxford (in 2008), he gives a similarly twisted but revealing account of homosexuality in Jewish tradition:
…Homosexual acts are wrong…because the Torah says they are wrong, and not because they are an aberration or sickness. Sexuality as a whole is instinctive, and both heterosexuality and homosexuality are natural. Then why does G-d say that heterosexual love is holy and homosexual love is an abomination? Heterosexual love is the way the human race propagates itself. G-d demands that we regulate our sexual activity so that we will lead happier lives and fulfill our commitments to our communities.
The Torah is against homosexual acts, not homosexual people. Judaism and G-d love all people…The Torah condemns the homosexual act, not homosexual love or the homosexual urge. “Judaism does not prohibit or in any way look down upon homosexual love. In the eyes of Judaism the love between two men or two women can be as natural as the love between a man and a woman. What it does prohibit is homosexual intercourse.”
Boteach recommends the Jewish approach to homosexuality focus on the benefits of heterosexuality, rather than on the repulsion of homosexuality. He also thinks that Jews with homosexual preferences should make a concerted effort to reorient their preference and to lead a life according to Jewish law (Halacha).
To clarify, Boteach claims that the homosexual act is a sin because it doesn’t lead to propagation of the species. His creepy call for “re-orientation” of gays to Halacha sounds like a cross between conversion therapy and the Catholic teaching that gays may be good Catholics as long as they abstain from sex.
More Remley claims:
…Many Palestinian gays men risk their lives to cross the border and seek refuge in Israel.
There are such Palestinian gays in Israel and they flee for many reasons. If they do “risk their lives” to do so it’s because of the brutal Israeli Border Police who beat, torture and even kill those who cross the “border” illegally. Once Palestinian gays do arrive in Israel they are not offered “refuge” there as Remley claims. There have been almost no successful legal appeals for refugee status for Palestinian gays. The Border Police hunt these Palestinians down even after they’ve arrived in Israel and return them to the West Bank if caught. The Shabak also recruits among this population, since vulnerable Palestinians are an excellent source of spy recruits.
Back to the ad:
If I lived in Iran, or under Hamas’ ideological cousin, ISIS, chances are you’d be seeing my picture…hanging from a crane in a public square. That’s a regular practice against gay men by the Iranian regime.
The Wikipedia article on this subject states the following:
According to The Boroumand Foundation, there are records of at least 107 executions with charges related to homosexuality between 1979 and 1990. According to Amnesty International, at least 5 people convicted of “homosexual tendencies”, three men and two women, were executed in January 1990, as a result of the Iranian government’s policy of calling for the execution of those who practice homosexuality…
But the article also notes the following:
Iran insists that it does not execute people for homosexuality, and that homosexuals who have been executed have either committed rape, murder, or drug trafficking.
Clearly, there is great hostility against homosexuality among the Iranian government and clerical class. But there is also a thriving gay community in Iran that manages to exist despite this repression. As for execution being a “regular practice” in Iran. This claim is false.
We only have to imagine Israel’s Haredi rabbinic leadership running Israel as the Iranian ayatollahs do, and it becomes much easier to imagine these same sorts of punishments being possible in a theocratic Israel. In other words, the only reason Israeli gays may not be killed is because those who would kill them don’t have official power to do so.
Here’s more gross exaggeration in the ad:
The only way for gays to avoid persecution in Iran is to undergo a forced sex change operation.
As usual, the facts are different:
It’s not official government policy to force gay men or women to undergo gender reassignment but the pressure can be intense.
Clearly, many Iranian officials are ignorant and fearful of homosexuality and seek to understand it in tortured ways. The same fear, hatred and tortured misunderstanding exists in Israel and around the world. Further, there’s only a hop, skip and a few jump from Boteach’s own “orientation” approach and this atrocious one toward gays.
Shmuley’s Jerusalem Post column makes another specious claim about the ad:
…These facts are indisputable…
First they are claims, not ‘facts;’ and they’re certainly not indisputable.
Here’s another disputable Shmuley-fact claiming Hamas is:
…A gay-hating, radically homophobic, murderous and barbarous death cult?
Maybe Shmuley should deal with such views closer to his own Orthodox Jewish “home” before excoriating Palestinians for “sins” occuring in his own circles.
Let’s ask another question: is Shmuley’s ad motivated by love of gays or another cause? Shmuley’s never made a point of championing gay rights in the U.S. Nor has he ever championed it in places where gays are actually murdered routinely like Uganda and other African states. In fact, in some of these countries, Christian evangelical political operatives have helped write anti-gay laws. These activists are natural allies of the GOP Boteach. Seems Reb Shmuley has some ‘splainin’ to do.
As does the New York Times for running such blatantly false claims in its pages. If Shmuley was selling a product it would be subject to false claims in advertising. Doesn’t the Times care whether its advertisers spread outright lies?