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January 16, 2014 7:52 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Incoming ASA Chief Accuses Forbes Writer of Homophobia After Scathing Critique of Her Anti-Israel Stance

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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The screenshot of NYU Prof. and ASA President Lisa Duggan giving a lecture in Utah about gender identity that she said Forbes Contributor Richard Behar chose to incite homophobic slurs against her. Photo: Screenshot.

The screenshot of NYU Prof. and incoming ASA President Lisa Duggan giving a lecture in Utah about gender identity that she said Forbes Contributor Richard Behar chose to incite homophobic slurs against her. Photo: Screenshot.

Forbes magazine’s Contributing Editor of Investigations, Richard Behar, who this week published a scathing 15,000-word indictment of the American Studies Association’s vote to boycott Israeli universities, was accused of homophobia by Lisa Duggan, the NYU professor elected to head the ASA and a new voice demonizing Israel that he profiled in the article.

In an interview with The Algemeiner, Behar said that he found her accusations, in a back-and-forth email conversation, confounding and beside the point.

“It’s like she’s pulling out the proverbial ‘race card’ -this one of homophobia — but it’s just deflecting from the issues; it’s a false flag,” Behar said. “And she’s wrong, since I’m not homophobic, how could the article be homophobic?”

She said the article and the photos I chose were done in such a way to inspire homophobes online and create hate mail for her, which simply isn’t true. I’m sorry about the hate mail she’s received, but I disagree – the article was about Israel and the ASA boycott of Israeli universities,” Behar said.

In the piece published by Forbes, Behar described her academic specialty, and those of the other 17-members of the ASA board, to make the point that not one was an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or even the Middle East generally. As such, they can’t have a deep understanding of an issue that was a mono-topic for their group meeting. Indeed, he asks in the article, what business does the American Studies Association have issuing such a harsh boycott of something so far outside their realm?

Behar wrote:

Duggan’s academic specialties are modern U.S. cultural, social and political history; history of gender and sexuality; and lesbian and gay studies. One course of hers at NYU is called ‘Queer Historiographies and Constructions of Whiteness in the United States.’ Her claim to fame: Inventing the word ‘homonormativity’ to explain how many gays now want to mimic straight people, in terms of ‘domesticity and consumption.’

Is Duggan aware that Israel, who she considers one of the greatest oppressors of human rights in the world, is quite possibly the gayest-friendly country in the world, let alone the tyrannical Middle East? Yes, but she and many of her cronies call it ‘pinkwashing’ – in essence a conspiracy by Israelis to support gays in order to detract attention from their treatment of Palestinians. In other words, Israel just can’t do anything worthwhile.

“She has to deal with the issues,” he told The Algemeiner. “Aside from the ASA vote, the most important issue I mention in the piece is her support for a convicted Palestinian terrorist, and she doesn’t mention anything about that to me in her emails, just the hate mail she’s received; it’s all about homophobia to her.”

In the article, Behar questioned Duggan’s support for Rasmea Yousef Odeh, a convicted terrorist in Israel, who was accused in U.S. federal court of lying multiple times on her application to gain U.S. citizenship in 1994.

According to a federal indictment filed in Detroit in October, Odeh played a role and was imprisoned for planting a bomb in a crowded supermarket in Jerusalem in 1969 that killed two Israelis. Odeh is also alleged to have played a role in a second bombing that damaged the British Consulate. The terror acts were carried out in the name the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

Odeh was sentenced to life in prison by an Israeli military court, but served only 10 years before being released in a mass prisoner exchange for one Israeli soldier kidnapped in Lebanon, in 1978. When Odeh applied for U.S. citizenship, in 1994, she allegedly lied three times on her application, Behar said, “falsely stating that she lived in Jordan continuously since 1948, that she was never charged with a crime, and that she was never imprisoned for one.”

Duggan asked her Twitter followers to sign a statement demanding Odeh’s release: “Read the story and sign the petition!,” she tweeted. “Drop the Charges against Rasmea Yousef Odeh.” Duggan was signer #427.

“What does she have to say about this terrorist?” Behar asked. “Don’t you have faith in the U.S. justice system? This person has been charged in federal court – you want her set free? Hello? What system of justice would you like to live under? Pick a country – why don’t we start with the system of justice in the West Bank and Gaza, then we can move on from there, to the whole Arab world? Set her free? Before a trial? Explain yourself.”

In an email to The Algemeiner, Prof. Duggan said, “There is a CCR press release about Odeh that you can find online if you Google her name. That pretty much explains why CCR does not consider her a ‘terrorist’– Nelson Mandala was called a terrorist by Dick Cheney, it is a highly politicized designation.”

In the petition, CCR, Center for Constitutional Rights, described Odeh as “a Palestinian-American community activist who has dedicated 10 years to the Chicago Arab-American community, working with women on issues ranging from promoting literacy and political education to addressing domestic violence and anti-Arab and Muslim sentiment.”

It said that her “arrest and indictment must be viewed within this wider context of widespread attempts to intimidate people into silence on one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time,” referring to “75 cases of intimidation and legal bullying,” including “perceived surveillance, FBI contacts, and discriminatory enforcement of laws against advocates for Palestinian rights.”

CCR described Odeh, 65, as an “exemplary citizen” who had “overcome amazing odds after being convicted by the Israeli military court system in 1969 for her alleged association with a leftist Palestinian nationalist group that the U.S. designated a terrorist organization.” Her “activism against the Israeli occupation in the 1960s resulted in her imprisonment in Israeli prisons for 10 years, and it is surely her community activism in the U.S. that has made her, and by extension, the community that relies on her, the target of this indictment.”

The actual accusations in the indictment — lying to the U.S. government three times on her citizenship application — goes unmentioned by CCR.

Asked by email to clarify her concerns of a homophobic slant against her in the article, Duggan responded that she had no comment, then added a fuller statement:

Just so you know, it is our policy not to comment on scurrilous or demonizing press that generates the hate mail in the website I sent you. You are reporting on the Behar letter, so no comment. We comment on responsible reporting, whether pro or anti boycott.

She sent The Algemeiner a link to BDS Love Letters: Hate Mail to BDS Supporters. While the most recent comments certainly didn’t raise the question of her sexuality or any aspect of homophobia, they did mirror the opinions Behar expressed in the Forbes article:

“Your boycott and the rationale for it demonstrates a profound moral confusion on your part. It’s disgusting. I needed to tell you that,” the first said. “Your condemnation of Israel is outrageous. Bigotry knows no bounds. ASA and National Socialism have much in common,” wrote the second. “Shame on you! You are intellectual and moral frauds as well as, frankly, jokes. Except in this case, it isn’t funny,” wrote a third.

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  • Kelly Kevy

    that’s what pseudo “scholars”, like this Duggan, do when they are incapable (as expected) of providing valid answers, they panic and they blame you with something’s not about the Israel-Palestine conflict, it’s about ignorant hate. it made me laugh. With disdain.

  • Scott Rose
    Your accusation that Behar deliberately inflamed homophobia

    Scott Rose
    LGBT-Rights Activist and Journalist

    Dear Professor Duggan:

    It has come to my attention that you accused Richard Behar of deliberately inciting homophobic sentiment against you.

    I wish you to know that as an out and proud gay male, I perceived no anti-gay incitements in Richard’s open letter.

    You are entitled to promote heterosexist Palestinian Arabs at the expense of Israeli Jews and LGBT people throughout the Middle East, yet the realities of Realpolitik do not go away because of your promotional activities.

    It is the avowed goal of Hamas to destroy Israel and to establish an Islamic theocracy in its place, complete with Sharia law and an automatic death penalty for gay persons discovered to be gay.

    In the West Bank, when blogger Waleed Al-Husseini satirized Islam, the Palestinian Authority jailed him without due process, and mobs in the street screamed for his death because of the perceived insult to their religion.

    Instead of punishing those who through threats of violence were limiting Waleed’s freedom of expression, the P.A. held him hostage. In other words, even though the P.A. might be perceived as being less theocratic and anti-gay than Hamas, it either can not or will not control anti-gay religious mobs that apparently dominate the society.

    In your un-nuanced and fanatical opposition to Israel, you never explain how, realistically, you would achieve the goals you say you have there while safeguarding and expanding LGBT rights in Israel and throughout the region.

    I dare say that objectively examined, Richard Behar is more mindful of the need for protecting the rights of LGBTers in the Middle East than you are.


    Scott Rose

  • Naftali

    I emailed Lisa asking her when the next Pride Day events are being held in Gaza or the West Bank. No response, so I’m really irritated as I need to plan my travel schedule, and I really wanted to see an LGBT tolerant society in the Middle East not like those pink washing Israelis 😉

  • Steve Loeb

    I wonder how many well intended members of the ASA are becoming embarrassed by what they see from their leadership like Duggan, and will the notion of “not in my name” begin to emerge?

  • Doug Workman

    Richard Behar’s piece was well researched and well-written. He identified the specialties of various ASA members, which it appeared that he obtained from their online CVs (I randomly checked one or two). His point was that none of these scholars had conducted any serious research into Israel and/or the Middle East. Had any of them done so, they could not have reached the conclusions about boycotting that they did. However, accusing Mr. Behar of homophobia is consistent with ASA logic that would never let facts get in the way of advocating a “progressive” position.

  • Lynne T

    Denouncing Israel for anything and everything is the shibboleth of supposed “progressives” like Duggan who will tie themselves in knots trying to rationalize the united campaign to deligitimize Israel and have it revert to the control of Muslim theocratic fascists.

    We have to understand the motivation here too: identifying with the #1 top selling brand of “righteous victims” is the sure fire way to burnish a narcissistic pseudointellectual’s claim to victim status as well.

    That academia around the globe has become infected by this madness sheds light on how German academics rationalized the ostracism of their Jewish colleagues.

  • Glad to see people weighing here. And thank you for the kind words, Carol. Very much appreciated. –Rich Behar

  • Shalom-Hillel

    It’s the same thing over and over again; the accusations against Israel and by extension against the Jewish community. People like Lisa Duggan are every bit the rabble-rousers that we have seen spring up against the Jewish people throughout the centuries. In every era their arguments are geared to the climate of the times. They feel an odd calling to attack the Jews. Their arguments and rationales hardly matter. They have come to believe them and wish to spread the message far and wide. They are stuck in a closed loop and cannot see reason. Just as they demonize Israel they also demonize anyone who does not accept their version of reality. Baseless accusations of homophobia are more of the same.

    Ms. Duggan is quite the hotshot, a queer theorist and fighter against the Jewish state. Her academic career is assured.

  • Fritz Kohlhaas

    Duggan is a moron!

  • Dov

    Why are Jewish supporters to NYU quite?

  • Carol

    Good work Richard. We need people like you to speak up. Keep at it.

  • Dan

    It’s about time people figured out that idiots like Duggan have only one card to play. Criticism is either homophobia or racism to them. This may work on today’s college campuses but it falls flat in reality.

  • Michael Garfinkel

    So, Lisa Duggan stakes out ignorant and hateful positions, and then complains that…people dislike her because they dislike “queers.”

    Duggan’s inability to respond to Behar’s article suggests that her problem is not so much her so-called area of academic expertise but her profound stupidity.

    Time for Duggan to explore another new word: “idiotnormative” – as when idiots pretend some intellectual facility.

    • Efram Paul

      Beautifully said.

  • Lisa is caught red handed,if you can;t handle the heat get out of the kitchen,or maybe get back in it.She opened her mouth without the facts,but what can you expect ….

  • Jay

    Lisa Duggan proves that you don’t need brains, logic, and the ability to think coherently to hold positions of power.

    It doesn’t say very much about our society that we hold university professors in such high esteem.

  • BuckDePublick

    Duggan typifies the bully-pulpit leftists!

  • Sylvie7

    I wrote an email to Duggan. I told her that her arguments against Israel were regurgitated Arab propaganda and that she had no idea of reality in the region, etc. I also mentioned that Tel Aviv is becoming the Gay Center of the Middle East. I didn’t realize that she is gay until I read more about her personally.
    She answered me by telling me that I didn’t know what I was talking about. She wrote that my comments were idiotic. She commanded me to not write to her any more. I don’t know if my email is considered hate mail or homophobic, but I did think after that exchange that she is a nasty person who stomps on the ground and spews insults when her opinion is questioned. I now don’t like her, but she is just a blip on the anti Jewish world timeline and a minor self important figure not worthy of hatred.

    • Michael Garfinkel

      Yes, but she’s doing her part in destroying the reputation of NYU, isn’t she?

      • Kris Kristian

        New York UNiversity should ask for her resignation. If she refuses, she should be fired, and her reputation should ensure that nobody other than an Arab group employs her.
        And I believe that some of the major fund raisers for NYU are Jews.
        They must now get in th act and tell NYU that they either get rid of this drek, or there will be no more funds from any Jews.
        She is a sick Jew hating idiot who believes every lie from the Arab propaganda.
        Her title of Professor should be taken away