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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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