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October 13, 2016 6:08 pm

Activists Blast Inclusion of Student Group’s Anti-Israel Events in Columbia’s LBGT Awareness Month

avatar by Rachel Frommer

The Columbia University campus in New York City. Photo: Columbia.

The Columbia University campus in New York City. Photo: Columbia.

Events backed by an anti-Israel student group and included in the October programming of Columbia University’s Queer Awareness Month drew criticism from LBGT activists and experts who spoke with The Algemeiner on Thursday.

Corinne E. Blackmer — an associate professor of English and Judaic Studies at Southern Connecticut State University who is currently writing a book on the use of LGBT rights in the anti-Israel movement called “Queering Anti-Zionism: LGBT Academic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction Activism” — and Jayson Littman — a leader in the LGBT Jewish community and a pro-Israel LGBT activist — both critiqued the methods and intentions of the events’ host, Columbia’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

Blackmer told The Algemeiner that one talk — titled “Good Gay/Bad Gay” and described on its Facebook page as a look at “indigenous communities with rich legacies of queer and trans life [who] find themselves targeted by imperialist projects” and a discussion of “colonial forces [that] justify ongoing occupation, racism and xenophobia against marginalized societies,” including the United States and Israel — is based on “factually inaccurate grounds that substitute activism for hard truths.”

“‘Intersectionality,’ as usual,” said Blackmer, “[is] a convenient ploy for ignoring real historical facts and falsely claiming that things are related because they are claimed to be under the collective umbrella of terms like ‘imperialism’ and ‘silencing,’ etc.”

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Littman told The Algemeiner, “I do not claim Israel’s positive record on LGBT issues is the final say on its human rights record, but Israel deserves to claim credit for an LGBT record that is far more progressive than many other countries in the world.” He added that he thinks “it’s sad to see” that people “view Israel’s accomplishments on LGBT rights as an opportunity to denounce the Jewish state.”

Blackmer said the characterization of Palestinian Arabs as an “indigenous people” is altogether false, as that term “refers, as international courts agree, to ancient peoples who have claims to lands and resources reaching back into 1,000 or more years,” while, she noted, Palestinian Arab history in Israel is some 200-years-old.

“If anything, it is the Jews who were, as archaeology reveals, a people who were indigenous to Palestine/Israel,” she added, and “Moslem conquerors, following the example of preceding conquerors, displaced the indigenous Jews from their homeland. Now it is these ‘imperialistic’ conquerors who are falsely claiming that they are indigenous to this area.”

Blackmer also told The Algemeiner that ignoring these facts is de rigueur for SJP, as the group is “trying to tie itself to genuine movements for indigenous peoples by falsely claiming this imprimatur for themselves.”

A second SJP program, the screening and discussion of a film titled “BOOM CLAP SHHH: Queer Anti-Zionist Performance From the Arab and Jewish Diasporas,” is described as a response to “a landscape where queer identity is so often used as a smokescreen to distract from Israeli apartheid.” The film includes “three artists whose work directly opposes this injustice in the queerest of ways,” specifically, an Egyptian writer, a woman of Lebanese, Palestinian and Danish descent and a performer described as a “Japanese Jewish self-loving anti-Zionist…[who] uses burlesque and comedy to resist Zionism.”

None of the performers could be reached for comment by the time of publication.

Littman said, “If queer anti-Zionist activists really want to see an end to ‘pinkwashing,’ the most obvious response would be to fight for LGBTQ rights everywhere. If LGBTQ rights were afforded to all throughout the world, Israel’s claim would be that much less remarkable.”

Rudy Rochman, the founder of the Columbia chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) said SJP was “using the struggles of LGBTQ people and piggybacking on their sufferings to pursue its agenda of demonizing Israel. It has a few events that plan to ‘intersect’ both issues [Israel and LGBT rights] in order to turn more people against Israel. It is sad because the PA and Hamas both convict homosexual and trans people and many times execute them.”

Rochman was not surprised by SJP’s involvement in the events, calling that group and the Jewish Voice for Peace organization “hate groups” that “polarize the Israel-Palestinian conflict on campus and refuse to come together with Israel groups to even have a discussion or promote coexistence.”

According to Littman, “These events are becoming more common — especially on college campuses — because much of the queer anti-Israel movement is led by highly-regarded academics. Their reputation helps create a wider audience to hear their anti-Israel rhetoric and make it more socially acceptable.”

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