Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sarah Schulman ‘Doesn’t Know’ About Hamas

What happened when I asked the BDS academic about the anti-gay Islamist group
By Sohrab Ahmari

Whatever else you might say of Hamas, at least give the Palestinian Islamist group credit for its honesty. Take Hamas’s founding covenant, first issued in 1988 and unrevised since then. Article 7 declares: “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them.” When it comes to domestic matters, Hamas is equally open about its goal of establishing a theocratic tyranny in Palestine: Just last week Hamas banned women from an annual Gaza marathon organized by the United Nations, leading to its cancellation by the U.N.
You’d be hard-pressed to find the same degree of honesty in the “boycott, divest and sanction” movement that paints Israel as an “apartheid” regime and an unabashed aggressor determined to lord over Palestinians. To achieve these aims, the activists and academics who make up the BDS movement must remove all moral complexity from the century-long conflict, including by portraying the Palestinian national cause as wholly benign—denying even the most obvious facts about the Palestinians.

I got a taste of this mendacity last Monday at the New York City LGBT Center in downtown Manhattan, where a large crowd had gathered to hear the author Sarah Schulman discuss her new book, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International. Schulman teaches at CUNY Staten Island, but she was briefly thrust into the national spotlight with a November 2011 New York Times op-ed, in which she argued that Israel’s famous tolerance for sexual minorities is actually part of a campaign to “pinkwash” its repression of Palestinians.
Schulman’s book picks up where her op-ed left off, recounting her metamorphosis from an English professor mostly indifferent to the troubles in Palestine into a partisan of the BDS cause. She described her trip to Bilin, the West Bank village where residents have for years mounted nonviolent protests against Israel’s separation barrier. Here Schulman had an epiphany: “We’re marching around,” she recalled, “and then the Israeli soldiers appear. And it was such a weird feeling for me. Because of course they look like me. Because if I was there I would be them, maybe, or something, who knows.” The soldiers, she claimed, began firing teargas at the activists for no apparent reason. “Something changed inside me. I remember asking myself, ‘Who is we?’ And me and those soldiers were not we. It was me and these queer Palestinian women I had met. . . . We were we. . . . There was no more us.” This drew thunderous applause from the BDSers.
Sohrab Ahmari is an assistant books editor at The Wall Street Journal.

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