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March 22, 2016

Intended or Not, SJP’s Actions Have Consequences for LGBTQ People

By Seth M. Marnin, Vice President for Civil Rights

Recent homophobic and anti-Semitic incidents at Brown University came on the heels of the announcement that Janet Mock, transgender author and founder of #GirlsLikeUs, a social media project that empowers trans women, had cancelled her scheduled speaking engagement there. Mock’s talk, Redefining Realness, was sponsored by Moral Voices, the Brown Center for Students of Color, Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, LGBTQ Center, Sexual Assault Peer Educators, Swearer Center for Public Service, Office of the Chaplains, the Rhode Island School of Design’s Office of Intercultural Student Engagement, and Brown/RISD Hillel.

Reacting to the fact that Hillel was one of the co-sponsors of program, the Brown University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) launched a change.org petition urging Ms. Mock to reject Hillel’s invitation to speak, saying that she should accept “Brown students’ sponsorship instead of Hillel’s.”  Although they were only able to gain 159 supporters (of the nearly 9,000 students who attend Brown), SJP’s divisive efforts led to Ms. Mock cancelling her talk.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

While some may be quick to criticize Ms. Mock’s decision, condemnation should instead be leveled against SJP and their efforts to splinter a community and use Ms. Mock as a pawn. In their effort to link Hillel’s Moral Voices’ campaign – a largely domestic initiative highlighting violence against LGBT+ individuals and communities – to violence in the Middle East, SJP forced a transgender woman of color to choose between silencing herself or allowing herself to be exploited for their unrelated crusade.  She should never have been put in that position.

The homophobic and anti-Semitic graffiti that appeared on Brown’s campus just days later occurred in an environment that SJP helped create. Their claim to be surprised is unpersuasive.   Moreover, the graffiti is only one visible sign of the consequences of SJP’s actions. While SJP’s efforts to alienate Jewish students are well documented, there are other implications too.

There are far too few visible transgender role models and leaders. Efforts that have the effect of quashing those scarce voices have far-reaching repercussions.  For example, studies have shown that the suicide attempt rate among transgender men and women exceeds 41%, greatly surpassing the 4.6% of the overall U.S. population who report a suicide attempt at some point in their lives. The elevated rates of suicide attempts are connected with survivors’ experiences of family rejection and discrimination and violence at school and work. The absence of transgender voices in mainstream discourse also plays a role. There few role models for young transgender people, and families, co-workers, and friends of transgender people have limited opportunities to hear from transgender leaders.  Such an experience would better equip them to be allies in the future. Unfortunately, SJP’s actions foreclosed that possibility for the Brown University campus.

The importance of providing platform for transgender voices is underscored by the fact that, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ most recent report, violence against transgender women and particularly transgender women of color remains at an alarmingly high rate. At present, only 17 states and the District of Columbia have hate crime laws that explicitly cover gender identity. Critical efforts to address violence against LGBTQ people, including advocacy for inclusive hate crime laws like the 50 States Against Hate campaign, are undermined by organizations that engage in activism that results in silencing transgender voices. That too is what SJP did.

SJP encouraged a speaker – wholly unrelated to Israel – to reject an invitation from a broad coalition of student organizations solely because one of those organizations is Jewish. Intended or not, SJP harmed the LGBTQ community at Brown and beyond.  It’s well beyond time to reject these divisive tactics.

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May 19, 2015

The Distorted Image of Israel

Anti-Israel pundits continue to invent new ways to use distortions and half-truths to attack the Jewish state, presenting Israel in a negative light as racist, inhumane and entirely objectionable. These Israel haters will often invert a positive aspect of Israeli society, flipping it on its head in an effort to delegitimize the Jewish State.

This most well-known of these tactics is dubbed Pinkwashing by its inventors. It takes Israel’s proud record on LGBT issues and the openness Israeli society demonstrates towards the LGBT community, and absurdly argues that Israel uses this issue to deflect attention away from its treatment of Palestinians.

Ken Roth, the director of Human Rights Watch, recently engaged in a similar “deflective” practice with Israel’s life-saving efforts in Nepal following the devastating earthquake.  In response to Israel’s announcement that they were sending a delegation to provide medical and search-and-rescue assistance, Roth cynically tweeted: “Easier to address a far-away humanitarian disaster than the nearby one of Israel’s making in Gaza. End the blockade!”
Ken Roth

Another avenue used by Israel-hating activists is the so-called “Buzzfeed model” of trying to mainstream distorted and overly simplified lists of Israeli transgressions.

In a recent posting for Alternet, anti-Israel writer Zaid Jilani concocted a list of “6 Crazy Things Israel Has Done to Maintain Racial Purity.” The title is a dead giveaway of the tactic – trumpeting the hyperbole and distortions in the article to follow. And while there are grains of truth to each of the examples listed, they all lack full context, and are spun in the most negative of ways to accomplish outlandish offence towards Israel.

One of the examples listed is that only Jews are entitled to the right-of-return law, which provides for automatic Israeli citizenship. This law does give special immigration status to Jews and is generally championed as a positive initiative by Israel, enabling Jews from around the world, and their descendants up to four generations, to call Israel their home. Many of the Jews, especially in the early years of the State, were survivors of the Holocaust and refugees from violent expulsion by hostile Arab countries. During the 1980s and 1990s, over a million Jews from the Soviet Union and tens of thousands from Ethiopia were able to escape oppressive conditions and build new homes in Israel, thanks to this law. As the historic homeland of the Jewish people, Israel rightfully and proudly sees this law as one of its most important and positive contributions to the safety and well-being of Jews from around the world. Other immigrants to Israel are required to apply for citizenship, pursuant to laws that are similar to those in other democracies, and are not guaranteed automatic citizenship status.

Israel is not a perfect county. Like all Western democracies, it is faced with its fair share of domestic and international challenges. But it has also accomplished a great deal in its short history, and is home to a thriving progressively-minded society.

It is sad that Israel can do no good in the eyes of the Pinkwashers and people like Roth and Jilani. No matter Israel’s accomplishments and contributions to the world, these voices, cloaked in a marble of righteously promoting a human-rights agenda, seem bent on inventing new ways to use hate-filled rhetoric hate-filled to upend Israel’s positive contributions to society and the world to unjustly vilify the Jewish State.

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November 26, 2012

ADL Report on Campus Anti-Israel Activity in 2011-12

In the past two weeks, close to 40 anti-Israel demonstrations and rallies took place on American college campuses in reaction to Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense. These rallies, most of which were organized by anti-Israel student groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, comprised more than 1/3 of the total anti-Israel rallies that took place across the country.

But this latest burst in anti-Israel activity did not take place in a vacuum. In fact, anti-Israel student groups are increasingly organized and deploy a variety of tools to spread vitriol about the state of Israel and encourage other potentially like-minded students to join the cause.

A new ADL report, which looks at the state of anti-Israel activity in the 2011-12 academic year, highlights several new trends and initiatives that have developed on American campuses, including accusations that Israel engages in “pinkwashing,” calls for a one-state solution, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns, comparisons between Israel’s security fence and the U.S.-Mexico border, and anti-Semitic events that took place under the guise of anti-Israel activism.

Make sure to check out the new report on our website: Anti-Israel Activity on Campus, 2011-2012: An ADL Annual Review

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