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Sarah Schulman ‘Doesn’t Know’ About Hamas

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

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Sarah Schulman Before Her Apartheid Week Speech(GayCityNews)

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.

“What is we and who is they?” asked one audience member during the question-and-answer segment. “For me, we are all the people in the world who believe that by virtue of being born every human being deserves equal rights [and] self-determination,” Schulman responded. “That’s my we, that’s my team . . . They are people who are invested in systems of supremacy, whether it’s gender supremacy, religious or racial supremacy. Isn’t it amazing that that is controversial?”

I couldn’t help but raise my hand. “So is Hamas part of the ‘they?’” I asked.

Schulman answered: “Hamas—you know, every time I give one of these talks one guy asks about Hamas.” Then a flurry of protests: “I have never supported any political party! I don’t even support the Democratic Party!”

But of course I didn’t ask Schulman if she supports Hamas. “What I meant is: Is Hamas engaged in ‘systems of supremacy?’ Does Hamas fit into your definition of ‘they,’ of people who are implicated in ‘systems of supremacy?’ ”

“It depends?” Schulman responded, her tone seesawing between the declarative and interrogative modes. “You know, sometimes—I don’t know enough about Hamas to give you a complete, intelligent analysis of Hamas. But there are people who get into all kinds of movements because they have particular needs. And I don’t—let me say it this way: All over the world there is conflict between religion and politics. In the United States we are unable to separate religion and politics, and that’s true in Israel, it’s true in the Arab world, it’s true all over the world. Do I think that there should be religious governments? No, because I’m not in favor of that. I’m not a religious person, and I see it as a negative force in the world. But if people elect, democratically elect a religious government, that’s their government. That would be my answer.”

Here was the BDS movement in a nutshell. In a room filled with progressive activists, an American academic with unimpeachable progressive credentials claimed she didn’t know enough about Hamas to criticize its views on matters of gender and sexual orientation. She had heard somewhere that Hamas was “democratically elected”—apparently Schulman had missed the news about how, the last time Hamas seized power in Gaza, it was via defenestration—and that sufficed to render the group above judgment. Acknowledging the obvious about Hamas would have demoralized the BDS faithful gathered at the LGBT Center that night, and what sort of religious movement would want to do that?

Sohrab Ahmari is an assistant books editor at The Wall Street Journal.

Related: Pink Eye [Tablet]
Israel and “Pink-Washing” [NYT]

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It’s just like my grandparents. Serious communists who wanted to make the world a better place for everyone. Believed for years that the USSR was a workers paradise and that Stalin was as great man. Were deaf to the propoganda (facts) that told them otherwise. Same deal, different time. Nothing wrong with wanting to elevate humanity and help other human beings. Everything wrong with blinding yourself to the realities of those you back to achieve those ends.

    Zombie Mohammed says:

    Those Jews who wickedly supported the Communists didn’t ‘want to make the world better place for everyone’. Please stop excusing those genocidal psychotics. Just like today, the Leftists who support the Ummah are not doing so because they want to ‘make the world a better place’. They are doing so because they are evil.

    But there is a difference. The Jews who supported Communism were evil. The Jews who support Communism were satanic. But they were not war criminals.

    By contrast, under International Law, material support for the Ummah is a war crime. Later this year ‘Palestine’ will join the ICC. When it does, all the soldiers of Allah – and if I read this article correctly, Sarah confessed to have participated as a soldier in a Quranic riot – will face prosecution for their crimes. If during her Quranic riot, this soldier of Allah failed to follow the laws of war (distinction, wearing uniforms, etc . . .), then uh-oh!

    “Doesn’t know’ is like ‘I was just following orders’. Sounds good, but its not a defence at the ICC.
    Death to ‘Palestine’/Shari’ah!

    RobEhhh says:

    That is an excellent summation/allegory. Communist & the USSR being likened to Zionist & Israel. Very good.

41953 says:

What does the author have to say about Bilin?

herbcaen says:

Actually, she knows a lot about hamas. Just as the world was surprised at the Nazi-Soviet alliance of 1939, many people are surprised at the alliance of the mainstream gay and feminist communities with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. On the surface, one would wonder what gays and feminists in the US and Europe have in common with people who would lynch them if they appeared in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. However, anti-Zionist activist Rabbi Tony Jutner explained it for me. Gays and feminists support the destruction of Israel in the hope that if they make common cause with radical Islam against Israel, then radical Islam will reward them with increased tolerance once the “zionist entity” is destroyed

    oaklandj says:

    Ugh. Give it a rest. Only in your fantasy world would gays, feminists, and Islamic radicals be any sort of political bedfellows. You only imagine this because you loathe all of them.

      herbcaen says:

      Just ask your leader Judith Butler, who has stated that Hamas and Hezbollah are progressive organizations, and called for a boycott of Israel while in Berlin. She is your leader, how dare you differ from her?

        oaklandj says:

        Who’s Judith Butler? You seem more acquainted with her than I am. Maybe you’re a gay feminist supporter of Islamic radicalism after all.

          herbcaen says:

          Why dont you google her? Sher is professor of gay studies at Berkeley. If I were a gay feminist supporter of radical Islam, I would be a wealthy and honored person, constantly shuttling between NYC, Geneva, Davos, Paris, etc to pick up my various prizes, and wouldnt have time to respond to your comments

          oaklandj says:

          I googled her and see why you admire her. No worries if you don’t get this message before your next jaunt across the Atlantic.

        arthoppe says:

        Where did Judith Butler state that “Hamas and Hezbollah are progressive organizations”? That’s complete nonsense.

          herbcaen says:

          from Michael Tottens website-appearently it is on Youtube as well
          “teach-in against war” on campus last year, she said, “Understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important.”

          Now let’s look at the context. You can see for yourself on YouTube, but the video is eighteen minutes long, so I’ll quote the relevant portion right here. I trust that Professor Butler would agree that I’m including all the context she’d think anyone needs to make a fair judgment call.

          A student asked her the following question: “I’d like you to comment on the importance of Hamas and Hezbollah. And I think since the beginning of this year—and especially when Hamas was democratically elected by the Palestinian people and Hezbollah by the Lebanese—people are now supporting these violent resistance movements. But even within leftist and anti-war activists and intellectuals there is always this kind of condemnation and hesitation in supporting these two groups just because of the violent components of their resistance movements. Doesn’t our inability or hesitation in supporting these groups do more harm than good?”

          arthoppe says:

          Here is Butler’s full quote which you have conveniently edited:

          “Yes, understanding Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left, is extremely important. That does not stop us from being critical of certain dimensions of both movements. It doesn’t stop those of us who are interested in non-violent politics from raising the question of whether there are other options besides violence. So again, a critical, important engagement. I mean, I certainly think it should be entered into the conversation on the Left. I similarly think boycotts and divestment procedures are, again, an essential component of any resistance movement.”

          Thanks but no thanks for setting up a phony framework of context. What you are doing is unprincipled and sleazy and I hope you’re not connected to Tablet in any way.

          herbcaen says:

          thanks. You have confirmed my point. See you on the next flotilla

          You didn’t really prove that he put her words out of context.
          Yes, she does say we should be critical about Hamas and Hezbollah regarding their use of violence, but she also clearly stated that she regarded them as progressive and on the left. are you denying that that what she meant?

          If anyone knows anything about those groups than one should know that there is no progressive bone in their views and actions. also, the only “left” attribute in those groups is their anti-Israel stance. if that’s the only requirement to be “on the left” and “progressive”, than stormfront is a left leaning progressive website….
          If anything, “the left” and “progressives” have much much more in common with the Zionist movement (liberal values, socialism and more), so you should ask yourself why Butler think it’s important to understand “Hamas, Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left” while at the same time advocating for the abolishment of Zionism…. what logic drives that cognative dissonance?

      You are so wrong. This is exactly the case in all the BDS conferences. I have seen it myself here in Montreal. Feminists, gays, and aboriginals, all organized by BDS conferences to support BDS.

        oaklandj says:

        1. How many BDS conferences have you attended?
        2. Have you polled attendees for their sexual orientation?
        I suspect you just dislike gay people and are eager to see all of the people you dislike in collusion with each other. It’s remarkable what we’re able to see when we desperately want to see it.

          Lynne T says:

          Hell, have you never heard of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, who will march in any Pride parade they can make their way into? They are a BDS movement that does nothing except demonize Israel and is absolutely silent about the persecution of LGBTs living in Gaza or the PA administered territories, because in their warped minds, homophobia is tolerable when practiced by “other cultures”.

          oaklandj says:

          What percentage of LGBT people are members of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid?

          Ignorance is bliss says:

          you could well be right, in that a small percentage of LBGT people support this shower (as in the general population). Perhaps this explains the aims of the ‘Pinkwashing’ campaigns – to entrench anti-zionism within those who organise politically and culturally around questions of sexuality.
          I think though that the idea that those who question the motives and content of the ‘pinkwashing’ campaign ‘hate’ LGBT people is slightly over the top. Indeed, one could argue that it is the Pinkwashers themselves who hate, or at the least, are indifferent to LGBT people, They spend their time rubbishing the real gains the LGBT movement have made in Israel and the need of continual support in the face of the religious right, especially in the light of the facts that many LGBT people seek entry into Israel to avoid horrible levels of discrimination and criminal prosecution.
          It’s also ironic that your position, that those who criticise Pinkwashers are inherently anti-gay replicates the myth that anyone who criticise Israel is antisemitic.
          I think Pinkwashing is silly, I think that the ideologues of “Pinkwashing’ are silly. Does that really make me a ‘gay-hater’?

      Lynne T says:

      Clearly, you’ve never heard of Michael Foucault, who endorsed Khomeini and other LGBTs since who happily marched behind banners proclaiming “We are all Hezbollah now”, when Israel responded to Hezbollah’s acts of war in 2006 or involve themselves in the Free Gaza Movement, which provides funds and cover for gun running into Gaza.

        oaklandj says:

        How many people are Michel Foucault?

        BTW, I know a lot of people who aren’t Jewish who think “Orthodox Jews” hate Israel. Why? Neturei Karta. I argue that Neturei Karta represent a tiny percentage of the Orthodox Jewish population, but they’re not convinced.

        Maybe you could learn a thing or two.

What’s Schulman’s twitter @ name?

Would you consider inviting Sarah to respond to this article?

    quizblorg says:

    Should be hilarious.

    If she does respond I’d love for her to explain how an educator can write a book about Israel/Palestine and not know what happened after the last Palestinian elections and how Hamas ended up in power in Gaza, and apparently not know that there have been no elections in 8 years. Let her also explain why she avoided the question posed by the author of this article by trying to make the issue a “religious government” rather than answering the question the author asked.

      This bothers me as well. How can someone who writes books about the I/P conflict and give lectures about the subject and not know the basics of the conflict? It’s those moments when I understand why people look down on certain academic disciplines.

      CygnusA81 says:

      Well when you live in a ‘reality-based community’ like Schulman, reality and logic usually go out the door the first.

      Indeed, she employed impressive evasive tactics.

    Gail says:

    Rich Jackman. Where is Sarah Schulman’s reply?

“But if people elect, democratically elect a religious government, that’s their government.” I wonder she feels that way about Israel. Somehow, I doubt it.

mira375 says:

So, according to Schulman’s logic, the US only repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” ban on gays in the military to deflect attention from Obama’s continued failure to close Guantamo bay, right?

Just another pain in the ass who trades on he last name, accident of birth really. To sell books, make money, and say “look at me”, I’m not like those evil Jews in Israel, I’m better, more noble.

jegwe says:

Dear Sarah, let me tell you about Hamas.
It was democratically elected.
It does not truly believe in democracy.
It retains power by terrorising and attacking its own population.
It will tolerate the slightest dissent.
It denies human rights and personal freedoms.
It is viciously anti-Semitic and homophobic.
It believes in confining women to a role within the home.
It enforces the woman’s duty of breeding large numbers of children.
It complains that its people have no living space and demands the right to
invade and colonise its neighbour.
It views the inhabitants of its neighbour as ripe for extermination. Hamas is
pledged to exterminate over 90% of the seven million plus population of
Israel. Not only the Jewish population, but Christian Arabs, Druze,
Baha’i, Bedouin and the many third world migrants who currently live in
Israel are earmarked to be murdered.
It pretends to seek peace whilst massively arming itself with weapons of
It has a very sophisticated propaganda machine, spending huge resources in
misleading the world as to its true nature and in demonising its imagined
It uses men in smart suits to charm and mislead the world press.
It has organised groups of sympathisers in other countries to spread its lies
and to put off people from acting against them until it is too late.

    Lynne T says:

    One bone to pick. HAMAS does not pretend to seek peace. They claim they are merely resisting Israeli aggression when they fire missiles at civilian targets on the other side of the border, an act the UN observers finally got around to describing as a flagrant consistent war crime and blame Israel when HAMAS rockets explode short of their intended targets and/or they deploy armed combatants in and among civilian targets, ie: using Gazans as human shields, some of whom are not pleased, but as you point out, terrorized into silence … or fleeing to Israel.

    RobEhhh says:

    Yes, a small elected government with zero access to resources & commodities, limited allies, surrounded by a military blockade and a infrastructure in rubble of a region declared by the UN as unlivable by 2015 has the resources for a very sophisticated propaganda machine and “huge resources” spend.

    We call this “projection.”

Tony Riley says:

She is on Facebook, and you can send her a personal message telling her how you feel abut her. So I did.

PhillipNagle says:

The Left doesn’t care about Hamas or Palestine. They just hate Israel. This began when Israel wisely tossed out the socialists (today even Israel’s Labor party has abandoned socialism) and developed a modern and successful economy. This is Israel’s truely unforgivable sin.

    Lynne T says:

    No. It began when the USSR decided it wanted to bring as many Arab nations as it could into its sphere of influence during the Cold War and found its zenith in ’75 when the USSR moved to have Zionism equated with racism by the UN General Assembly.

DocB says:

Schulman means well, but in the end she is misled by her desire to
support the underdog, despite the fact that this underdog would deny
Schulman the basic human rights that Israel grants as a matter of
course. Shame on her for not realizing this.

    Identifying with the “victim” eventually to the point that they feel just as victimized… a type of psychological Munchhausen syndrome by proxy?

    Contentious Centrist says:

    It’s more complicated than that. She wants to be loved by the very people she is mortally afraid of. It’s also the one spot where being a “Jew” has an added value. She is feted by her comrades as being particularly brave and “unique”, for Jewish as she is, she is engaged in political cause against the majority of other Jews in the world. She must be intoxicated with her own importance. These are not coherent musings of a sober confident intellectual.

domdavid says:

The fundamental problem is that our university faculties are replete with individuals who gain rank and standing through activism rather than scholarship. Sarah is a example. The web site of the College of Staten Island identifies Sarah, who holds a BA degree, as “Distinguished Professor [of] English.” It’s hard to understand how she attained that rank. She doesn’t have a doctoral degree and her ‘literary” output primarily revolves around partisan gay and lesbian issues. If Sarah knows as much about those subjects as she evidently believes she does about Israel, Hamas, Islamic law and the Jews, her students are at high risk of being mislead and misinformed. Without question, Sara’s entitled to her personal opinions, but not her own set of facts. Does the College of Staten Island allow her to spread her tendentious agitprop in her classes? If so, something’s terribly wrong in the Big Apple besides the size of sodas available at bodegas. What can possibly justify spending scarce tax dollars on a salary and a title for someone like Sarah?

I am sure Sara Shulman does not know about a lot of things. Here is a link to the jihad against women in ISLAM

Rachel S. says:

“But if people elect, democratically elect a religious government, that’s their government” Unless those people are Israeli, of course.

rootlesscosmo says:
certop says:

i’m happy to agree that hamas is authoritarian, thuggish, and theocratic in the worst sense of the word. but it’s a real dodge to tar BDS–and the larger issue of nonviolent protest of the occupation–by ragging on hamas. for american pro-palestinian activists or critics of the israeli government, the goal is to get the u.s. to stop funding israel and stop providing diplomatic cover at the UN for its occupation policies, which openly defy stated u.s. policy preferences. the u.s. isn’t supporting hamas, so that makes it a moot issue.

and a sidenote: does anyone actually think that hamas doesn’t derive some popular legitimacy from its anti-occupation politics? if left to govern a free space on its own, without u.s. or israeli fingers on the scale, i’d be willing to bet that hamas would lose a lot of its luster in a post-occupation palestine.

RobEhhh says:

This might be one of the more disingenuous smear articles I’ve read in awhile. Your headline doesn’t match what happened at all. One might think you did it on purpose.

You don’t have to know all about every political party to support human rights. You didn’t need to know every nuance of the ANC to work against Apartheid. Hamas is a result of the occupation, not a cause. If you don’t want to support Hamas, help us end the occupation.

Apparently, you also don’t know much about the serious problems with racism and violence in the Israeli government and population, since you seem to elide it in most of what you write, and you aren’t bothering to educate yourself, either, since you threw Max Blumenthal’s book away without even reading it.

Marilyn Shepherd (Australia) says:

dirty kikes fuck you judelande is ours


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Sarah Schulman ‘Doesn’t Know’ About Hamas

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

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