NYU Prof. Lisa Duggan falsely accuses Forbes author of “implied homophobic smears”
On January 14, 2014, Richard Behar, an investigative reporter for Forbes, wrote a lengthy, devastating and widely read column about the American Studies Association anti-Israel academic boycott, Open Letter To NYU’s President: Why The American Studies Assn.’s Israel Boycott Makes Me Ashamed To Be An Alumnus.
Among other things, Behar detailed the academics behind the boycott, their radicalism, and most important, the intellectual and moral disconnect of academics who claim to protect LGBT rights yet side with LGBT haters against the only LGBT-friendly state in the Middle East. This is a subject we have explored here many times, the so-called “Pinkwashing” movement by LGBT academic activists who bizarrely and disreputably seek to demonize Israel for making known its humane and tolerant policies and attitudes.
It’s not just LGBT activists who side with the haters, it’s a number of Gender Studies or Women’s Studies academics who do the same, despite the abysmal treatment of women in most of the societies aligned against Israel.
Yet from these academics, you hear nary a word about gays fleeing persecution in Gaza or the West Bank, or women mistreated in almost all of Israel’s neighbors. It is a willful ignorance that says volumes about the motivations behind their Israel hatred.
One of the many ASA boycotters to whom Behar drew attention was incoming President of ASA, NYU Professor Lisa Duggan. That makes sense, she’s the incoming President, and has been quoted in the mainstream media as fully supporting the boycott for her upcoming presidency.
Here is part of Behar’s write up about Duggan:
Her Twitter feed shows a recent obsession with Israel. The most disturbing tweet of all (mentioned in brief, high in this letter) is her request for charges to be dropped against a terrorist named Rasmea Yousef Odeh, who is accused with lying about her past in order to gain U.S. citizenship in 1994….
Why is Duggan so anxious to get out of prison a woman who killed Israeli civilians? Are their lives worth less to her than Arab civilians or European civilians or white American civilians?….
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.
“We welcome collaboration with our Israeli colleagues,” she writes me, in an effort to explain that it’s only Israel’s academic institutions that are subject to the boycott. What she doesn’t say is that she and many of her council friends are also signed supporters of the “cultural” boycott of individual Israeli artists and entertainers. Perhaps they are hoping that their “institution” boycott will be a nice slippery slope for the ASA to eventually move against individual Israelis in the academic sphere. Perhaps Israeli companies, too. Maybe even American corporations that do business with Israel.
As with others, Behar accompanied his write up of Duggan with a small photo, a screen grab from Academia.edu (it’s one of the top images to appear when you Google her name):
The article reverberated around the internet, including with Duggan, who accused Behar of homophobia, as detailed in Behar’s follow-up post, Homophobic, Racist, Sexist, ‘Take Xanax’: Reactions To My Open Letter To NYU’s President On ASA’s Israel Boycott.
Behar details how Duggan privately and publicly accused him of homophobia (emphasis added by Behar):
“…Of WHAT possible relevance is a screen shot of me giving a talk on queer politics at the U of Utah to the boycott debate??? There is only one reason to include it, to demonize me by reference to the topic, soliciting homophobic hate mail–I already have a ton of it, more now coming in. This is related to Israel/Palestine HOW??, that’s what is creepy Michael. And that’s just one example among many. He has a culture wars agenda of going after us on race/sexuality grounds –to marginalize us on that basis, in order to discredit our boycott action. THAT is what you are signing up for… I thought your letter was principled and reasonable. I no longer believe that you will remain so, given your endorsement of Behar’s clearly homophobic smear tactics. I no longer think it is safe to correspond with you. So I am now blocking your email address.
“…I have shared your views and connections with Behar and the ultra right press with the national council of ASA so all may be aware that any communication with you may end up distorted and published by the ultra right.”
Duggan made the same claim in the comment section of a blog about American Studies run by Prof. Mark Rice, an opponent of the boycott (emphasis by Behar):
Duggan expressed similar sentiments in the comment section of a blog written by Mark Rice, another professor of American Studies (in Rochester, NY) who opposes the boycott. “I believe it is the reputation of Richard Behar that is smeared in this piece… Such implied homophobic smears (look! the ASA prez elect is a queer! she must be marginal and extreme!) do not damage the ASA, they damage the person doing the smearing.”
The charge was immediately refuted by another commenter, who noted, “Looking over the photo and caption you describe, it looks as though the author (far from smearing you or anyone else for your scholarship or personal choices) is asking why the ASA has decided to focus such ‘human rights’ scrutiny on what ‘is perhaps the gayest-friendly country in the world.’”
“In any other context,” the response went, “this would be considered a pro-gay argument.”
Bizarrely, when a pro-Israel gay activist confronted Duggan about her accusations, she denied making them! (Emphasis added by me):
In an exchange of emails with writer and pro-Israel gay activist Scott Rose, which he was kind enough to share with me, the following exchange occurred:
“It has come to my attention that you accused Richard Behar of deliberately inciting homophobia sentiment against you,” Rose wrote and posted on his Facebook page a few days after her exchange with Prof. Rockland—the one in which she hung the “homophobic” label on me.
“I wish you to know,” he continued, “that as an out and proud gay male, I perceived no anti-gay incitements in Richard’s open letter. You are entitled to promote heterosexist Palestinian Arabs at the expense of Israeli Jews and LGBT people throughout the Middle East, yet the realities of Realpolitik do not go away because of your promotional activities. It is the avowed goal of Hamas to destroy Israel and to establish an Islamic theocracy in its place, complete with Sharia law ….I dare say that objectively examined, Richard Behar is more mindful of the need for protecting the rights of LGBTers in the Middle East than you are.”
Responding to Rose, Duggan said: “I did not accuse Behar of homophobia–I have no idea whether he’s homophobic or not.”
Read the rest of Behar’s follow up post, where he deals with other accusations by Duggan trying to marginalize criticism of the boycott as “ultra right.”
It does not surprise me that the incoming President of ASA would play the homophobia card on critics of the boycott. Duggan is prominent in the “Pinkwashing” movement:
Today and tomorrow CUNY is hosting “Homonationalism and Pinkwashing,” an academic conference featuring queer academic heavyweights such as Judith Butler, Jasbir Puar, Gayatri Gopinath, Lisa Duggan, Heather Love, and Sarah Schulman.
It’s all part of a pattern for these Propagandists with Ph.D’s.
Whether they are making false accusations that Israel is an “Apartheid State” or accusing Israel of “Ethnic Cleansing,” they use epithets in place of reason, and as a mask for their own hate.
(Featured Image: NYU Students for Justice in Palestine protest via Facebook)