Me & Harvey 3B: What Would Harvey Do?

As a gay American (and now Canadian!) of course, I am thrilled that the Israeli government has taken a stand, mostly, to protect its queers and those like them who find their way across their borders. This is to be applauded, supported with dollars and noted whenever possible. But contrary to what a queer Egyptian told me recently, the better-than-nothing Israeli government support of queers does not offer a get-out-of-jail-free card for the gross human rights violations taken in the name of defense, democracy and freedom. If I slaughter Palestinian schoolchildren in order to protect Israeli ones, in what moral universe is that the morally superior choice?
I understand Utilitarianism but think that in this situation it does not apply. How can a higher good for more people be achieved in this way? Perhaps an intellect and spirit superior to my own can offer an explanation.

Last year QuAIA marched in the Toronto Pride parade. I was there. Thousands of people were there. We all saw the parade. I remember their signage. I was struck at how they pulled no punches in terms of calling out what they have named ‘apartheid’ for rhetorical purposes.  I appreciated it. Israeli policy is what it is. If these tactics (systemic discrimination, military attack, etc.) are going to be deployed, then no-matter-what supporters of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians and Gaza must expect outrage and dissent. That is what we do in liberal, post-Enlightenment societies.

It is the avoidance of sincere discussion around these policies that I am highly suspicious of.  It belittles and trivializes anti-semitism to level a charge of anti-semitism in this case.

And, to put my cards on the table, the regular and systemic violence as a way to force policy change by either side ought to be a measure of last resort. I get it, trust me. Even Gandhi said that one can’t negotiate with a madman. But neither side is ‘mad’ here which makes it all the more frustrating.

The charges of anti-semitism in this instance neuters the very real substance of anti-semitism. It is this that concerns me most. If dissent, which we have fought so hard to be allowed to engage in, is equivalent to anti-semitism then we are in deep trouble.

There is no difference between calling those of us who protested the unwarranted attacks on Iraq unpatriotic and re-framing a QuAIA marcher wearing a swastika with an “anti” symbol (a circle with a line through it) as a hate promoter. Not to mention our own ongoing struggles for full equality around the globe.  Unless I’ve missed a change in universal symbology, a circle with a line through it is universally recognized as a “NO!” command.  This reframing makes something so potent and so deadly (anti-semitism, hate) quite easy to commit no matter how one’s dissent is presented. And, if it is so easy, then it is danger of becoming meaningless – which is quite frightening.

Who, after all we know about Jewish history, about the pogroms, about the Holocaust could possibly not be vigilant to anti-semitism? Well,we will (apparently) always have to co-exist with neo-Nazis. But to disagree with Israeli policy is not to agree with neo-Nazis. To make them equivalent is a dangerous and perilous path to take. I am a fierce supporter of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples.

I could go on and on. But, to the point at hand. Harvey Milk worked very hard to bring all of the communities within the community of San Francisco (and then California) together. Harvey saw the ties that bind us together. As a politician, he artfully and gracefully built gay and straight alliances for strategic purposes. He knew we’d never get very far on our own. He saw this potential in the struggles that S.F. longshoremen were having with the Coor company. And he gathered his community in support of their fight. Moves like this are what got him elected to the powerful S.F. Board of Supervisors – not his winning smile, his playfulness or his family connections. Allow these qualities certainly made the gay thing go down easier (no pun intended). Harvey’s was the relentless pursuit of alliance, and never capitulation, as resistance.

Next up….perverts, sodomy and Palestinians. Come on, Man! Pride’s just a party!

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~ by Thom on May 27, 2010.

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