Some thoughts on the fake gay blogger from Damascus….

Amina Araf was never as interesting to Arabs on the internet as she was to Westerners who are always looking for Arabs that they can identify with.  For Americans it’s easier to see some humanity in a lesbian blogger who writes about making out in airports in the Middle East with her partner than with an Arab woman who might be covered head to toe.  It’s a part of our sensationalist culture, we want to support people who we perceive as pushing the envelope and a woman who defies norms and traditions and does things out in the open that no straight couple would ever dream of doing is the right kind of edginess that Americans are willing to stand behind, even if it’s not exactly the type of attention that gays in the Middle East are looking for.  They want to be accepted as part of the fabric of the Arab world, they aren’t trying to turn their societies into something they’re not.  It was dangerous for the LGBT movement in the Arab world for this man to create a storyline about gay Arabs that included erotica and risky behavior such as making out in public, anyone paying attention to that would think that those are the intentions of Arab gays.  Though gay rights is an issue in the Middle East, it certainly is not the most important one and it certainly doesn’t trump any of the other issues in Syria or anywhere else right now.

Last month I posted a video about an Arab lawyer who was slapped across the face by an Israeli police officer simply because she dared address him and ask a question.  At the time I said that no feminist Jewish women or Israeli Jewish women’s rights organizations would speak up for that woman.  I said that nobody would demand his immediate resignation and that he would not be punished in any way for his violence against women, because, apparently Israeli society isn’t bothered much by violence against Arab women if it’s done by Jews. No one in the MSM picked this story up, no one in the MSM wants to talk about women’s rights unless it fits into their preconceived notions of what the Middle East is like.  It is somehow only OK to discuss the plight of Arab women if it is Arab men that are doing the subjugation–and if there is no immediate story to be told, as with Amina Araf, then it is invented.

How many real Arab women have been thrown in jail by the Israelis for being political activists and fighting for the cause of the masses and not just one small group within the population?  When did they ever get the attention that the West was so willing to pour on a woman just because they could identify with her because of her sexuality?  Can anyone name a single Palestinian woman who is rotting away in an Israeli prison?  Anyone?

Here’s more by the Angry Arab on the stupidity and damage of what Tom Macmaster has done:

When the White Man poses as the Native “girl”, As’ad Abukhalil
The admission by Tom Macmaster that he was the man behind the blog “a gay girl in Damascus” should not end the conversation.  I thank may friends and readers who kept on investigating this case until it was cracked, but the primary credit goes to Electronic Intifada.  This story is bothersome on so many levels, but i was even more upset when I read Macmaster’s remarks to the Guardian in which he criticizes Western media coverage of the Middle East and even took a shot at Orientalism.  Macmaster should know that he is worse than a classical Orientalist (and clearly does not possess the knowledge, erudition, and rigor of classical Orientalist).  This man is delusional and racist: he took it upon himself to fabricate an identity of a native “girl” (I mean, is there anything more Orientalist than the White Man of the West posing as a Damascene “girl” and writing on her own behalf?  Is there anything more racist, sexist, patronizing, and offensive?)  Macmaster does not know what he has done and he has the chutzpah of writing this:  ”While the narrative voıce may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground.”  What did he mean by that?  He basically is saying–if I now pose as the racist White Man in the West for a second, and I don’t mind taking that license from somebody posing for a long time as a lesbian “girl” and even exposing and communicating with many in the gay and lesbian community in Syria and the Arab world–that while he lied and fabricated but that his lies and fabrications are true and accurate.  He really sounds delusional and is divorced from reality.  This is the White Man privilege, which permits MacMaster to lie and fabricate and to arrogantly claim that his lies and fabrications are not inaccurate.  This mentality behind the creation of this identity is the same one that was around during colonial times.  The natives can’t speak for themselves: that they have to be represented by the White Man who can best explain them to the West.  Beyond all that, Macmaster damaged the efforts of well-meaning and sincere Syrian dissidents (I am not talking about the lousy Ikhwan or Khaddam or Ma’mun Humsi or Rif`at Asad or other pro-Saudi tools): this scandal is a great help to the propaganda of the Syrian regime.  Macmaster should not only apologize to the readers of the blog: he owes a bigger apology to the people of the Middle East and to gays and lesbians in the region, and even to Middle Eastern studies.  This is a smug and arrogant and delusional White Man.  I bet he hears voices in his head: probably the voices of Lord Cromer.

Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 41 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. excellent post Seham.

    the same can be said of Western Christian culture that doles out book publishing contracts, speakers’ fees, conferences and endless amounts of $$$$ and sympathy on Muslim converts to Christianity who tickle the Westerners’ ears with stories of secrecy, oppression, persecution YET *those same Western Christian ears* are tone deaf to Christian suffering, secrecy, oppression and persecution when committed by Israeli gov’t policies.

    • Citizen says:

      Yes, exactly; I am on an email list from a Christian fundie (because we went to the same high school long ago) and every story about or from a Muslim convert to Christianity attacking Islam is quickly forwarded to her list; when I respond by sending articles to her about how Christians are treated by Israel she never responds, and does not forward my response to her email list group. She’s worried about Islam installing Sharia law in the US, about Muslims taking away her baby Jesus, but she doesn’t care about ME Christians at all. Apparently they don’t exist in her mind.

  2. Chespirito says:

    Great post on the selectivity of metropolitan outrage.
    This Macmoran, what was he thinking?

  3. Lightbringer says:

    How many real Arab women have been thrown in jail by the Israelis for being political activists and fighting for the cause of the masses and not just one small group within the population?

    None?
    Could you name some?

    When did they ever get the attention that the West was so willing to pour on a woman just because they could identify with her because of her sexuality?

    Because she have shown a small display of humanity and were speaking a comprehensible language.

    It’s rather difficult to identify with someone (apparently) willingly wearing black head-to-toe dress and not speaking any language.

    Can anyone name a single Palestinian woman that is rotting away in an Israeli prison? Anyone?

    Nobody is rotting in Israeli prisons – a huge mistake if you ask me.
    Insted of some rat-stew and daily beatings – like it is supposed to be in every proper Middle-Eastern prison – all convicts in Israel get excellent food, water and are entiteled for a free university education.
    Such waste of taxpayer’s money.

    • patm says:

      Shift change at Hasbara Central, folks.

    • ToivoS says:

      Lightbringer, thanks for stopping by. We appreciate demonstrations of Israeli empathy — feel free to come by again.

    • Avi says:

      Nobody is rotting in Israeli prisons – a huge mistake if you ask me. Insted of some rat-stew and daily beatings – like it is supposed to be in every proper Middle-Eastern prison – all convicts in Israel get excellent food, water and are entiteled for a free university education. Such waste of taxpayer’s money.

      That’s a nice fantasy you have there. But the weasel word in your post is “convicts”.

      The topic under discussion here — in case you have reading comprehension issues — is about Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are held as political prisoners with no due process whatsoever under administrative detention.

      And aside from the By god they are getting free foot massages and back rubs narrative you’re pushing, Palestinians are routinely tortured in Israeli prisons. The torture is so severe that those who are released at some point, come out with psychological traumas that they will live the rest of their miserable life as vegetables.

      But, I know what you are talking about when you mention “convicts” and “excellent food”. You are referring to the likes of Samuel Sheinbein who has been spending his jail time in a minimum security prison in Israel and will be eligible for parole in two years after butchering in 1997 a teenager in the US and stuffing him in a plastic bag.

      Sheinbein wasn’t even an Israeli citizen at the time of the murder, he was an American citizen. But, the Israeli court refused to extradite him and granted him citizenship based on his father being an Israeli.

      Is he the type of convict you had in mind?

      Or perhaps you meant to write about Yigal Amir, the murderer who assassinated Rabin and currently enjoys better treatment than many Palestinian prisoners?

  4. Seham says:

    Female prisoners in Israeli prisons

    link to ifamericansknew.org
    -and-
    link to adalah.org

    Inhumane treatment of Palestinian prisoners
    Israel troops filmed attacking Palestinian prisoners

    Palestinian prisoners in Israel isolated from outside world
    link to electronicintifada.net

    Health conditions of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails
    link to middleeastmonitor.org.uk

    Palestinian child prisoners
    link to dci-palestine.org

    There’s so much more, but I think you get the point.

    • LeaNder says:

      Seham, well done. I missed the video (about an Arab lawyer … slapped across the face by an Israeli police officer)

      There are no doubt stupid people out there, but I am somehow skeptic. The tale simply fits too neatly into the larger neocon narrative. Do we know the whole story now?

  5. annie says:

    excellent post seham.

  6. joer says:

    The lesson of this fraud is as old as the internet-any nut with an internet connection and some free time can put anything he wants out there. If you are not careful, you will be taken in. Before you cite a fraud-or even invest any emotion, check your source and verify. We must resist the temptation to believe something just because we want to believe it.

  7. Les says:

    We know the US didn’t raise a finger when Israel murdered US citizen, Furkan Dogan, who was on the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Compare that with the considertion given to a dual US/Israel citizen caught spying against Egypt for Israel.

    Egypt questions suspected Israeli spy

    CAIRO — Egypt’s state security prosecution on Monday began questioning an Israeli man suspected of spying for the Mossad intelligence agency, state television reported.

    Ilan Grapel was detained on Sunday from a Cairo hotel and ordered to be held for 15 days pending investigation.

    The US embassy in Cairo confirmed that Grapel is a “US-Israel dual national” and said US consular staff had visited him.

    “We have confirmed that Ilan Chaim Grapel, age 27, is a US citizen and was detained on June 12, 2011 by Egyptian authorities,” embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth Colton told AFP.

    “A consular officer visited Mr Grapel on June 13 and confirmed that he was in good health,” she said.

    News of his arrest was plastered over the front pages of the press, with the state-owned Al-Akhbar describing it as a “painful Egyptian hit against the Mossad.”

    Grapel, who according to state media is a “Mossad officer,” is accused of sowing sectarian strife and chaos in Egypt after a popular uprising forced president Hosni Mubarak to step down on February 11.

    Authorities said on Sunday that the Israeli man had been “posing as a foreign correspondent,” and that his movements and phone calls had been monitored before his arrest.

    Several pictures of Grapel were released showing him in Israeli army uniform posing with other soldiers, and shaking hands with worshippers at a mosque in Cairo.

    Another picture shows Grapel standing in Tahrir Square — the symbolic heart of protests that brought down Mubarak — wearing sunglasses and holding a large sign that read: “Oh stupid Obama, it is a pride revolution not a food revolution.”

    Another front-page photo on the state-owned daily Al-Ahram and shown repeatedly on state TV shows Grapel holding a microphone in a mosque, apparently “preaching.”

    Israel’s foreign ministry said on Sunday it was unaware of any reports of Israeli citizens being detained in Egypt.

    Israeli commentators said reports that an Israeli citizen had been arrested for spying for the Mossad in Cairo seemed strange.

    “I can’t imagine that there will be any Israeli reactions, but anyone who knows even a little bit about these things knows that you don’t have an Israeli with an Israeli passport sitting in a foreign capital collecting things,” said Channel 2 news analyst Ehud Yaari.

    link to rawstory.com
    Egypt questions suspected Israeli spy

    • jon s says:

      By all accounts Ilan Grapel is an Israeli-American peacenik – who would probably feel at home on Mondoweiss- who was enthusiastic and excited by the Egyptian revolution.
      Let’s hope he’s released as soon as possible.

      • Chaos4700 says:

        Sure, and MacMasters was a Syrian lesbian with a proud father.

      • Avi says:

        jon s June 14, 2011 at 3:12 am

        By all accounts Ilan Grapel is an Israeli-American peacenik – who would probably feel at home on Mondoweiss- who was enthusiastic and excited by the Egyptian revolution.
        Let’s hope he’s released as soon as possible.

        Yes, let’s hope he’s released soon. Nothing to see here, people. Move along. All is quiet on the Western front.

        Is that what the Israeli media has been feeding you?

        Ilan first entered Egypt in early February. He spent some time there recruiting and paying individuals. He was surveilled hanging around Al-Azhar mosque and several churches. At some point he left Egypt, flew to Germany only to return a short while later for another extended stay in Egypt.

        Al-Quds newspaper stated that Egyptian authorities have evidence that he paid and recruited several individuals to help him in fomenting sectarian violence in Egypt.

        link to alquds.com

        In addition, there is photographic evidence that he volunteered and served in the Israeli military in 2006. Some peacenik.

        And on top of it all, Israeli services have been known to recruit Jewish Americans — for their American passports — and send them on missions to Arab states.

  8. Debonnaire says:

    Disgusting. I’d like to know the name of this swinehoont so I could backslap him.

  9. Taxi says:

    I once had a fist fight with a guy in a supermarket who kept intentionally walking past this elderly moslem woman with head covering and letting out a BARK in her direction. Six, seven times he did it and I could see the moslem lady shopper getting more and more harassed and distressed by this as she tried to ignore him and carry on with her shopping.

    So like I got gripped by this sudden compulsion and I walked up to him and told him that if he was going to bark one more time at the moslem lady, I was going to punch him in the mouth. He looked at me startled for a mo then barked real loud three inches from my face and instantly he got an upper-cut from my ready fist, staggered backwards then fell on someone’s trolly as a stream of blood oozed from the side of his lip. The moslem lady started shaking and crying and I told her to just go home and forget about the racist bastard. Anyway the manager and supermarket security came and tried to make sense of the fracas and passed the ‘barker’ some kleenex to wipe his bloody lip and crying eyes. Then the police were called – I explained to them that my punch was in self-defense and I challenged the barking man to press charges with a warning that I would expose his misogyny and racism in court and to the world. He mouthed off at me for a few raging seconds and then the police told him to shut up and asked him if he wanted to press charges and he replied with a frustrated, hesitant ‘No’. I too declined to take it further (to the policeman’s relief, I may add) really because I felt that some kinda spontaneous and poetic justice was served.

    Needless to say, I was banned from the supermarket.
    :-)

    And as I stepped out of the supermarket, the moslem elderly lady was waiting for me, looking all worried. She said she couldn’t go home till she knew that I was alright. I thought that was very sweet of her. I assured her that I was okay, nothing hurts, not in trouble with the police – even though I was a little shook-up: everything had happened so fast: I’d cheerfully gone to the supermarket to buy peaches to make Peach Melba and ended up leaving suddenly with my veins pumped with a spicy adrenaline. Anyway the moslem lady thanked and blessed me in earnest for helping her – and we said goodbye.

    Till this day it astounds me that a fully grown man would forgo the rich tapestry of human speech and WILLFULLY choose instead to express his ideas and thoughts by barking at another human being – an elderly, peaceful lady no less.

    This incident happened some seven years ago in Baltimore while I was visiting and staying with friends. Since then, I’ve been keenly aware of the fear and loathing of some white men towards moslem women. The Jim Crow brigade loathed african women slaves but they sexually desired them too. I don’t believe the modern Jim Crows have the slightest sexual desire for moslem women – they just feel pure hate for them.

    • Seham says:

      I love you Taxi.

    • wow, Taxi. thank you for sharing. some people behave like robots programmed to hate, programmed to foam at the mouth and bark. it’s crazy.

    • Miura says:

      2500 paintings that are more of a depiction of Orientalist fantasies of the painter (e.g. “Harem Life”) than they are a necessarily realistic depiction of life in the “Orient”:

      link to orientalist-art.org.uk

    • Danaa says:

      Taxi, I believe you said you were a ‘she’. So you found the wherewithal to punch a grown man in the mouth? kudos to you….

      I once shot a man (OK, bullet only scratched him – luckily for me) for getting a bit fresh when I was not in the mood and generally not interested in this particular individual (was in my earliest twenties then, and well, patience/diplomacy were not my forte, gun was just lying around and I liked shooting …..). But was a bit worried afterwards….so I know about the adrenalin effect.

      • jon s says:

        Conclusion: don’t bark at taxis.

        • Seham says:

          jon s, conclusion: don’t bark at Arab women that you perceive are weak and submissive because they will make you bleed.

      • Shmuel says:

        Danaa,

        Assuming you’re not another McMaster or psy-ops creation,
        אין לי מילים
        :-)

      • Taxi says:

        Danaa dude I don’t mind telling ya, with hand on my she-heart, that my all-time favorite idol is STILL Bruce Lee.

        I don’t mind telling ya either that I’m one of ‘em California beach-joggers, crack o’ dawn joggers that is: a most lithe and focused species.

        • Taxi says:

          Danaa dude lol your gun story: noire and scary shades of William Boroughs.

          Heck I’m so tempted but NO I ain’t gonna say shades of Dick Cheney ;-).

        • Danaa says:

          Hey Taxi, me quite gang-ho back in the day, I admit. But that was in Israel and I’ve come a long ways since. Not that I lost my temper or anything, but I try not to keep anything too lethal around. Nowadays you are more likely to find me on the frontlines fighting for stray kittens (OK, dogs too, in principle, but they have lots of guardians already). As for Cheney, had I been into hunting (so not!) and I caught glimpse of the guy, why me thinks it would be really easy to mistake him for a deer (but that’s just the stuff of fantasy on a hot summer day when I get flash-backs of something I was once, and forget for a moment that I really prefer deer watching).

          I do like your outlook!

          Shmuel – honest – no MacMaster here (see my earlier treatise on progressives, wherever I posted the darn thing. The length of it – like everything else – is my proof. If I could fake it, I would have to learn to do short – and to the point – only one, please! – first).

        • Shmuel says:

          honest – no MacMaster here

          OK. I’ll take your word for it. Now put down the gun, please …

          The length of it – like everything else – is my proof. If I could fake it, I would have to learn to do short

          Only a true professional could imitate an amateur so convincingly (“Only the true messiah …” – Monty Python). But, as I said, I think I’ll take your word for it.

    • Shmuel says:

      Taxi,
      You are a remarkable woman.

    • seafoid says:

      Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal
      by Naomi Shihab Nye

      After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
      I heard the announcement:
      If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
      Please come to the gate immediately.
      Well — one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
      An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
      Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
      Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her.
      What is her
      Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
      Did this.
      I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
      Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
      Sho bit se-wee?
      The minute she heard any words she knew — however poorly used -
      She stopped crying.
      She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely.
      She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
      Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,
      Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
      We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
      I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
      Would ride next to her — southwest.
      She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.
      Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
      Found out of course they had ten shared friends.
      Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
      Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.
      She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering
      Questions.
      She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered
      Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — out of her bag –
      And was offering them to all the women at the gate.
      To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
      Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
      The lovely woman from Laredo — we were all covered with the same
      Powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookies.
      And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers –
      Non-alcoholic — and the two little girls for our flight, one African
      American, one Mexican American — ran around serving us all apple juice
      And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.
      And I noticed my new best friend — by now we were holding hands –
      Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,
      With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
      Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
      And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
      This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
      Not a single person in this gate — once the crying of confusion stopped
      – has seemed apprehensive about any other person.
      They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
      This can still happen anywhere.
      Not everything is lost.

    • eljay says:

      >> I once had a fist fight with a guy in a supermarket who kept intentionally walking past this elderly moslem woman with head covering and letting out a BARK in her direction. … I walked up to him and told him that if he was going to bark one more time at the moslem lady, I was going to punch him in the mouth. He looked at me startled for a mo then barked real loud three inches from my face and instantly he got an upper-cut from my ready fist …

      Nicely done! The guy was clearly being a disrespectful asshole and he earned the punishment he received.

  10. poorwilly says:

    “Though gay rights is an issue in the Middle East, it certainly is not the most important one and it certainly doesn’t trump any of the other issues in Syria or anywhere else right now.” So, gays in Iran and Saudi Arabia get hung for . . . being gay. It’s basic human rights gays want. Sorry, but in that sense, gay rights, the right to be gay and live, is the most important thing, because it’s essentially human rights.

    And it’s funny, the minute gay rights are talked about, you bring up an Arab woman being slapped by an Israeli policeman. You’re doing the same thing you accuse the Zionists of doing–changing the subject, pointing to worse abuses in the Israeli world, but getting (very wrongly) slapped in the face for trying to assert your (god-given) rights is a far cry from being killed for being gay.

  11. VR says:

    I can remember a short while ago pondering why when Palestinian women are assaulted and imprisoned by Israelis that so little was said. It disturbed me greatly, and when those in the US would listen to these individuals in Israel who were going to rescue “the poor oppressed Palestinian women,” who were supposed to suffering from “Muslim oppression.”

    I have said it many times before, and I will probably say it again when individuals bring up liberation in a domestic context of Palestinian women, or Iraqi women, or Afghan women and so on – that their liberators who indiscriminately bomb not caring for these ladies lives, will write of their “liberation” on their grave stones. Has anyone ever heard an Israeli shout out “is there anyone gay here?” before they shoot?

    ISRAELIS “LIBERATE” PALESTINIAN WOMEN…

    What this individual did, with a fictitious person, was to imply that there was no redeeming quality in these societies (I used the plural because there are many nuances when you are talking about a billion plus people all over the world), and that there is no humanity in their collective persons. As if there is no common affection and nothing but harsh rigidity, that there is not even common love and affection in family members – as there is in their Western and enlightened superiors. It was a reinforcement of the wholly other, another form of Orientalism –

    HAPPY MOTHERS DAY – PALESTINIAN MOTHERS UNDER SIEGE EAST JERUSALEM

    Do the Israelis ask Palestinian women prisoners if they are gay?

    • Avi says:

      The irony is that many Orientalists in the West like to peddle their indignation about the mistreatment of women in the Middle East. Meanwhile, many Muslim and Arab men and women alike complain of the blatant racism they face in the US today, nevermind Israel’s abuses for more than 60 years.

      In other words, if hacks in the US truly wanted to defend Arab or Muslim women’s rights, they could start by making sure those women are not treated with disdain in the US, are not called “rag heads” or “sand niggers”.

      Wouldn’t that be a good place to start?

      But the West marinates in the imperialist and racist mentality that the white man was put on this Earth to civilize the savages and educate them. It serves a political end. Nevermind that without the cultural and scientific capital of the Middle East, Europe would still be shooing rats in the plague-infested alleyways of the dark ages.

  12. VR says:

    Palestinian women shot down in the streets, after the Israeli soldiers yell at them calling them whores –

    IN COLD BLOOD

    The only reason the shooting stopped is that the Israeli soldiers realized there were international cameras present recording the event.