Column: A Queer Clash in Houston Between Gay Students and Hillel at Rice U.

Shame on Rice Pride.

A gay student group in Houston bashes a nation that protects, sustains and facilitates gay rights while shielding a society that slaughters its own inhabitants who engage in same-sex relationships. Not only that, but they send a forceful signal that antisemitism propels their behavior.

In the midst of Jewish new year observances, Rice Pride at Rice University proclaimed that it has severed ties with Hillel at the university because Hillel dares to support Israel. Rice Pride said in a statement that it opposes guidelines presented by Hillel International, an umbrella group for campus chapters. The guidelines bar campus Hillels from partnering with or hosting organizations that advocate for a boycott of Israel or that deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports.

“Hillel’s ‘Standards of Partnership’ are incompatible with Rice Pride’s mission to create an accessible and equitable space for queer students of all backgrounds,” a Rice Pride statement says. “Historically, these ‘Standards of Partnership’ have been used by Hillel International to cut ties and spark conflicts with any organization that seeks to engage in spaces that validate Palestinian and Arab experiences.”

Rice Pride leaders must take special pride in their timing – in between the first day of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, and the day of atonement, Yom Kippur. This is one occasion on which the Jewish people can collectively read their minds. They are not merely anti-Zionists or even misguided “progressives.” Only antisemites would raise such issues during the most solemn of Jewish observances.

Such is their idea of standards. Who among us would believe that it was coincidental?

In the JTA article, a Jewish homosexual student groused about the timing. “This is certainly a decision that could have waited a single week,” the unidentified student said. “To make an announcement of this kind during the High Holy Days places a lot of extra stress on Jewish people, and shows there isn’t the level of cultural fluency I would like to see from Pride leadership.”

What Rice Pride did was a slap in the face to all Jews, and all the more so to Jewish students and faculty at Rice whether straight or gay. All while they deride Hillel’s standards.

Antisemitism does not appear to dominate the gay community, but it has been problematic at times. Hopefully, Rice Pride is an exception rather than the rule.

Take note that nobody in Rice Pride who composed the statement would identify themselves. It is all done in secrecy, like most antisemites would do. They might as well wear masks like Ku Klux Klan members.

Rice Pride’s hypocrisy is glaring. According to its statement, Rice Pride’s goal “is to provide a safe space for queer students of all backgrounds.” Judaism is a background. They automatically created a tense situation for “queers” who were born and raised as Jews. No “safe space” for Jews at Rice. Another standard at Rice Pride.

Where would gay Arabs find “a safe space” in Israel? Would they choose Ramallah in the West Bank or Tel Aviv in sovereign Israel? In a city like Ramallah, their own fathers and brothers would kill them to uphold the family honor. In Tel Aviv, they could march in gay pride parades.

Granted, homophobia exists in Israel, but that is the exception to the rule there. Anyone in Rice Pride could find “a safe space” in Israel.

Rice Pride seeks “to recognize the intersectionalities between queer identity and race, ethnicity and religion.”

The Jews have confronted “intersectionalities” for centuries. Since its creation 75 years ago, Israel has made countless offers of peace agreements, particularly in July 2000 at Camp David. Yet the Palestinians persist with terrorist attacks, rocket launches and riots.

Many Arabs seek to destroy Israel. They are not aiming for social justice like racial minorities in America. It is the Arabs who persecute gays, not the Israelis.

Oh, I forgot to acknowledge what Israel is up to: pinkwashing. Arab activists accuse Israel of promoting gay rights so the world will overlook Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. At least the Arabs do not hide their brutality. They will not cease injuring and murdering their gay population just so the world will ignore their terror tactics against Israelis.

Rice Pride’s statement even concedes that Houston Hillel has helped to fund the group’s Queer Resource Center, and both Hillel and Rice Pride co-hosted 12 events since 1916. Despite this history, Rice Pride joins a number of student groups nationwide that have distanced themselves from Hillel over its Israel policies. Rabbi Kenny Weiss, executive director of Houston Hillel, wrote in a statement that Rice Pride never consulted with Hillel, a move that might have averted this mess.

“Houston Hillel does not accept that we live in a world where students need to pick only one part of their identity to celebrate,” Weiss wrote. “We believe in building communities where one group’s inclusion does not come at the expense of another’s.

“This decision by Rice Pride not only alienates queer Jewish students and leaves them unsure of their own acceptance in Rice Pride spaces, but also damages the campus climate for all Jewish students.” he added.

In its idea of a magnanimous move, Rice Pride wrote in a statement, “We have no intention of excluding Jewish students, regardless of their affiliation with Hillel. We acknowledge that this decision has likely weighed heavy on the hearts of queer Jewish students at Rice, and we empathize with that.”

Empathize? With the damage already done, what value can there be with empathizing? Save your empathy for the Palestinians, whoever you are.

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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