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Equality Forum: ‘Pink Wash’ Of Human Rights Abuses Decried By Protesters At Israel Panel



The New Civil Rights Movement’s John Culhane is the official blogger for Equality Forum, Philadelphia’s internationally known and always interesting cavalcade of events that celebrates, informs and provokes on all (or many, anyway) things LGBT. John will be sharing reports daily over the next few days. Read all John’s Equality Forum posts here. 

Well, that was interesting.

About an hour into last night’s Equality ForumFeatured Nation: Israel” panel, four or five protesters barged into the room and began shouting about Israel’s inhumane treatment of the Palestinians. They had a huge banner that they never managed to unfurl, and what looked like a manifesto that they never managed to read — because they were quickly dragged out of the room by the hotel’s security staff.

All but one woman. Inexplicably wearing what looked like a Mardi Gras mask, she moved toward the front of the room and tried to speak. For a minute or so, there was a bizarre stand-off between her and several loud and angry audience members, who shouted (unhelpfully) “Get out.”

Enter Nurit Shein, the panel moderator (and Executive Director the Mazzoni Center), who tried to quell the disturbance by calming stating that she understood the reason for the protests, but that this wasn’t the right forum. Then, in a welcome surprise, another panelist — Anat Nir, a young Israeli activist who works on the economic side of LGBT equality — somewhat disagreed with her, contending that these were issues that needed airing. Then she and other panelists described the work that the LGBT leadership in Tel Aviv was doing with Palestinians in Gaza and Arabs living in Israel in order to help them deal with a culture that was more repressive than Israel’s. The activist seems disarmed by this civil response, and, while she didn’t exactly go quietly (a security guy “helped” her out), the panelists had found the antidote to the venom in her voice.

Was the event the better for the protesters? I’d say yes, but not in the way they’d intended. They did succeed in getting the panelists to talk about the challenges of doing LGBT rights in a society where there are other injustices that go unaddressed; although, as more than one of them painfully pointed out, the situation isn’t markedly different in the U.S. (It was either Shein or Nir who pointed out that, for example, the continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan is problematic, but that’s no reason for the work of LGBT activists to stop.) And they did, in a way, get people to consider what they were saying. But really, their goal was to disrupt and to shut people up. And that rarely (not never!) seems like a good idea to me. Why not be part of the audience and ask penetrating questions? And then set up your protest outside? They did that — as I walked to my car, a small group of college-age students were standing on the sidewalk bearing signs that rebuked the “pink washing” of Israel — by which I gather they mean the effort to use progress on LGBT rights to camouflage the deeper human rights abuses that continue.


The protest aside, the panel was remarkably informative. Shai Doitsh, the Chairperson of the Israeli National LGBT Task Force, provided a succinct summary of LGBT rights progress in Israel over the past thirty years. Until 1988, it was illegal to be gay (by which I took him to mean that the law criminalized acts of same-sex intimacy, as the Israelis had uncritically imported English law into their system when the nation was founded). Then that law changed, and, a few years later, the exclusion of gays from the military was lifted. (More than one panelist described the importance of this legal change in Israel, given the social standing of the Israeli Army and the expectation that everyone will serve.) And — in a reminder that high-profile media events are as important as legal change in moving a rights agenda — he pointed to the 1998 EuroVision win of an Israeli transgendered woman, Dana International, for the song (wait for it!) “Diva.” (For those who don’t know what EuroVision is, shame on you! One word: ABBA!)

Doitsh said that many of the advances had come from the courts and not Parliament, a statement that provided a smooth segue into the remarks by Irit Rosenblum, a very smart lawyer who directs the New Family Organization. This title isn’t a politically motivated misdirection for a group that deals with LGBT rights — as its name implies, “New Family” is concerned with the rights of all kinds of families that aren’t recognized under Israeli law. And because that law is grounded in religion, the group of legal outliers includes couples interfaith couples, non-religious couples, and foreign workers — along with LGBT couples. The strategy has been to pursue practical solutions to the legal problems of parenthood, private contracting, inheritance, and so on by “flooding” the family courts with petitions and cases. And this has paid off, because dozens of adverse rulings are quickly swamped by one or two good ones. Once a court has simply seen and protected the couples in front of them, it becomes harder for later courts to backtrack. This approach has also gained some traction here in the U.S., with scholars like Nancy Polikoff emphasizing the need for the law to “value all families” — not just the LGBT ones that are, for many of us, our primary concern. Small victories can be used to pry bigger ones out of the courts. (I was particularly interested in the story of how a gay couple was forced to cool its heels in India with the baby they’d created with a surrogate, until a combination of legal and social pressure resulted in their repatriation.)

Yaniv Weizman, a Tel Aviv city council member and advisor to the mayor on LGBT issues, thanked Rosenblum for her work and then, movingly, gestured to his husband in the front row as evidence of its effect. “Tel Aviv is so gay!”, said Weizman. While we have a “Gayborhood” (I hate that name!) in Philadelphia, Tel Aviv is an entirely gay-open city. (I also learned that it was recently named the No. 1 Gay Tourist Destination in the world.) But the rest of the country isn’t as progressive. In this way, the city isn’t too different from American cities and their surrounding areas. But it’s often described, he noted, as a “bubble” — an image that I’m sure would have appealed to the protesters as a way of describing the LGBT’s focus on their own equality (but the image isn’t accurate or entirely fair to the LGBT community, even though Weizman conceded that they “weren’t doing enough” to help their Palestinian gay brothers (not sisters so much, who I gather are so invisible at this point that there’s not much to be done right now)).

Anat Nir was the most practical, and, in a way, the most compelling (which is saying something given the effectiveness of all the panelists). She clearly understands the need for financial backing in support of social spaces and artistic ventures as ways of pushing things forward. She began by opening a lesbian bar because there was no place for her to go. But then she realized that there was a need for broader social opportunities, and has pushed forward with a gay and lesbian film festival. She has also provided funding for the first year of a safe living space for LGBTQ youth, and has campaigned for medical facilities to serve our population. Then there’s mortgage financing and life insurance issues, which she is currently working on.


Thanks to committed activists like this, a lot’s getting done in Israel, and especially in Tel Aviv. And they’re not leaving out their Arab neighbors. I can’t resist closing with this quote from the Epilogue of one of the best books I’ve ever read, A History of the Jews. I include it here as a counterweight to the sometimes veiled anti-Semitism that too-often colors otherwise accurate criticisms of Israel:

“Human confidence…, if it is strong and tenacious enough, is a force in itself, which pushes on the hinge of events and moves them. The Jews believed they were a special people with such unanimity and passion, and over so long a span, that they became one. They…indeed have a role because they wrote it for themselves.”


Were he born 10,000 years ago, John Culhane would not have survived to adulthood; he has no useful, practical skills. He is a law professor who writes about various and sundry topics, including: disaster compensation; tort law; public health law; literature; science; sports; his own personal life (when he can bear the humanity); and, especially, LGBT rights and issues. He teaches at the Widener University School of Law and is a Senior Fellow at the Thomas Jefferson School of Population Health.

He is also a contributor to Slate Magazine, and writes his own eclectic blog. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter if you’re blessed with lots of time.

John Culhane lives in the Powelton Village area of Philadelphia with his partner David and their twin daughters, Courtnee and Alexa. Each month, he awaits the third Saturday evening for the neighborhood Wine Club gathering.

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Trump Desperate to Keep Any Possible Criminal Evidence From Supreme Court: Legal Expert



Donald Trump’s decision to allow one of his lawyers to speak before a grand jury on Friday morning, instead of appealing all the way to the Supreme Court, may have been made out of fear of what the justices on the nation’s highest court might see if they reviewed the case.

According to MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin, under normal circumstances, the former president would have dragged out a legal fight over attorney-client privilege that would have kept attorney Evan Corcoran from testifying under oath about Trump’s possession of government documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort that led to the FBI showing up with a warrant.

As Rubin notes, the fact that Trump let Corcoran testify over three hours raised eyebrows.

“For one, yes, it is indeed unusual, if not unheard of, for a lawyer to be litigating against a party one day and then testifying under court-ordered examination by that same party the next one,” she wrote before suggesting Trump and his legal team were looking at the long game when he might need the predominantly conservative Supreme Court to lend him a helping hand.

RELATED: Revealed: Emails show how Trump lawyers drove Michael Cohen to turn on the president

Writing, “Trump has made clear he believes this Supreme Court — controlled by conservative justices, three of whom he appointed — owes him one,” she added, “My hunch is that Trump’s team let Corcoran’s testimony happen because of what’s likely involved in any request to pause, much less, review a crime-fraud-related ruling: the evidence.”

“Put another way, if Trump had petitioned the Supreme Court to stay Corcoran’s testimony and document production, the justices would have seen some, if not all, of what Judge Howell and the three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit have already reviewed: proof that Trump misled Corcoran and engaged in criminal conduct,” she elaborated.

Rubin went on to note that Trump would likely appeal any conviction to the Supreme Court, writing, “And for someone whose one last hope, if he is ultimately charged or tried by any of the multiple entities now investigating him, is that same Supreme Court, letting the justices see evidence of his alleged crimes now would be a bridge too far.”

“Trump can’t afford to lose the Supreme Court yet,” she suggested.

You can read more here.

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No TX Congressional Republican Will Say If They’re Attending Trump’s Rally in Waco – Will He Have Trouble Filling Seats?



Donald Trump‘s Saturday campaign rally in Waco, Texas, falls during the 30th anniversary of the 51-day siege that community is known for, when 86 people died after a failed ATF raid on an anti-government religious cult suspected of illegally stockpiling firearms amid allegations of sexual abuse, statutory rape, and polygamy.

Experts have been warning for a week that Trump’s choice of Waco, synonymous with violent anti-government extremism, was no accident. His rhetoric this week, including most recently Friday when he warned of “potential death & destruction” should he be indicted, has been seen as encouraging violence.

NCRM was among the first news outlets to report experts’ concerns over Trump’s choice to hold a rally in Waco during the 30th anniversary of the deadly siege.

Not a single congressional Republican from Texas will say they are attending, nor has the town’s GOP mayor, according to a report from Insider, which contacted over two dozen Republican lawmakers and other elected officials.

“None of the 30 Texas Republicans Insider contacted about the event said they were going,” Insider reveals.

“Most of the 30 GOP members contacted about Donald Trump’s inaugural visit to the site of a 30-year-old standoff between cult leader David Koresh and federal authorities did not respond to requests for comment about whether they intended to rally with the scandal-plagued candidate and perhaps say a few kind words,” Insider reports.

“Rep. Pete Sessions, a Waco native who now represents the surrounding 17th congressional district, praised Trump for shining a light on his hometown but said he’d have to miss the spectacle,” Insider adds. “Aides to Rep. Troy Nehls, one of the four House Republicans from Texas who have formally backed Trump’s 2024 run, told Insider he wouldn’t be heading to Waco because of a prior commitment in Washington, DC, this weekend.”

READ MORE: ‘Utter Cowardice’: Jim Jordan Blasted for Telling Reporter He Can’t Read Trump’s Violence-Threatening Post Without Glasses

Meanwhile, in addition to guest list challenges – the campaign refused to tell Insider who the guest speakers will be – Trump may have trouble filling seats.

Mary Trump, the ex-president’s niece who opposes him, has been running a campaign to get anti-Trump Americans to “sign up” for tickets to the Saturday rally, in the hopes of being able to turn away supporters.

“Donald has a rally in Waco this Saturday,” she also said via Twitter. “It’s a ploy to remind his cult of the infamous Waco siege of 1993, where an anti-government cult battled the FBI. Scores of people died. He wants the same violent chaos to rescue him from justice.”

“But we can stop him. If we book the 50,000+ venue, we can make sure most of the seats are empty when the traitor takes the stage,” she said. “We can no longer fail to hold powerful men accountable for their crimes against our country.”

Image via Shutterstock

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‘Utter Cowardice’: Jim Jordan Blasted for Telling Reporter He Can’t Read Trump’s Violence-Threatening Post Without Glasses



Countless GOP lawmakers over the years have professed ignorance over Donald Trump’s tweets as reporters ask them to respond, often claiming they hadn’t read them, but House Republican Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan took that performance to a whole new level Friday afternoon.

NBC News senior national political reporter Sahil Kapur asked the Ohio Republican congressman to weigh in on Trump’s social media post threatening “potential death & destruction” if he gets indicted.

“Jordan said he hasn’t seen Trump’s post,” Kapur said via Twitter. “When I showed [it] to him on my phone, he said he can’t read well without his glasses.”

“He added he’s reviewing DA Bragg’s letter,” Kapur added.

READ MORE: ‘Big Shoe Drops’: Bad Day for Trump on Multiple Fronts in Special Counsel’s Grand Jury Probes

Jordan, who didn’t need glasses to appear on Fox Business just two days ago (photo) is getting blowback.

VICE News Deputy DC Bureau Chief Todd Zwillich explained the progression.

“The stages of ignoring incitement,” he tweeted. “2016: I don’t respond to tweets —> 2018: I havent seen the tweet —-> 2023: I literally can’t see the tweet.”

“Utter cowardice,” declared former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh. “Not at all the @Jim_Jordan I knew & served with in Congress 10 yrs ago. Or…maybe it is.”

“The sheer dishonesty and cowardice of these people,” lamented MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan, echoing Walsh’s remarks.

Government watchdog group Citizens for Ethics said the “extent to which Trump’s backers in Congress are going to not condemn [his] calls for violence are ludicrous.”

RELATED: Ninth Wrestler Comes Forward to Say Jordan ‘Snickered’ When He Complained of Sexual Abuse: Report

Some tied Jordan’s inability to see the post to his apparent inability to see or remember all the Ohio State wrestlers who say they complained to Jordan when he was their assistant coach, about being sexually harassed or assaulted by the team doctor. To this day despite numerous reports and people publicly coming forward, Jordan denied it ever happened.

“Apparently, Jim Jordan is unable to see wrestlers being sexually abused or Donald Trump social media posts,” attorney and Republican turned Democrat Ron Filipkowski tweeted.

“Well, @Jim_Jordan has shown before that he has trouble seeing threats right in front of his nose, so this checks out,” tweeted historian Kevin M. Kruse.

But Jordan’s Democratic colleagues on the Judiciary Committee may have served up the best response: “Why do you need your glasses to condemn violence @Jim_Jordan?”

READ MORE: ‘Pits Parents Against Parents’: House Republicans Pass Anti-LGBTQ Florida-Style K-12 ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’




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