It’s been interesting to read about Amina, the “Gay Girl in Damascus” being “outed” as Tom MacMaster, married male activist from the U.S.
Some of the discussion has hinged around the damage this false persona does to people’s ability to trust. Although by now, many of us would use a large pinch of salt with written accounts as well as images, there are plenty out there who are gullible and happy to believe what reinforces their world view.
Jonah Goldberg in this article examines Tom MacMaster, co-director of Atlanta Palestine Solidarity, in more detail, and the results are neither pretty nor benign. As Goldberg writes “People desperately wanted to believe in this “hero”: a saucy, sage, left-wing member of the LGBT community who likes to wear the hijab, can’t stand Israel or George W. Bush, and who parrots every cliche about the romantic authenticity of the Arab people and their poetic yearning for democracy, peace and love. Whereas no one cared about McMaster’s “Anglo” arguments, Amina’s assertions succeeded with little effort. For instance, “she” writes of the Palestinians’ need to return to their homes in Israel: “It’s simple but, maybe, you have to be a Levantine Arab to get this. It makes perfect sense to me.” Of course it does!”
Also, Goldberg uses this issue to explore the apparent paradox that people promoting gay rights can bash “gay supportive” Israel but support “gay bashing” Arab countries.
Goldberg writes about “the sin of “pink washing” — a term used by some anti-Israel critics to decry any attempt to compare Israel’s treatment of gays with that of Arab states. Israel is tolerant, even celebratory, of gay rights. (Israel recently launched a gay tourism campaign with the slogan “Tel Aviv Gay Vibe — Free; Fun; Fabulous.”) Syria punishes homosexual activity with three years in prison (In Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran, the punishment is death). Who cares, Amina angrily responds. In fact, how dare “advocates of war, occupation, dispossession and apartheid” use Arab and Muslim hostility to gays as “‘evidence’ that the primitive sand-people don’t deserve anything other than killing by the enlightened children of the West.”
Besides, “she” has never been harassed by Arabs for being gay. But in America, “she” has been “struck by strangers for being an Arab” and “had dung thrown at me” for wearing the hijab.
Except that is a lie. Worse, it’s propaganda. McMaster’s fake-but-accurate lesbian was perfectly pitched to Western liberals desperate to alleviate the pain of cognitive dissonance. No longer must you think too hard or make tough choices if you’re, say, anti-Israel and pro-democracy, or pro-gay rights and in favor of the self-determination of Muslim fanatics. Heck, you can even stop worrying and love a lesbian feminist who sees no big deal in wearing a religiously required sack over her head. With Amina, all contradictions are resolved — in favor of the incoherent biases of the anti-America and anti-Israel left. Of course she was a hero. Of course she didn’t exist.”
The comments and responses to the article, are also worth reading.