Rachel Podhoretz Decter Abrams’s Gay Problem — And Ours

Eli and Ali have been doing great reporting on the Emergency Committee for Israel, the new Likudnik group that has formed to attack Democrats on Israel. Many of the group’s principals will be familiar — Bill Kristol, of course, needs no introduction, while Gary Bauer is a well-known Christian Zionist who believes, as Matt Duss noted, that “God granted the Land of Israel to the Jewish people and there is an absolute ban on giving it away to another people.” Others are less familiar, such as the group’s executive director Noah Pollak — a young “journalist” who generally serves as an American mouthpiece for Likud talking points and who apparently moonlights as a media strategist for the IDF.

One figure who has received less attention is the group’s fourth principal, Rachel Abrams — wife of Elliott Abrams, daughter of Midge Decter, stepdaughter of Norman Podhoretz. This is a shame, because she is almost certainly the craziest of the lot.

I must confess that when I began reading her blog, I was primarily looking for evidence of her Revisionist Zionism. And, to be sure, such evidence is not in short supply — e.g. this poetic ode to the Israeli landscape, which concludes “I know why we cannot let go of any part of this land.” She also constantly adopts the argot of the Israeli settler movement by referring to the West Bank as “Judea and Samaria”. Her sympathy for the settlers is not terribly surprising; the only question is how much it is shared by her husband, who as the Bush administration’s top Middle East advisor was supposedly in charge of implementing a two-state solution. Certainly, Elliott Abrams’s disastrous tenure at the National Security Council raised the strong suspicion that he was doing everything he could to destroy the possibility of a viable Palestinian state, but unlike his wife he is always careful to couch his arguments in the pragmatic and bureaucratic language of Washington peace process-ese rather than the ideological language of Revisionist Zionism.

But as I continued reading Rachel Abrams’s writings, what jumped out at me was not so much her predictably crazy views about Israel, but her strange obsession with (and apparent hostility to) homosexuality. This first jumped out at me in her response to Peter Beinart’s New York Review of Books essay, a long rant in which Abrams pretends to write in Beinart’s voice. While most of her Beinart “parody” is devoted to accusations that he is insufficiently devoted to the state of Israel, a large chunk of it is spent on rather bizarre and gratuitous insinuations that Beinart is gay. Thus she has fake-Beinart complaining, about a focus group of Jewish students, that “an insufficient number were gay and too many were broads,” and espousing his support for “open debate that of course excludes those who would advance anti-feminist or anti-gay or pro-Israel argument”. (It’s striking that she equates “pro-Israel” with “anti-feminist” and “anti-gay” arguments.) Then she has fake-Beinart condemning Orthodox Jews for homophobia before defensively reasserting his own heterosexuality: “they condemn gays, though I want to reassert that I have children,” a trope that she repeats throughout the piece. One has to wonder why she is so intent to insist that Beinart is gay, as if this fact would have any relevance whatsoever to the content of his piece.

I was initially inclined to dismiss Abrams’s homophobic attack on Beinart as simply a failed and sophomoric attempt at humor, but the more of her writing I read, the more I noticed that this strange obsession with homosexuality seems to be a recurring feature of it. For instance, in a post claiming that Christopher Hitchens is “giving homosexuality a bad name,” and professing disinterest in the sexual pasts of “old Tory buggers,” Abrams writes:

Wherever one stands on the homosexuality question—I’m agnostic, or would be if the “gay community” would quit trying to shove legislation down my throat—there can be no denying bisexuality’s double betrayal—you never know, whether you’re the man of the hour or the woman, when the ground on which you’re standing is going to turn to ashes—nor any denying the self-admiring “nourishment” its promiscuous conquests afford.

I’m not entirely sure what it means to be “agnostic” about “the homosexuality question”. (Agnostic about whether it’s natural? Whether it’s moral? Whether it should be legal?) The upshot seems to be that Rachel Abrams would prefer not to think about “the homosexuality question” except that the dastardly gays and their quote-unquote community keep “trying to shove legislation down [her] throat”.

Similarly, Abrams is deeply offended by the Obama administrations’ human rights policy, but her complaint goes beyond the standard neocon one that Obama is not aggressive enough in pushing regime change against Israel’s rivals — what’s really galling is that the administration has identified LGBT rights in the U.S. as an important human rights issue. She froths that it’s Hillary “Clinton’s fawning speech in honor of ‘Pride Month,’ which she delivered the other day to members of the ‘LGBT community’ who have fanned out from the mother-ship of state, as it were…that’s the truly breathtaking expression of this perversion of a policy.” For telling this quote-unquote community such wildly controversial statements as “human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights,” Clinton is responsible for this “perversion” — I can’t imagine the word choice is accidental — of a policy.

I could go on. There’s her speculation, for instance, that the problems of the Afghan war originate in the rampant homosexuality of Pashtun males, which leads Abrams onto a long tangent about homosexuality among the ancient Greeks, concluding: “those ancient elitist pedophiles and narcissists, disturbingly fascinating as they are, will seem to many in our armed forces to have been people doing and suffering things that are very ‘base’ indeed.” There’s yet another rant about the Obama administration’s focus on LGBT rights, which she excoriates as an abandonment of America’s traditional “embracing of the rights of ordinary men and women,” (as opposed to perverts, presumably). There’s the way that Abrams throws a gratuitous warning about “a profitable surge in gay-couples-therapy sessions, as gay marriage, and divorce, become commonplace—nay, even humdrum” into an article on a completely unrelated topic. But you get the picture.

Conclusion: Rachel Abrams is a real piece of work, and seems pathologically incapable of hiding her obsession with (and distaste for) homosexuality. Perhaps it’s not surprising given her parents: Midge Decter was the author of the notoriously homophobic 1980 Commentary article “The Boys on the Beach,” while Norman Podhoretz’s particular brand of wounded, insecure, obviously-compensating hypermasculinity will be familiar to readers of essays like “My Negro Problem — And Ours” [PDF].

Israel’s defenders often contrast the state’s record on LGBT rights to those of many of its neighbors, and frankly this is one area where I think they have a point. Something tells me, however, that we won’t be seeing many of these arguments coming from Rachel Abrams.

Daniel Luban

Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.



  1. You are missing Podhoretz’ more bizarre gay-baiting, from a 1977 Harper’s piece:

    Podhoretz penned a meandering essay in Harper’s in 1977 titled “The Culture of Appeasement” which likened antiwar sentiment in post-Vietnam America to the wariness of war in Britain after World War I, and then linked the latter to a homosexual yearning for relations with all the young men who perished in the Great War. In Podhoretz’s view, “the best people looked to other men for sex and romance,” and as a result, didn’t much like them being killed by the score on the Continent. “Anyone familiar with homosexual apologetics today will recognize these attitudes.”

    Tying things back into the 1970s, Podhoretz pointed to the “parallels with England in 1937” and warned that “this revival of the culture of appeasement ought to be troubling our sleep.” (A correspondent in a subsequent issue of Harper’s would admit that he “had not previously realized that Winston Churchill fought the Battle of Britain almost singlehandedly while England’s ubiquitous faggotry sneered and jeered from below.”)


  2. Well, bizarre is the word. What do these people hope to achieve with their anti-gay bigotry? They certainly aren’t going to win many new supporters by follwoing this line.

  3. I think this issues from an Authoritarian mindset. If we grant these people the sincerity of their (stated) beliefs, then we get some sense of their morality, faith and ethics.

    Arguably, assuming she is a true believer, she would take her diktats from on high. God decreed Israel to the Jews, Faggotry is bad, follow leaders…

    Or, she may be a nasty, sociopath who fails to see humanity in others. Both are scary, both deny the humanity of others, both are perversions of the Golden Rule. Of course, if you can square the Book of Jericho with the Golden Rule, you’ve achieved a rationalization that has yet eluded me.

  4. I’m not entirely sure what it means to be “agnostic” about “the homosexuality question”.

    I think it means that she doesn’t know a goddamn thing about it.

  5. The Podhoretz clan and all their offshoots are truly fifth columnists operating in this country for the benefit of Israel. The best thing one can say about them is that they scarcely make a secret of it.

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