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. July 14, 2010
    The new Emergency Committee for Israel brings forth foolish foes
    Ed Lasky

    A new pro-Israel group has been formed, the Emergency Committee for Israel, that hopes to channel support for that nation that comes from the Republican and from evangelicals in America. Ben Smith of Politico has a report outlining the genesis and goals of the group. The founders of the group plan a campaign to highlight the problems that Barack Obama’s approach towards the Middle east has caused and to focus on Democratic candidates who support the Obama approach (that has caused problems primarily for the Israelis, but also for the Palestinians themselves — and for the wider Arab word that faces problems from Iran). Needless to say, this has prompted ridiculous and hypocritical overreactions among the “usual suspects” who have never had the security of our ally, Israel , as a concern.

    Stephen Walt has enjoyed notoriety from his anti-Israel activism over the last few years. Since he and John Mearsheimer published a working paper — and then a book — on the so-called Israel Lobby, he has made a career out of bashing Israel and all but accusing its supporters here (if they are Jewish) of dual loyalty and of being in the thrall of the Israel Lobby (if they are not Jewish). Despite his work being shown to be filled with errors (as shown by, among others, Alan Dershowitz), Walt has continue his obsessive campaign against supporters of Israel in America.

    Here is his reaction to the founding of the Emergency Committee: he views it as “promoting a hard-right Likudnik agenda in the Middle East” (the Likud party is one of several political parties in Israel; in America , anti-Israel activists use it as a slur , though it was under Likud that Israel left the Sinai and Gaza). He again raises the charge of dual loyalty when he charges that the group is planning to “go after” anyone who is willing to think of U.S. interests. Then he makes a ridiculous claim that the people behind the group are “some of the same geniuses who dreamed up and sold the Iraq war.” This is again a slur — and one not based on facts. Among its founders are NOT George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld. There is a young and quite bright Yale graduate student, Noah Pollak, who is its Executive Director. He was nowhere near the Bush administration — ever. Oh.., there is Bill Kristol, who was running the Weekly Standard during the era of George W. Bush, not planning the Iraq War. Walt does not deal with facts; he traffics in unsupportable accusations.

    Then we have Matt Duss of the Center for American Progress, who sarcastically greeted the founding of the new group with this tweet “Because the world really needs another astroturf Israel propaganda outfit”. This is about as galling and hypocritical as one can be. The Center for American Progress (CAP) is all but paid for lock, stock, and barrel by George Soros and his political allies, Herbert and Marion Sandler (Savings and Loan billionaires who flooded the market with bad mortgages that blew up after they sold their empire).

    The Emergency Committee is very up-front regarding its goals and agenda. But how about Duss’s Center for American Progress? Does the Center ever disclose how closely its agenda follows the interests of its chief patron, George Soros? Does it post on its website this article from Bloomberg News “Soros-Funded Democratic Idea factory Becomes Obama Policy Front”? The Center is far more than just a think-tank. Even its founder and leader, John Podesta (Obama’s transition chief before he became President), proudly calls it an “action tank.” The Center helps to ensure its “‘recommendations” become official US policy. This is facilitated by the fact that George Soros was an early and ardent supporter of Barack Obama’s and employed his empire of 527 groups (such as MoveOn.Org) to help ensure his election. Since then, Obama has populated his administration with Center for American Progress alums (Van Jones is just one example; Denis McDonough, Obama’s Chief of Staff at his National Security Council is another).

    The irony is that Soros (Duss’s sugar daddy) is the number one funder of 527 groups in America — and many of them actually are “astroturf” groups. Soros’s funding also enriches anti-Israel “astroturf” groups such as Human Rights Watch. Soros was also involved in the founding of the anti-Israel group J Street (and has people closely associated with him on its board). I guess that sort of “astroturfing” — as long as its goal is to promote anti-Israel advocacy — and policy does not merit derision by Duss.

    One more note regarding the Center for American Progress. The “action tank” seems primed to try to influence foreign policy in the Middle East. The Center has a division that focuses on the Middle East and has recently absorbed the appeasement oriented “Israel Policy Forum.” Duss is merely another hypocrite when he derides the founding of the Emergency Committee.

    Lastly, we have a fringe figure who wants to make a name for himself among the anti-Israel crowd: Daniel Luban, a graduate student in political science who blogs at something called the “lobelog.” He has been an anti-Israel crank for a while. He also wants to join the critics of the Emergency Committee but has so little to work with he has to resort to an absurd and scurrilous attack on Rachel Abrams — who has her own blog (Bad Rachel) that I recommend and who is one of the founders of the Emergency Committee. Luban goes to ridiculous lengths to allege that Rachel Abrams is a homophobe. There is so little there in this ad hominem attack that I won’t deign to waste my time in ripping his reasoning to shreds (one can do so by reading his screed). I suppose when you are a graduate student you have a lot of time on your hands to waste dreaming up this type of tripe.

    When one cannot rely on facts, one can just rely on slurs.

    Luban seems to want to emulate Stephen Walt-what a role model !

    I guess one should not expect much reasoning or rationale from someone who thinks George Soros is just fine and dandy regarding Israel.


  2. How nice to see that Eliot Abrams has found such a suitable match.

  3. It’s simple. The problem is that her branch of the tribe is failing and missing some screws, like a badly maintained car. The problem is that she’s been allowed to travel the road without someone pulling her over.

  4. RE: “One has to wonder why she [Rachel Abrams] is so intent to insist that Beinart is gay…”
    MY COMMENT: Does one really need to wonder? Sadly, No! Might it be “unresolved sex role conflict”? Frankly, I’ve always had the same suspicion about that bullheaded “mommy dearest” of hers. And Liz Cheney is living proof of why such types (i.e., Liz’s own “mommy dearest”)should not have children as long as they feel compelled to repress such things.
    I don’t want to appear obsessed with this topic, but…. “Enquiring minds want to know.”™

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