Anti-Semitism and Heterosexism: Common Constructs of Oppression
by Moshe Rozdzial, PhD
All oppressions,  borne of misinformation directed
towards the "Other" in our society, have common roots.
 For in every case the  goal is the unjust,
destructive, and  unequal distribution of power.  And
although there is no specific hierarchy of oppression,
the context within which  it manifests itself--
history, economics, or politics--makes some forms
thereof  more closely related than others.  

I propose that the elements that define the oppression
of homosexuals, known as  heterosexism, and
homophobia, as its major form of expression, are
directly  analogous to the oppression of Jews, known
as anti-Semitism. To understand the former while
disregarding the latter is to overlook the most potent
of historical lessons.  More precisely, I believe that
these two oppressions share  many elements that are
deeply rooted in the psyche of our culture, and, as
anti-Semitism has gone underground and heterosexism
has become institutionalized, the hatred and
scapegoating of Jews has, almost effortlessly, been
transferred to homosexuals.

Homosexuals and Jews are feared and despised not
because they can be identified  as outwardly
different, but precisely because of the relative ease
with which both can be disguised.  Both groups share
the capacity to "pass", as either straight or 
gentile, respectively, and therefore are objects of
suspicion and even as sources of conspiration.  This
has resonance especially in connection with the fear
that centers upon children,  for  homosexuals are
viewed not only as furtive perpetrators of pedophilia,
but as proselytizers of the gay "lifestyle".  These
fears echo the blood libel and kidnapping charges of
historical anti-Semitism, when Jews were accused of
ritual slaughter of Christian children. This was seen
in this  country in the  trial of the Rosenbergs and
in the recent murder of Dr. Schlepian. 

Within the psychology of group hatred both Jews and
homosexuals are viewed as wielders of political and
economic power. Under the scrutiny of the prejudiced
eye, they are charged with promoting "special rights"
and  are blamed for social ills and misfortunes. These
same accusing voices,  that exclude  those without
power in the political arena, would never deny the
overwhelming  majority its political voice.
Institutionalized Christianity and heterosexuality
wield power through legislation that defers to 
Christian religious holidays, sensibility and
morality, in a nominally secular state, and to
heterosexual privilege through the protection of
marital, inheritance, parental, taxation and military
rights: privileges normalized as majority rights.  

Similarly, religious attacks on homosexuals, defended
under biblical precedent, echo the vilest forms of
anti-Semitism .  The slander of "impurity" and
"sodomy" has replaced "Christ-killers" in the
vocabulary of hatred, and victimizing the victim has,
once again, become the excuse to  justify Heaven's
retribution toward a minority community.  Even the
promise of  salvation through conversion reflects the
a common perception that both oppressions share as
"the outcast in the sight of G-d".  The stereotype of
stubborn adherence to a despised lifestyle, even in
the shadow of salvation is also a common accusatory
theme.  After all, how can the Other want  to be who
they are,  and stubbornly hold on to a life of
deprivation when the doors are, figurtively, open to a
life of safety, privilege, and saving grace?

To look at the language of marginalization without
noticing the historical connection would mean yielding
to ignorance. Common weapons  of oppression include
the emasculation and de-feminization (or
sexualization) of Jews and homosexuals to perpetuate
an excuse for dehumanization and a perception of
facile targeting for violence.  Thus, Jewish men are
labeled  Hymies, nerds, weaklings,  just as Gay men
are the sissies and girls--to mention only a few  of
the epithets hurled at them--while, Jewish women and
lesbians are,  respectively, bitches or princesses ,
butch and dykes.  The modern propaganda  of hatred
even uses terms that reflect Hitler's racial
anti-Semitism;  The metaphors of sickness, disease,
contagion and contamination, made more  grotesque in
light of the AIDs epidemic, are frightening reminders
of past  genocide and the excuses for a violent
present. The recent push to find  a biological origin
for  homosexuality also presents a philosophical
dilemma,  as genetic predetermination looms as another
reason for the eugenics response to homosexuality,
just as it was for the "Jewish problem".

So, what are the lessons in this common mirrored
image? That the defense against fundamentalism is
openness, confidence, and passion against injustice. 
That there must be vigilance against the erosion of
civil rights. That it takes commitment and work to
undo external and  institutionalized oppression  and
to unlearn internalized oppression.  That equality
comes through coalition  building and alliance with
all who struggle against oppression, in  social and 
legal arenas,  and by supporting leaders, leadership,
and institutions that work  towards shared power and
resources and against the weapons of  oppression;
against violence, disenfranchisement, and

Moshe Rozdzial, Ph.D., is a child of holocaust
survivors, a psychotherapist and former research
scientist,  and  co-chair of the National Council of
the National Organization of Men Against Sexism

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