Wednesday, July 21, 2010

But it's Jewish chlamydia!

One aspect of Birthright Israel I found especially perplexing/distasteful was the emphasis on hooking up with a fellow trip participant during those ten days. The anti-intermarriage indoctrination was one thing, but the implicit and sometimes explicit requests to get it on with any-Jew-will-do made it seem as though we were endangered zoo animals - pandas perhaps - who needed to be artificially fused together to propagate ourselves. (Also, it might have been nice if the powers that be accepted that some in the 18-26 range are already in committed relationships and are on the trip for the Zionist propaganda only.)

How this was distasteful is, I think, self-evident. But it was perplexing because it was this full-on embrace, so to speak, of The Hook-Up Culture. Normally, right-leaning adults with an agenda for The Youth discourage casual sex. On Birthright, the idea was somehow that if both people are Jews, whatever happens, however impulsive, is to be celebrated. As though any gonorrhea contracted in the name of keeping the "shiksas" at bay was somehow For A Good Cause.

I was reminded of this by a much-reported story about an Israeli woman who successfully accused a man of rape for claiming to be Jewish to get into her pants. Do the Israeli courts so fear intermarriage that they, like Birthright, make a distinction between "mixed" hook-ups and those only Jews are involved in? Honesty's great and all that, but this is almost as though being Arab - or simply non-Jewish - is being equated with having a sexually-transmitted infection, something one must disclose because of a damaging, potentially life-altering impact on even a one-night stand. I don't know if it's right to think of this as being about anti-Arab racism, though, because it would not at all surprise me if a Western European or North American non-Jewish man went through the same charade, he'd be in the same boat. But I could be wrong.

Given how many Israelis don't even want to live in Israel, let alone diaspora Jews (except, it seems, the French), maybe, maybe, Israel could consider approaching its populationist concerns in ways that aren't so destructive and coercive. When really, what Jews, particularly in Israel, ought to be doing is taking advantage of the fact that this is an era, unlike just about any other in recent memory, when not only are non-Jews interested in marrying Jews, but some are even ready to pose as Jews to get sex with Jewish women. People want in! I'm not saying send out missionaries, but converting in should be both doable and, once done, recognized. I mean, imagine that - make more Jews without resorting to natalism or bizarre hook-up legislation, simply by recognizing the Jews who already exist.


Nick said...

to be fair, this draws on a line of fairly well-established, if difficult, jurisprudence.

the question is, at what point does deception negate the consent that was originally given?

there have been cases where twin brothers have, unbeknownst to their spouses, "swapped places." other more difficult cases involving deception have also taken place. or in which someone in a marriage made a representation as to fidelity that later turned out to be untrue, and I think that resulted in a sexual assault charge.

it's easy to say that something like that is ridiculous, but in reality it's hard to draw the line between a white lie and a deception that rises to the level of obviating consent.

I think at some level things go from mere preferences to the very foundation of sexual consent. a modern, consent-based regime cannot flee from such questions because they are hard.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


Don't think I didn't consider the pro-Israel angle :)

"it's hard to draw the line between a white lie and a deception that rises to the level of obviating consent."

Hard at the boundaries, perhaps, but there are some less confusing examples. With the fidelity issue, one could end up with a surprise STD, or raising another man's child. With the twins, this is impersonation of another actually-living person, along with forcing someone to cheat without knowing.

The Arab-posing-as-Jew scenario strikes me as being most similar to other cosmetic lies, such as lies about age where statutory rape isn't at stake (i.e. a 40-year-old claiming 35 to sleep with someone 25, someone who tells the truth about having been tested for whichever diseases but fudges the number of past partners, someone who claims to have been captain of the football team or to be the child of a wealthy or famous person, someone who...). The consequences of sleeping with someone who's lo and behold an Arab or 40 years old are plenty slight - at most, either the fact of deception or the new info itself will prevent what otherwise might have been an LTR from forming. For what was at face value consensual to be sexual violence in retrospect, I would think (and I don't, obviously, know the specifics of the law, in Israel or the US) something truly damaging would have had to have occurred. I'd think this would fall quite definitively on the side of... of within the expected range of honesty one could expect from someone one has just met and decided to sleep with.

Even those too honest to do the above tell plenty of lies by omission - which is normal, and the truth gets revealed over time, when appropriate, assuming the relationship lasts. Given that this was a hook-up and not anything more serious, it could be that he made something up impulsively and was just waiting for the moment to fess up. Not good behavior, but not rape.

Anonymous said...

Did you go with Oranim for Birthright Israel? I did, and thought your post was entirely accurate, but was surprised to learn that they have recently been kicked out of Birthright for essentially engaging in excessive promotion of casual sex. Momo now operates the same trips independently.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

I did go on Oranim, and Momo's approach to 'Jewish continuity' was creepy as all get-out. I'll need to look into this more...