Posted on: November 18, 2010 Posted by: Mitchell Plitnick Comments: 0

Across the spectrum of opposition to American Middle East policy, no organization is seen as a greater opponent of ours than the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC.

So, when the focal point of the “Israel Lobby” becomes embroiled in a sleazy scandal, one might expect that some of its opponents would succumb to the temptation to sink into National Enquirer-style writing.

And, indeed, that has been the case in many parts of the blogosphere (the mainstream media has not, as yet, picked up on the story). The leaked deposition of Steve Rosen (warning: that link leads to a very large pdf file) and various AIPAC

Steve Rosen, former AIPAC leader

staffers and agents involved in his ongoing lawsuit against his former employers spends a lot of time discussing pornography in great detail, as well as Rosen’s sex life.

Rosen, a 23-year employee of AIPAC was fired in 2005 after being indicted for receiving classified information from a Defense Department employee and passing it on to Israeli officials, though the charges were eventually dropped. Rosen contended that he had done nothing out of the ordinary for AIPAC, while the organization, despite having no policy at that time regarding encounters with classified information, painted Rosen’s (and his fellow accused, Keith Weissman) actions as that of a rogue employee. Rosen responded by suing AIPAC for defamation.

Some of the issues at hand right now hint at matters of real potential importance: the fact that Rosen’s first response to hearing from the FBI wasn’t even to go to his bosses at AIPAC, but rather to his closest contact at the Israeli embassy; Rosen’s and Weissman’s comment to Washington Post writer Glenn Kessler that appear to show they were aware that they had sensitive material that could “get them in trouble”; and, most importantly, Rosen’s implication that he can prove AIPAC defamed him  by revealing “about 180 internal documents showing that officials routinely gathered inside information from government officials about U.S. policy in the Middle East.”

Unfortunately, none of that is conclusive at this stage. As one colleague put it, there is no “smoking gun” in the leaked depositions. So, writers and bloggers have delved into the sordid testimony about Rosen’s viewing pornography at work and his counter that other AIPAC employees, including director Howard Kohr and his (female) secretary also engaged in viewing porn at the office.

As distasteful, not to mention irrelevant, as that is, I can understand the focus, absent anything really new and substantive here. But AIPAC put these depositions into the public record to embarrass Rosen, and so, not only did their lawyer ask lurid questions in abundance, they also delved into Rosen’s practice of finding other married men to have sex with on Craigslist.

I’ve been more than a little disturbed by the focus on the porn. What business is that of anyone’s? Even more disturbing to me has been the attention to Rosen’s cruising for men. That is completely irrelevant to anyone but Rosen, the other guys and his ex-wives. And some of the references I’ve seen on that (not on this list) have straddled or even crossed the line into homophobia.

I’m not going to list the examples or link to them. I’m not interested in singling out any particular writers or bloggers. You can do a web search and find some examples of pieces that can be read as homophobic and others that deal much more responsibly with the issues.

The important point is this: AIPAC’s bringing up this point is an act of homophobia. They are trying to embarrass Rosen into dropping his suit by exposing same-sex trysts of his. This is not something people who claim to be progressives should be feeding into.

Steve Rosen is a far-right figure, who has been and continues to be a dedicated opponent of peace. That’s where the focus needs to be. His sex life is irrelevant.

I don’t want to get too far into the issues around pornography here. There is a rich debate that touches on serious issues of violence against and degradation of women (and men) as well as free speech and tolerance of sexuality that is underway in enough places that we don’t have to discuss it here.

But those of us who consider ourselves opponents of AIPAC should be wondering why we would want to help them in embarrassing Rosen into dropping his suit. The gold mine here is the information Rosen claims to have that shows that his actions in the 2004-5 espionage case were accepted practices at AIPAC. Seems to me we don’t want to be adding to an atmosphere that could lead to a settlement of the case before Rosen reveals what he has.

And it seems even more germane to me that we, as progressives, should not be fanning the flames of homophobia, a scourge which only recently has been prominent in the news for taking the lives of some young people who have to live in the anti-queer atmosphere we still live in in the USA.

We can do better than this, folks.