ADL: We need a gay “Jackson-Vanik Amendment” to punish Russian trade

Abraham Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, one of the world’s lead anti-semitism (and anti-bigotry) organizations, called for the passage of a new Jackson-Vanik amendment, threatening Russia with the restriction of trade over its recent anti-gay crackdown.

Writing in the Huffington Post, Foxman compared the plight of gays in Russia to Soviet Jewry:

The 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment linked favorable trade status to the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate. That approach should now be explored again.

Jackson-Vanik was effective because it applied pressure on the former Soviet Union, which had imposed a “diploma tax” for Jews who sought to emigrate, to end the tax and eliminate barriers to free emigration. The amendment linked U.S. trade benefits, now known as Permanent Normal Trade Relations, to the emigration and human rights policies of Communist or formerly Communist countries.

Jackson-Vanik focused on one set of rights for one group, and yet it was one of this country’s most important and successful human rights initiatives.

Ironically, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment was only repealed this past November, and replaced with the Magnitsky Act, which Foxman suggested should be applied to human rights abuses against gay and trans people as well:

We know the Russian government is sensitive to Congressional actions that impact its image, as shown in its sharp reaction to the Magnitsky Act. After Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer for an American investment company, was wrongly imprisoned in 2009 and killed through medical neglect, Congress legislated sanctions on Russian officials involved in persecuting him. While having limited practical impact, the Magnitsky law hit politically sensitive areas and named and shamed specific individuals.

A similar approach could be taken against those Russian officials responsible for persecuting LGBT individuals and advocates for their rights.

The Magnitsky law bans Russian officials involved in human rights abuses from entering the US, or using the US banking system.

It’s interesting, and good, to see Foxman get involved in this, and to invoke the Soviets.  Foxman is certainly a controversial figure, but the ADL has influence, moral and otherwise, especially in the US.

Foxman did add that he thought the situation in Russia was more akin to the Soviets’, rather than the Nazis’, treatment of Jews.  Having that said, the ADL is usually much more strident when disagreeing with those who invoke Nazi Germany.  In this case, the disagreement seems more academic than anything.  And academically, I’d disagree with Foxman on one point.  No, the Soviets didn’t put 6 million Jews to death.  But they did emulate the early years of Nazi Germany, where Jews were systematically and legally dehumanized.  Russia’s anti-gay crackdown shares historical similarities with both (the early years of) Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

In addition, I think Foxman’s point contains a dangerous historical flaw, by suggesting that one shouldn’t invoke the Nazis until there’s a Holocaust.  If your goal is to guarantee that another Holocaust never happens, then the time to speak up and invoke the lessons of Nazi Germany is before, not after, another 6 million are rounded up and killed.  It is entirely fair, and I’d argue necessary, to look for the parallels now, and always.

Still, Foxman having weighed in is helpful, and appreciated.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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18 Responses to “ADL: We need a gay “Jackson-Vanik Amendment” to punish Russian trade”

  1. Annski1 says:

    What is with the picture of Lenin..Don’t you know history? It was under Lenin that in 1917 all laws against homosexuality were eliminated ..He died in 1924! Stalin re-enacted those laws and more to consolidate his power after Lenin’s death (which in his “Last Will And Testament” opposed Stalin as leader of the Soviet Union.

  2. Bill_Perdue says:

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been named the recipient of a prestigious award by the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

    The IGLHRC will present its 2008 Outspoken Award as part of the organization’s A Celebration of Courage human rights ceremony on Tuesday, April 8, 2008 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

    “There is really only one name in the world that immediately conjures up moral leadership in pursuit of dignity for all people on earth, and that is Desmond Tutu,” said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC’s Executive Director.

  3. Bill_Perdue says:

    Those who support zionist apartheid and ethnic cleansing are racists, the kind of racists known as Islamophobes.

  4. Bill_Perdue says:

    Obama and the Democrats are the enemy. So are Republicans. Get used to seeing them criticized.

  5. Bill_Perdue says:

    It was a reply to a zionist bigot.

  6. FLL says:

    Then how is Perdue’s reply “on-topic” or related to my comment? After all, a “reply” is supposed to have something to do with the comment above it, correct? Here is the sentence from my comment that Perdue was referring to:

    “The only relief from oppression that Soviet Jews felt in the 1970s
    resulted from the pressure of the outside world. No one at the time
    (except perhaps a not-so-secret anti-Semite) suggested that “our Jewish
    brothers and sisters in the Soviet Union need to handle this problem on
    their own.”

    Perdue’s reply was obviously an objection to my comment. Now you tell me, if you can, how U.S. policy in the Middle East is related to a comparison between gay people in Russia today and Soviet Jews in the 1970s. No, please. Give it a shot. This is the topic of both my own comment and John’s post.

  7. Monoceros Forth says:

    Oh, brother. Do you have to hijack every single freaking thread like this? I swear, it’s the same thing every time. “Yeah, [fill in the blank] is bad but never mind that cos know who’s really bad! Obama!!”

  8. emjayay says:

    If I remember correctly, when Jimmy Carter used the a-word in relation to Israel he was also lambasted.

  9. emjayay says:

    I kind of thought that the point here is that codified and instututionalized dicrimination and oppression and scapegoating of any group of people, whether by nationality or ethnicity or race or sexual orientation or whatever reason, have lot in common.

  10. FLL says:

    This entire reply is extremely off-topic. You seem to be using it as a soapbox to display your knowledge of Middle East politics. First, this thread has nothing to do with Middle East politics. Second, you’re displaying a very condescending attitude towards Americablog readers. I really don’t think you need to lecture them on the complexities of Middle East politics if that were the topic of this thread, which it is not.

    Also, in reference to your statement “You must still be feeling the sting of your recent defeats arguing with me.” Perdue, Perdue, Perdue, how many times have I told you that declaring victory is not the same thing as winning? You seem to be doomed to spend the rest of your life sitting at the children’s table. You’re not going to be invited to the grownup’s table until you grow up.

  11. Bill_Perdue says:

    The same treatment is meted out against us in America by the cults and the politicians who pander to them by passing DOMA and refusing to repeal it or to craft a law or amendment to do away with state DOMAS.

    He we have some chance of stopping it but our brothers and sisters in Africa and other regions have less because local bigots are bankrolled by right wing scum like Scott Lively and Obama BBFs Rick Warren and Donnie McClurkin.

    Those same pandering politicians have refused to pass an inclusive ENDA or a CRA since the first version was introduced in 1974, just short of four decades ago.

  12. Bill_Perdue says:

    You must still be feeling the sting of your recent defeats arguing with me because you’re engaging in more lame personal attacks pretending I’m an anti-Semite.

    For the recor,d opposition to the ethnic cleansing and apartheid policies of the zionist bunkerstadt and IDF thugs is not anti-Semitism, although right wingers all pretend that’s so.

    Our real allies think differently. “South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has accused Israel of practising apartheid in its policies towards the Palestinians.

    The Nobel peace laureate said he was “very deeply distressed” by a visit to the Holy Land, adding that “it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa”. n a speech in the United States, carried in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Archbishop Tutu said he saw “the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about”.

    The archbishop, who was a leading opponent of apartheid in South Africa, said Israel would “never get true security and safety through oppressing another people”.

    Archbishop Tutu said his criticism of the Israeli Government did not mean he was anti-Semitic.

    “I am not even anti-white, despite the madness of that group,” he said. The archbishop attacked the political power of Jewish groups in the United States, saying: “People are scared in this country, to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful – very powerful. Well, so what?

    “The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists.

    Tutu said Israeli checkpoints were humiliating Palestinians

    “Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust,” he said.”

  13. fritzrth says:

    I think “simply” wasn’t the adjective to use. “The holocaust was the culmination …”

  14. Josh Friedes says:

    I think Foxman’s piece is spot on. The better analogy between Russia’s anti-gay laws is to soviet Jewry rather than to Nazi Germany and Hitler. Making the right analogy is important because it can help us identify “best practices” in dealing with intolerable acts of injustice. Comparisons between Sochi and Berlin Olympics seem appropriate because the lesson to be learned is that failure to stand up to gross injustices may both embolden the oppressor and create a stain on the enabler. It’s a general lesson sadly not learned time and time again. It’s painfully illustrated in the extreme by the Berlin Olympics because of the Holocaust that followed.

    Foxman is right that we should look to the campaign that helped Soviet Jews to get ideas that can help us combat Russia’s anti-gay laws. We need to understand that this campaign will be prolonged and require us to hold America and other nations accountable, for it is nations that must put pressure on Russia by limiting trade and/or other interests vital to Russia. Just as it was Washington, in particular, that pressured Moscow with help from Western Europe to ease the situation for Soviet Jews so now these nations must exert influence on Russia to help LGBT people.

    Analogizing Russia’s anti-gay laws to the Nazi’s seem problematic to me and not because the Holocaust is the unique domain of the Jews. Rather, despite the banality of evil, Hitler, the Nazi era and associated holocaust are very specific and unusual. The Nazi era and Holocaust demand that we all stand up for human rights for everyone everywhere but that does not mean the Nazis are a good analogy for most human rights abuses. Sadly, many nations have had and have horrific anti-gay laws just as many nations had horrific anti-Jewish laws and policies. One does not generally analogize the pogroms in Europe where thousands of Jews died to the Nazi’s, nor does one analogize the expulsions or Inquisition in Spain where Jews were put to death and suffered greatly. Nor do we call the anti-Jewish policies, which lasted for decades, of the Soviet Union, which look eerily similar to today’s anti-gay laws, a genocide or attempted genocide. Foxman is not saying do not diminish the history of the Jewish peoples suffering during the Nazi era by drawing comparisons between the plight of Jews and gays. Indeed, Foxman is very clear that Gays were among the groups who suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Foxman seems eager to use the Jewish experience to forward gay rights. Foxman is saying by studying the history of oppression of Jews we may be able to identify analogies that can provide associated strategies that can today aid LGBT people in Russia. In trying to move the discussion away from the Nazi era and toward the experience with Soviet Jews, Foxman simply seeks to help bring about an end to persecution of gays in Russia as quickly as possible.

  15. fritzrth says:

    In addition, I think Foxman’s point contains a dangerous historical flaw, by suggesting that one shouldn’t invoke the Nazis until there’s a Holocaust.

    This is a very important point. The holocaust was simply the culmination of a systematic effort to disenfranchise Jews and other minorities, strip them of their property and freedom, and build a national consensus that placed the blame for the ills of the post WWI squarely on them — an effort that took years to implement.

    I don’t know if Russia’s current measures will end in a holocaust, but the methods they’re using against the GLBT community are the same.

  16. FLL says:

    This is an excellent idea. An act of Congress always gets maximum play in the press. Even a congressional bill that doesn’t succeed gets into the news cycle. It’s very helpful that Foxman is comparing the events in Russia today to the plight of Soviet Jews in the 1970s. The only relief from oppression that Soviet Jews felt in the 1970s resulted from the pressure of the outside world. No one at the time (except perhaps a not-so-secret anti-Semite) suggested that “our Jewish brothers and sisters in the Soviet Union need to handle this problem on their own.”

  17. caphillprof says:

    The crime against humanity was not the extermination of 6 million Jews but the initial move to round them up, expropriate their businesses, dehumanize them, maltreat them. It was a crime against humanity long before the death camps and ovens.

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