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Supporting Israel -- It's the Gay Thing to Do

Supporting Israel -- It's the Gay Thing to Do

As a progressive, I've always hoped for a peaceful settlement forged by diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinians. I do think it's possible even though the United States has squandered eight years of opportunity. As a lesbian, I've always worried about the ultra-Orthodox community trying to undermine the rights Israel's secular government has given to its LGBT citizens.

I've been talking to myself about Israel for quite some time. As a second generation Jew whose father fought in WWII and who lost family members to Czarist pogroms and the Holocaust, I firmly believe Israel has a right to exist.

As a progressive, I've always hoped for a peaceful settlement forged by diplomacy between Israel and the Palestinians. I do think it's possible even though the United States has squandered eight years of opportunity.

As a lesbian, I've always worried about the ultra-Orthodox community trying to undermine the rights Israel's secular government has given to its LGBT citizens.

Now, with the military actions happening in Gaza, I've had to think long and hard about what I think. For the first time in my life, I'm actually in full agreement with what the Israeli armed forces are doing. Enough is enough. How long was Israel basically supposed to just bend over and take it as Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, continued to fire rockets across the border?

But just as important is my need, my community's need to support a country that supports its LGBT citizens. I think history will bear me out that from an LGBT perspective, supporting Israel is the right thing to do.

I remember back in the late 1970's when revolution was fomenting in Iran and the Shah was deposed we were all hoping for a freer, a more democratic Iran. Well that certainly didn't happen. Instead we got a repressive Islamic regime where homosexuality was a crime punishable by death. You had your choice of what type of death-being hanged, stoned, halved by a sword or dropped from the highest perch-but nonetheless death was your fate.

Not much has changed in the just over 30 years since the Iranian revolution. Now, under a supposedly democratically elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Islamic Republic of Iran, gays and lesbians are facing their own pogrom. Unlike Russian Cossacks coming through Jewish villages on horseback reigning terror at the turn of the 20th century, Iran's pogrom is more high tech. It starts with internet entrapment. Those found out to be gay or lesbian are forced to inform on others and then there's the torture and executions of those found guilty of engaging in "homosexual acts."

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Iran is just one example. The only country in the Middle East that fully supports its LGBT citizens is Israel. We can serve openly in the military. We can adopt the children of our partners. We are protected by an anti-discrimination law. Sodomy is not illegal. The foreign-born partners of Israeli LGBT people receive residency permits. While same-sex marriage is not legal, Israel's Civil Service Commission extends spousal benefits and pensions to the partners of LGBT employees.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority, the government body that is responsible for both Gaza and the West Bank, uses Islamic law as the basis for its treatment of LGBT Palestinians. In other words, we're criminals plain and simple.

Like Iran, those who are caught are forced to expose others. One 21 year old Palestinian gay man was caught having sex with another man by his brother. The brother turned him in to the police. His ordeal was horrific. He was hung by his arms from the ceiling. He was forced to stand in sewage-filled water up to his neck, his head covered by a sack filled with feces. During one interrogation, police stripped him and forced him to sit on a Coke bottle.

Gay Palestinians are routinely accused of collaborating with Israel and then pressured to become suicide bombers to "purge their moral guilt."

When progressives in this country talk about what they consider to be humanitarian atrocities in Palestine they only focus on Israel. Sure, civilians are being killed in this latest action. How can they not be when Hamas purposely uses non-combatants as human shields?

My question is when will the progressives who are taking up the mantle of Palestinian freedom also take up the mantle of humane treatment of LGBT Palestinians?

Rule by religious fiat-Islamic, Christian or Jewish-is dangerous and anti-democratic. It does not foster freedom. We saw it during the programs in Eastern Europe, we saw it in Hitler's Germany and we're seeing it in the Middle East where Islamic fundamentalists are killing LGBT people just because of their sexual orientation.

History is repeating itself. As LGBT people in the United States, we can speak out-supporting Israel is the gay thing to do.

 

 

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Libby Post