Israel and the LGBT community

Pro-Palestinian contingent marches in Tel Aviv's Gay Pride parade

Pro-Palestinian contingent marches in Tel Aviv's Gay Pride parade

A man who was thought to be the last surviving person sent to a Nazi concentration camp for being gay has died at 98. Hitler’s oppression of homosexuals is well known, but it’s interesting to note that the totalitarian Left has also been less than gay-friendly:

During the time of the Soviet Union there were two decisive repressive measures of the State against homosexuals: the notorious article 121.1 which punished myzhelozhestvo (a man lying with another man) with up to five years of imprisonment, and psychiatry which made it possible to forcibly confine lesbian women in a psychiatric clinic. When a lesbian love relationship was reported to the authorities by the parents or another legal guardian, the former could see to it that a psychiatric problem was diagnosed, usually a disorder of personality. The young women (most of them 15 to 19 years old) were then held in a psychiatric clinic for three months. In the following they would then receive a mind-bending drug treatment before being forced to register with a local psychiatrist as mentally ill. Once they were registered, any chance of a professional career or even of getting a driver’s license was denied to them.

In the 20s, the Soviet psychology specially developed a typological theory for recognizing “active lesbians”. According to this theory, they could be recognized by their personal initiative and their success in male professions, by their smoking, drinking alcohol and use of dirty language, their manly appearance, their liking horseback riding [!] and their careers in the Red Army. Although since 1988 forcible psychiatric confinement has been outlawed, in the province they are still quite possible, since even contemporary sexual pathologists and psychiatrists still consider homosexuality as an illness. — Anne Buetikofer, “Homosexuality in the Soviet Union and in today’s Russia

Although Stalinist laws restricting abortion, marriage and divorce were liberalized shortly after his death, section 121.1 remained in effect in Russia until 1993!

I think I can say unequivocally that the degree of tolerance for gays and lesbians in a society is directly proportional to the degree to which it is a free society. Israel is an (unfortunately rare) example of how it is possible for a religious tradition which opposes homosexuality to coexist with a temporal authority that does not interfere with the private lives of its citizens. In fact, you could call Israel the San Francisco of the Middle East, or — pardon the expression — the ‘Mecca’ for gay people of any ethnicity in the region.

You would think, then, that the gay community in the US and even Israel would recognize this. Some of its members do, but by in large it has bought the Palestinian myth of victimization and oppression lock, stock and barrel.

One reason is that seeing themselves as an oppressed minority, they tend to identify with another such group. In addition, as a marginalized group, they see, hear and read a great deal of ‘alternative’ — that is, leftist — media that is suffused with lies about Israel. For example, in the US there is probably more specifically ‘LGBT’ programming on the Pacifica network (KPFA, Berkeley CA, etc.) than anywhere else. But that network is also home to sustained, vicious daily attacks on Israel. The same is true of print and Internet media, like the Daily Kos or Huffington Post.

As a result, it’s common to see angry denunciations of any attempt to present the Israeli case as ‘pinkwashing’ — the process of covering up ‘crimes’ against Palestinian Arabs by changing the subject to gay rights. So we get oxymoronic organizations like “Queers for Palestine”. These groups may even admit that Israel respects gay rights and that Arab and Muslim nations in the Mideast are institutionally homophobic, but still consider it their duty to passionately support the ‘Palestinian cause’.

A local writer, Lillian Faderman, has just published an op-ed in the largest national LGBT publication, The Advocate, in which she takes the gay community to task for its pervasive anti-Israel bias. Faderman writes,

Americans have every reason to envy Israel’s enlightened policies toward its LGBT citizens. So it puzzles me deeply when I hear of LGBT groups lending their sympathy to opponents of Israel.

The rights we have been fighting for and still have not fully achieved in the United States, LGBT Israelis already enjoy. I came out in the middle of the last century and witnessed firsthand the persecution and oppression of LGBT people. It was because of those early experiences that I devoted the last 40 years of my life to writing books and articles about our community’s history and progress…

My partner and I have been together for 40 years. Like 18,000 other same-sex couples in California, we got married in 2008. Though all 36,000 of us are still married as far as the state of California is concerned, Proposition 8 banned same-sex marriage for all others. Because federal laws don’t recognize our marriage, our legal bond doesn’t do us much good anyway. If we should decide to move next door to Arizona or Las Vegas or Oregon — or almost anywhere else in America — we wouldn’t be considered legally married. We both pay federal income tax, of course, but under the law we get none of the federal benefits that opposite-sex couples receive. In fact, the only result of our marriage with regard to taxes is that we have to pay our accountant triple: once for doing our state income tax as a married couple, a second and third time for doing our federal income tax as two single payers. And if one of us should die, that’s the end of her Social Security benefits for which she’d paid in for more than half a century; the surviving spouse gets absolutely nothing of those benefits.

If we’d lived in Israel, we’d be much better off. In 1994 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of granting spousal benefits to same-sex couples. In 2004 the court ruled that LGBT couples could qualify for common-law marriage status. In 2005 legislation was passed in Israel recognizing all same-sex marriages that are performed abroad.

So there can be no explanation for LGBT groups participating in wrong-headed actions such as the BDS movement that seeks boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Outside of Israel, everywhere in the Middle East, LGBT people are utterly despised under the law. Indeed, official treatment of LGBT people in other Middle East countries makes the bar raids and job losses and police entrapments that we experienced in the 1950s and ’60s seem like coddling. If a family wishes to rid itself of the embarrassment of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender member by “honor killing” there would be no legal consequences in the area governed by the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, or in Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or Syria.

Needless to say, and as even the Amnesty International LGBT website shows, there’s no Middle Eastern country other than Israel in which lesbian or gay couples can receive spousal benefits, none other than Israel in which lesbians and gays can serve openly in the military, none other than Israel that protects lesbians and gays from discrimination or hate crimes. In Iran and Saudi Arabia we’re put to death. In Syria we’re thrown in prison for three years. In Egypt we’re prosecuted under lewd conduct laws, and we’re illegal in Lebanon and Libya too.

All of this is true, but I’m afraid that for the anti-Zionists in the gay community, it’s beside the point. For example, here’s a random comment posted in response to Faderman’s article:

Granted Israel treats its Jewish LGBT citizens (though not Arab: Christian or Muslim or Atheist), better than other countries in the Middle East. But so what? That should be of absolutely zero moral value when judging its policies of occupation and aggression against the native Palestinians.

It doesn’t hurt to explain, as Faderman does so well, just how great the contrast is between Israel and the various monarchies, hereditary or military dictatorships and Islamic ‘republics’ that make up the Middle East, or even the contrast between Israel and the US. But until we can also explain that ‘Palestinians’ are no more ‘native’ to the region than Jews, that the land is not ‘occupied’ and that the aggressors in the conflict are not the Israelis — until it’s possible to break the stranglehold that the anti-Zionists have managed to place on ‘progressive’ thinking and media — our explanations will fall on deaf ears.

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One Response to “Israel and the LGBT community”

  1. joelsk44039 says:

    …So we get oxymoronic organizations like “Queers for Palestine”…

    Not “oxymoronic.” Just “moronic!!”