Guardian attacks Israel’s record on LGBT rights

As pro-Israel LGBT rights activist Scott Piro argued previously on these pages, the real queer foes are those (like the Guardian Jerusalem correspondents) who consistently ignore the horrors committed against LGBTs in the Palestinian territories - and throughout the Middle East - in order to satisfy their readers' malign obsession with the world's only Jewish state.

The Guardian published an article today obfuscating Israel’s progressive record on LGBT rights.  The piece (Gay Israelis hold mass wedding to campaign for same-sex unions, June 5), by their Jerusalem correspondent Oliver Holmes, used a classic Guardian formula: highlighting only those facts which show Israel in a negative light, whilst ignoring countervailing evidence and omitting relevant regional context. 

After noting that twenty-three gay couples held an unofficial mass wedding in Tel Aviv “to highlight the country’s discrimination against same-sex unions”, he then sets out to take aim at Israel’s reputation as a gay-friendly country.

Israel champions itself as gay-friendly and will this month host its world-famous annual Gay Pride week. However, rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people are severely restricted by law and in society

Gay marriage is illegal in the country of 9 million people, although weddings performed abroad can be registered.

Homophobia and transphobia are widespread among religious and conservative groups, including those in government.

Jewish ultra-Orthodox parties, a powerful political faction in the Israeli parliament, have rejected legislation that affords equal rights, such as the inclusion of gay men in surrogacy laws. Civil marriage, even for heterosexual partners, is forbidden.

Israel “champions itself as gay-friendly” because, as we’ve demonstrated previously, that’s the truth.

Whilst it’s true that the LGBT community still can’t legally marry in the country, this is true of most Central and Eastern European countries as well.  Moreover, Israeli government policy on gay marriage is actually out of step with the electorate, with polls showing nearly 80% of Israelis supporting gay marriage or civil unions.

Here are the rights afforded to the LGBT community in Israel:

  •  Robust anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTs
  •  Recognition of same-sex marriages performed abroad
  •  Legalized LGBT adoption rights
  •  LGBT soldiers (including transsexuals) serve openly in all military branches, including special units; discrimination is prohibited
  •  Same-sex couples have the same inheritance rights as heterosexual, married couples

The broader point that Holmes misses is that LGBTs enjoy these rights nowhere else in the Middle East.

Many Middle Eastern countries makes homosexuality a crime punishable by death (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen) or jail time (Gaza, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Morocco, Algeria).  In other countries, LGBTs face risks of violence, torture and “honor killings” by militias or their own families (the West Bank, Iraq, Turkey) or harassment and crackdowns from the government and non-state actors (Bahrain, Jordan).

Focusing on the Palestinian territories, this Pew graph, on attitudes towards homosexuality is telling. (Note that orange is used to indicate ‘unacceptable’, green is ‘acceptable’, while grey indicates people who didn’t believe the topic was a moral issue.)

As the graph show, only 1% of Palestinian respondents believe that homosexuality is morally ‘acceptable’ behavior.  (The only other countries with the same results were Egypt, Pakistan, Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda.)

Such results are fully consistent with reports detailing the climate of fear Palestinian gays and lesbians endure due to widespread and often codified intolerance.  The Palestinian Authority has no civil right laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination or harassment, and the penal code in Gaza renders homosexual conduct a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

The real queer foes are those like Guardian Jerusalem correspondents who consistently ignore the horrors committed against LGBTs in the Palestinian territories – and throughout the Middle East – in order to satisfy their readers’ malign obsession with the world’s only Jewish state.

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