Gay Palestinians Suffer Under Arafat
September 13, 2002
By Davi J. Bernstein
Chatting with a 21-year-old Palestinian man in a gay bar in Tel Aviv was
the most interesting moment of my summer vacation. There isn’t much social
interaction between Arabs and Jews these days because of the ongoing terrorist
war against Israel, but the gay scene is a little bit different. Why do Arab
and Jewish homosexuals mix in Tel Aviv? Because Israel is the only country in
the Middle East where homosexuals can live in freedom.
It is not widely known that, along with its war against Israel, the
Palestinian Authority is conducting a vicious campaign against its own
homosexual population. The New Republic, in its Aug. 19 issue, exposed hideous
human rights violations by the Palestinian Authority, which employs special
police squads to capture men who have sex with each other. The lucky ones are
forced to stand in sewage water up to their necks or lie in dark cells
infested with insects; others are simply starved to death.
These horrific crimes have motivated hundreds of Palestinian homosexuals to
flee to Israel. To be sure, these people have not become Zionists. But at the
end of day, they know that "in Tel Aviv no one cares if you’re
gay," as one Palestinian who fled to Israel said, while in Palestinian
Gaza, "the police will kill me, unless my father gets to me first."
If any gay solidarity exists, it must be to defend the nations that permit
us to live and denounce the regimes that do not. When so many around us are
deliberately misunderstanding the reality of the Middle East, we must be
honest and state clearly that Israel is the only country in the region that
tolerates our existence.
It is fascinating that Palestinian statehood can be a
"progressive" cause, when the state they seek is one in which
terrorism is tolerated but gay people are not. Such a state is totalitarian,
not progressive. It is this same totalitarian impulse, not any Israeli
"occupation," that continues the conflict with Israel, because the
Palestinian leadership respects nothing–not homosexuals, Jews, or
inalienable rights–only its own will.
While those on the Left indulge Palestinian totalitarianism, President
George W. Bush, DC ‘68, rejects it. His vision is the only hope for freedom–and
peace–in the Middle East: defending Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish
state while supporting a democratic Palestinian state that eschews terrorism.
Such a vision gives Palestinian homosexuals a chance at a life in their own
land because a Palestinian government accountable to its people will be
attuned to their most basic needs, not busy encouraging suicide bombing and
rounding up homosexuals as Yasser Arafat’s dictatorship is now doing.
Every decent person must take a position. Do you stand with the Palestinian
Authority and its totalitarian ethos that seeks to destroy Jews and
homosexuals today and who knows what else tomorrow? Or do you stand with
Israel – whose government you may or may not support – but whose people
share our fundamental values of life and liberty?
I put this question to my new Palestinian friend in that bar. He answered:
"Where you sit is where you stand, and I’m sitting in Tel Aviv."
It is inspiring to me–as a Jew, as an American, and as a gay man–to know
that Palestinians are coming to the Jewish state for the freedom to live as
God created them.
Let us condemn the barbarism of the Palestinian Authority, and let us pray
for the intrepid Israelis and Palestinians who are fighting for the right to
live according to Micah’s prophecy: "Every man shall sit under his vine
and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid" (Micah 4:4).
• Davi J. Bernstein is a senior in Ezra Stiles.
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