Last edited: April 29, 2004

Gay Palestinians Suffer Under Arafat

Yale Herald, 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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