Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jewish Settlers Save Gay Palestinian

YNet reports on "such a remarkable story [that] could only happen in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." A young gay Palestinian named T, who has been living in Israel with his Israeli partner of ten years, recently returned to the West Bank to visit his ailing father. Because the local Palestinians do not approve of his sexual orientation, T met his father outside of their village for safety. When T tried to return home to Israel, security forces did not allow him to cross the border for purported security reasons.

T was stuck in no-man's land, trapped between overzealous border officials and homophobic neighbors. So he turned to the only other person he knew in the area: an orthodox Jewish settler. Thus, for the past ten days, the gay Palestinian T has found refuge within a Jewish West Bank settlement. A remarkable story indeed.

Writing at the Commentary blog, David Hazony argues this story teaches that "what makes them [Palestinians] different from us [Israelis/Jews] is not merely quaint or alien but reprehensible. That we are in effect extending a hand of tolerance to those who expressly renounce tolerance, and who make little effort to hide their murderous side."

There is no doubt Arab and Muslim homosexuals face tremendous difficulties. Sometimes their existence is denied, as Iranian President Ahmadinejad has ridiculously claimed. More often, they confront religious, social and political persecution. And too often, they face a fate far worse. In Iraq, for example, the marauding Mahdi army has tortured and murdered homosexuals using most gruesome, unspeakable methods.

But Hazony lets Israel somewhat off the hook here. While homosexuals in Israel enjoy far more freedom and acceptance than the Muslim world (and even the U.S.), there are still problems. Take, for instance, the recent shooting at a Tel Aviv gay youth center that left two dead and many more wounded. The incident sparked massive outrage and spurred Israeli politicians of all persuasions to take a firm stand in favor of homosexual rights. Thus, Israel isn't special because its homosexual population does not face persecution, but because there is a societal and political consensus to fight for their equal rights.

Hazony took a wrong turn by viewing the story of T through the lens of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and thereby compelling him to try to score political points for Israel. In fact, besides T's inability to re-enter Israel, the story has very little to do with the conflict.

Instead, we should take the story for what it is: an uplifting story of how religious Jewish settlers likely saved the life of a gay Palestinian man because of the common humanity they share. Furthermore, we should draw inspiration to continue fighting for the human rights of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, nationality and sexual preference, no matter where those rights may be threatened.

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