by Paul Varnell
LET'S TAKE A QUIZ. No peeking at the answers directly below.
Which Middle Eastern country has no
sodomy laws, nor uses vague charges such as "offenses against
or "immoral conduct," to prosecute and imprison gays and lesbians?
2. Which Middle
Eastern country has a variety of gay organizations which safely conduct
gay advocacy efforts?
3. Which Middle
Eastern country has a gay and lesbian community center in its capital
4. Which Middle
Eastern country holds annual Gay Pride parades?
5. Which Middle
Eastern country has members of Parliament who actively support and
on behalf of gays and lesbians?
6. In which
Middle Eastern country did the head of state meet with gay activists?
7. Which Middle
Eastern country lets gays and lesbians join its military services?
8. Which Middle
Eastern country has broadcast programs about gays and lesbians on its
9. And a bonus
question: When gays in
Palestine are forced to flee persecution,
what Middle Eastern country
do they usually flee to?
The contrast in treatment of
gay men in
neighboring Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt is well
Gays are beheaded or sentenced to long prison terms.
What seems less well known,
however, is the
appalling treatment of gays under Yassir Arafat's Palestinian Authority
in the West Bank and Gaza. At least it was less known until Yossi Klein
Halevi wrote about it in the August 19th New Republic.
rural Texas look like San Francisco.
According to Halevi, one
young man discovered to
be gay was forced by Palestinian Authority police "to stand in sewage
water up to his neck, his head covered by a sack filled with feces, and
then he was thrown into a dark cell infested with insects." During one
interrogation, Palestinian police stripped him and forced him to sit on
a Coke bottle.
When he was released he fled
to Israel. If he were forced to return to Gaza, he said, "The police
would kill me."
An American who foolishly
moved into the West
Bank to live with his Palestinian lover said they told everyone they
were just friends, but one day they "found a letter under our door from
the Islamic court. It listed the five forms of death prescribed by
Islam for homosexuality, including stoning and burning. We fled to
Israel that same day," he said.
The head of a Tel Aviv gay
Halevi, "The persecution of gays in the Palestinian Authority
just come from the families or the Islamic groups, but from the P.A.
Palestinian police have
Islamic religion law, he said: "It's now impossible to be an open gay
in the P.A." He recalled that one gay man in the Palestinian police
went to Israel for a short time. When he returned to the West Bank,
Palestinian Authority police confined him to a pit without food or
water until he died.
A 17-year-old gay youth
recalled that he spent
months in a Palestinian Authority prison "where interrogators
with glass and poured toilet cleaner into his wounds."
The U.S. State Department,
which more and more
seems to be living on some other planet, blandly noted in a
rights report, "In the Palestinian territories homosexuals generally
are socially marginalized
and occasionally receive physical threats."
That's one way to put it.
In the last few years,
Halevi reports, hundreds
of gay Palestinians, mostly from the West Bank,
have fled to Israel,
usually to Tel Aviv, Israel's most cosmopolitan city. Many are
he says, "but at least they're beyond the reach of
their families and the P.A."
So it seems clear that
Israel is the one country
in the region in which gays have legal rights
as citizens and live in
safety and freedom.
Oddly, however, some gays
and lesbians over on
the anti-capitalist ("progressive") left sympathize
terrorists and support the Palestinian Authority. One such fledgling
group calls itself,
"Queers for Palestine" -- another is named "Queers
Undermining Israeli Terrorism"
(as if trying to stop terrorism against
Israeli civilians is itself terrorism).
To be sure, no one should
argue that gays and
lesbians must support Israel just because it is
gay-friendly. They don't. They may feel that some other political
are more important than gay-friendliness.
But gays who support
Palestine, and they seem
almost entirely on the far reaches of the political left,
give the lie
to the frequent demand made by gays on the left that the rest of us
some "progressive" politician or position because it
supposedly benefits gays, even though doing so
would compromise or
violate some basic political principle we as individuals may hold.
Keep "Queers for Palestine"
in mind next time
some gay left advocate says that because
you are gay you have to
support some approved "gay" position. And remember the pit,
water, the bag of feces and the toilet bowl cleaner.
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