Head of Haguda in Ottawa Citizen: Israel is only place I can live openly gay

Re: The dark side of Israeli apartheid week, Feb. 25.

Israel is a complicated country, without set borders, without clear distinctions between religion and nationality, without clear separation between church (or synagogue) and state.

It is a diverse society that fears for its life, forced to identify people who threaten its existence as enemies. It is paranoid to the point that it is hesitant to take some risks to achieve peace with its neighbours, paranoid that it often cannot accept criticism from those who tremendously care about it.

But as columnist Leonard Stern noticed about anti-Israel activism at Canadian universities, Israel is also the only country in the whole Middle East and surrounding region where I am able to live as an openly gay, human rights activist.

Israel is the only country in the region that I am not under threat of punishment or death because I am who I am. It is the only place within a thousand miles where no one can fire me because of who I am. True, Israel does not yet have same-sex marriage, but it is the place among 20 countries in the region where the courts have provided great protection for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered rights (LGBT), both personal and as couples.

Israel is the only country in the region that could send a transgender singer to represent it in the European song contest and rejoice with her in the streets when she honoured the country with the first prize.

Israel’s gay rights movement is a model of how much can be achieved through persistent dialogue. Sometimes hard, at times frustrating, but never stopping. We criticize the Palestinian Authority for its treatment of LGBT people, and we criticize the Israeli government over its hesitation to give humanitarian aid to Palestinians who escape the death threats of an Islamic homophobic society in Gaza and the West Bank.

The LGBT community can be a bridge, perhaps small, but solid, between Israelis and Palestinians. Accusations and boycotts serve no purpose in building bridges. Knowing each other, looking at our faces, into our eyes and souls, we are determined to keep talking, no matter what. This can be the LGBT community contribution.

Mike Hamel,

Tel Aviv, Israel

The writer is chairperson of the Aguda, Israel’s leading gay rights organization.

Source: Ottawa Citizen – Link to article