Recent correspondence in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the local newspaper of that liberal 'nuclear-free zone' of Santa Cruz, CA, examines whether Israel, with its secular laws and urbane tolerance inside the Tel Aviv bubble, really can be considered a refuge in the Middle East for homosexuals. The issues are across the planet but dear to the hearts of the Left Coast. A local synagogue has sent a fact-finding mission to Israel, traveling jointly with a Christian Conngregational Church group, to see for themselves the progress of the peace progress in a land of acute religious symbolism. Other than the airport, most of the delegation will give Tel Aviv a miss, unless they have packed their speedos.
Israel a mecca for gays
Amy Goodman wrote an entire column touting the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. She stated
that the USSF defines itself as an open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals and free exchanges of experiences. If this is the case, then why did they cancel the only program dealing with persecution of homosexuals in the Middle East? The advocacy organization, Stand With Us, was informed two days before the start of the conference that their scheduled presentation concerning gay rights was canceled. This forum of democratic ideas has a problem with ideas that differ from their own. The USSF was so afraid that participants might learn that Israel has an outstanding record on GLBT issues and is a refuge for persecuted gays in the Middle East. Instead, they chose to turn their backs on the thousands of gays and lesbians living in fear for their lives in countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia. The USSF has the right to invite and disinvite speakers, but when they tell us that it is an open meeting place and a forum for democratic debate, they are just lying to us. Why is it so difficult for the far left to accept the fact that Israel is a mecca for persecuted gays, while the actual Mecca in Saudi Arabia is just the opposite?
Gil Stein, Aptos
Israel far from a mecca for gays
Was that headline "Israel a Mecca for Gays", calculated to be offensive on as many levels as possible? Having lived in Jerusalem from 2006 to 2009, I find it ridiculous to claim that Israel is a refuge for persecuted gays in the Middle East. Very few Middle Eastern citizens are allowed to cross borders into Israel because of the enmity between their governments. Homosexuality is legal in Jordan, Turkey and Cyprus, but openly gay Palestinians or Israeli Arabs sometimes get blackmailed into collaborating with the Israeli security services, or even into spying for one West Bank faction against another, often with fatal consequences. Despite the government brief to lure gay European tourists to campy Tel Aviv, last August a gunman shot up a night club in the lavender metropolis, killing two people and wounding at least 13. It was considered a hate crime, not a terror attack. [Translation: no Arab involvement.] Shas, an Israeli political party that has depicted homosexuals as blasphemers, annually joins forces with clergymen from Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths to condemn the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem as an abomination. Secular laws in Israel may uphold gay rights, but homosexuals are shunned by Haredi Jews, and are banished from their families if anyone learns about their transgression. In much of the Holy Land, that rainbow flag is still tightly furled.
Jan McGirk, Santa Cruz