Ever since the widely reported flotilla incident, people of good will have been having vociferous disagreements on whether what Israel did was right or wrong, the legality and morality of the Gaza blockade, the safety of Israeli families, and the like. In fact, Wayne Besen and I have been having an academic match on the subject for the past week. The key word there, of course, is academic. It’s not a reflection of biases against Israelis or Palestinians or anything of the sort.
That being said, this is stupid and completely beside the point:
Organizers of Madrid’s pride parade, scheduled for the beginning of next month, have announced that they are cancelling the invitation of Israeli representatives slated to appear there, Ynet learned Monday.
The Israeli delegation, made up of members of the LGBT association and the Foreign Ministry, was scheduled to run an Israeli “bus” in the parade, for the first time since its establishment.
But the delegation has recently received hints from Spain that their arrival may cause anger among local pro-Palestinian groups, which may require excess security and, more importantly, cause a lot of embarrassment.
Community reps expressed their deep disappointment by Madrid’s decision. Chairman of the LGBT Union in Israel, Mike Hamel told Ynet, “We regret the fact that the pride organizations in Madrid have decided to focus on issues that have nothing to do with the community. The Union was invited as a non-political organization. This is a missed opportunity for dialogue.”
Regardless of one’s opinions on the flotilla incident, let’s be clear: One of the things Israel has going for it is that it is indeed the bastion of tolerance and liberalism in the region, as it pertains to the LGBT community. In fact, Israel runs circles around the United States when it comes to their progress on gay rights.
Also, of note: the Israeli participation was from the Tel Aviv Municipality, as part of their push to shine a light on their progressive, gay friendly city. This is not the Netanyahu government’s project. This would be like disinviting San Francisco from an international event because the Obama administration did something the organizers didn’t like. It has absolutely nothing to do with the greater point of the pride celebration, and it does nothing to further the cause of equality for LGBT people.
One of the themes that’s come up in the conversations I’ve had with people since the flotilla incident is nuance. Obviously some of the groups involved in Madrid pride have serious problems with what Israel has done in the past few weeks. That’s okay. There are ways to express that in appropriate places without blacklisting Israelis as people. However, for a freaking PRIDE EVENT, which is premised on the idea of “everyone is welcome and accepted as they are,” people should be able to do that without also feeling the need to throw the Israeli gay community under the bus. It’s especially stupid, considering the fact that, in the world of Israeli-Palestinian relations, Israel’s gay community is at the forefront working within their country to provide aid, advocacy and protection to Palestinians, and more specifically, to LGBT Palestinians:
All three organizations that advocate and support homosexual Palestinians are headquartered in Israel. On an individual level, the Israeli gay community often hides gay Palestinians from the Israeli authorities, for fear that they will be sent back to their home communities where they are ostracized and threatened for their sexual preferences. From the website GlobalGayz.com:
Since Palestine is a very homophobic culture many Palestinian gays and lesbians are forced against their cultural and religious will to hide in Israel where homosexuality is much more acceptable and, indeed, protected.
Like their counterparts worldwide, the Israeli gay community is one of the most progressive and left-wing in the country. One Israeli gay rights organization, Black Laundry, describes itself as “a direct action group of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and others against the occupation and for social justice.”
The organizers of Madrid’s pride celebration should be ashamed of themselves. If it requires more security, get more security. It’s not as if gays have ever dealt with situations like that before. (/sarcasm)
As I said before, people of good will and honest intentions can disagree on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and will continue to do so until either the conflict is resolved or the end of time, whichever comes first. But the very spirit of the movement for LGBT equality is endangered when nations which are extremely friendly to LGBT people are punished for unrelated political reasons. He’s free to speak for himself and correct me, but I have a feeling that, though we disagree on many other things about that part of the world, Wayne would agree with me on this one.
(h/t Dan Blatt, who is actually also mostly right about this.)