We were disappointed to see our friends at the Queens Pride House in Jackson Heights helping to promote the insidious movement to boycott, divest from and impose sanctions upon Israel. But that’s just what happened Tuesday, when the center had Sarah Schulman, an anti-Israel CUNY professor and supporter of the BDS movement, speak before a crowd of about 30 like-minded people.
The Pride House is dedicated to the interests of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community, and is the only center of its kind in Queens. We wish it had not hosted a one-sided event attacking the only country in the Middle East where LGBT people enjoy anything approaching equal rights.
According to Schulman and Pauline Park, the Pride House president, Israel is guilty of “pink-washing,” promoting friendliness to the gay community while hiding a darker truth. The fact is, Israel is far more welcoming to the LGBT community than any other nation in the Middle East or all of Asia.
Out Magazine calls Tel Aviv “the gay capital of the Middle East.” Israel has antidiscrimination laws that protect LGBT people. While it has yet to allow full same-sex marriage —as a majority of the United States have not yet done —it recognizes gay marriages performed elsewhere and allows same-sex common-law marriages, granting most rights to gay couples. It is the only country in the Middle East that honors same-sex marriages made in other countries. It is home to a couple of Palestinian gay rights groups — which presumably would not find a warm welcome in, say, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. As it continues to expand gay rights, Israel is the last country LGBT advocates should be seeking to harm.
And yet at the Pride House forum, most if not all attendees apparently want to bankrupt Israel into withdrawing to its indefensible 1967 borders, which would only invite war from its volatile neighbors who have made war against it so many times before. One member of the audience, a Queens College student, openly called for armed aggression against Israel.
Gay rights in the Western World, from Israel to the United States, have undergone a revolution in a generation. While Israel, like the U.S., is not perfect, it’s infinitely more accepting of LGBT people than any of the medievalist states in its neighborhood. We’d like to see the Pride House hold a forum on how some of them treat gay people. Even more, we’d like to see everyone support the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, as so much of the rest of the region continues to implode and threaten peaceful, tolerant people everywhere.