The Middle East and LGBTQ speech


Guest Commentary

This column is usually a joy to write, since it gives me an opportunity to share my views and get feedback and also receive different views that I might not have been aware of. Respectful conversation among people who have different views furthers and creates an atmosphere and an attempt to understand another way of thinking and also why they may have strong beliefs. Without that communication and those conversations, we evolve into opposing camps. That is dangerous, especially when there are issues that divide us.

As I write this, our community is being torn apart by the problems in the Middle East — the war between Hamas and Israel. It’s a complex issue, so complex that it goes back many years. And that one point is the beginning of how complex it is. Does it go back scores of years ago? Or hundreds of years? Maybe it even goes back to biblical years? If we can’t agree on when the differences began, how do we get to the current day?

For this conversation, let’s deal with what is currently happening. I should say that I’ve traveled extensively through the areas of contention. I’ve been to the West Bank, Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon and most of the other parties in this confrontation. I’ve met with and worked with both Israelis and Palestinians. There is one group in this mix that I have not worked with and that is Hamas.

Regardless of your views on the Israeli/Palestinian issue (and as far as I’m concerned, you can support either, as both sides have grievances), the one point we should all agree with is that the slaughter on Oct. 7 by Hamas was wrong, regardless of their grievances. So where does that leave us?

In my humble opinion, lack of respectful debate has brought us to this point, but it doesn’t have to. Those who support the rights of the Palestinians and want a free Palestinian state can and should feel free to make it clear that they support Palestine but also denounce the brutal killing, rape and kidnapping done by Hamas. They can also express their views on the state of Israel.  But they cross the line when they don’t denounce Hamas. Nothing excuses Oct. 7. In this country and others, what happened on that day has led to a war, not simply on Israel, but Jews.

Those in our community that support Hamas might not know the facts about Hamas. If they did, it would amaze me if any person from our community would support an organization that abuses women, holds its own citizens as prisoners and human shields, and even kills LGBTQ+ people.  Can LGBTQ+ people condone the killing of other LGBTQ+ people? Do you condone it in other countries that have death penalties for being LGBTQ+?

My point is basic: Feel free to support the Palestinian people, not Hamas. Hamas is not representative of the plight of the Palestinian people. Ask Palestinians that live in the Middle East. They’ll tell you that themselves.

For the LGBTQ+ community living under Hamas, lesbian women are raped and gay men are killed. Trans people are afraid to be their true authentic selves. Those are not the positions of many Palestinians. Those are the actions of Hamas. LGBTQ+ Palestinians have found refuge in other countries, including Israel, because of the brutality of Hamas. That brutality is what the LGBTQ+ community needs to condemn.

How do we even address the Israeli reaction to Oct. 7 without addressing that date? That date is not hundreds of years ago. It’s happening today. The deaths of LGBTQ+ people by Hamas is happening today.

This guest commentary originally appeared at the Philadelphia Gay News website: