Michael Lucas Responds to Andy Towle
I’m writing in response to your January 29th post (http://www.towleroad.com/2008/01/israeli-mk-gay.html) about homophobic remarks made by Israeli Knesset Member Nissim Ze’ev (whoever he is). Obviously, I know you personally, consider you a friend, and know for a fact that you aren’t an anti-Semite. Yet I have noticed that you follow a tendency among gay and other “liberal” bloggers to report a lot more bad than good news out of Israel.
The general undercurrent of violent, irrational hatred of Jewish people is such that if you only report strongly negative things about Israel to your readers, you will inevitably be fanning the flames of that bigotry. One ignorant, religious Knesset member does not remotely damage Israel’s very good record on gay rights. I won’t even mention that when Palestinian gays are outed, and face the real danger of being stoned to death by their fellow Palestinians, they escape to Israel, not to neighboring Egypt or Jordan for refuge.
I don’t know if you’ve been to Israel; I go every year. My last trip was during the war started by Hezbollah and I’ll be returning this February 20. I entertained Israelis in gay clubs in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Let me note here, that I was doing live gay sex shows-which is not allowed anywhere in the United States-and it was reported that I was doing so in every mainstream Israeli newspaper. I personally think that Israel is much more advanced in gay rights than the much longer-established democracy that is America.
Unlike the U.S., Israel’s military doesn’t have “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Unlike New York, Tel Aviv recognizes gay couples as family units. Couples married in Massachusetts are legally recognized everywhere in Israel, but not in, for example, Pennsylvania. Israel grants partners of foreigners residency status. Same sex partners may adopt each other’s children. Israeli insurance companies provide pension and death benefits to same sex couples. The Israeli Attorney General guarantees legal recognition to same sex couples in business and personal financial matters. Gay couples started being registered in Jerusalem last year.
All of that is possible, and even more progress is coming, because Israel is governed by secular laws and a judiciary, not by Torah, and not by the hateful Koran, as is the case in so many Muslim countries.
Look, yes, you reported a true fact. But then you chose at the end of this post to point out more negative points about Israel, like demonstrations of a few hundred Hassidic Jews against Pride in Jerusalem, and the alleged bomber. Maybe it would be more productive to list the good things that Israel is doing for gay people, to say what rapid progress Israel has made on gay rights, and under what difficult circumstances that progress has been achieved. Maybe that will give a more balanced picture. Israel has achieved and maintained the tolerant society it has in spite of all manner of threat to security in daily life there. I can only imagine the tolerance of the French, Italians or even Americans if any of these countries were to have terrorist attacks, often running stretches at a time on a daily basis, and if their citizens were being slaughtered on public busses, restaurants, clubs, shopping malls and outdoor food markets. That is to say nothing of if France, Italy and/or America had rockets and missiles falling on its peoples’ heads in a supposed time of peace! Just how far could good Western tolerance be stretched? So, when talking about Israel, it is very important to acknowledge the Israelis’ patience and their incredible democratic achievements under the most difficult circumstances, gay rights included.
Remember too that when you are talking about Jerusalem, you are talking about one of the most complicated places in the world. It’s a center for three major religions. Even among the Israeli gay community, there’s a debate over whether it’s a good idea to march in the center of such a religiously concentrated place, when gay Tel Aviv is a forty minute drive away, and where gay parades attract hundreds of thousands of people every year. I’m talking about Tel Aviv with its flourishing gay culture. Gay clubs, restaurants, centers, meeting points, bookshops, gay beaches, et cetera, et cetera amen. Because all that exists, I don’t feel it’s very fair to portray Israel as homophobic because of the controversy over the gay parade in Jerusalem. The majority of Israelis respect gay rights.
Andy, most people do not have your depth of knowledge or your analytical abilities. Just check your readers’ comments. When you post mainly negative stories about Israel, such posts feed anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli sentiments that are, unfortunately, increasing in the gay communities of the U.S. and Europe. I think you should be very careful about what to report and how you report it. Don’t overestimate your readership, and don’t underestimate the historical anti-Semitism that can be set off with the tiniest spark to a fuse.
Ignorant people exist within every country’s government. In open and modern counties, their ugly and stupid comments backfire against them. There is no more chance that Nissim Ze’ev is going to become Prime Minister of Israel than there is that Senator George “Macaca” Allen will return to being Senator of Virginia.
It’s important for you to give some thought to who your readers are. Maybe you can do that by simply reading the comments they make on your posts. Please understand, I’m not comparing you to anti-Semitic sites like Queerty, where if you put the terms “Jew” or “Jewish” in the site’s search, you’ll come up with just hate and more hate towards this young and courageous country.