A few mornings ago, I saw an article in the Advocate’s online edition: ‘Why LGBT People Need Israel’ by James Duke Mason. Granted, the article is now almost a month old, and I would hope that now Mason might want to temper his enthusiasm considering the brutality of the violence coming from both sides in the recent battles on the Gaza strip. That being said, it is important to note that the facts that sparked the most recent conflicts cannot be brushed over. We must address them before we can decide what we must do next.
In the news cycle of crumbling buildings and gunfire, it is important to remember that the most recent explosion in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict began with the murder of children. It began with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers—Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah—in an act Israeli leaders claim was perpetrated by Hamas. Around 530 Palestinians were arrested as a result of ongoing investigations into the kidnapping. On 2 July, a Palestinian boy named Mohammed Abu Khdeir was found murdered. He had been kidnapped, beaten and according to some reports, burned alive. Six people were arrested in connection to the murder after one person confessed to their involvement in the crime.
The death of a child is always a tragedy. First and foremost we must acknowledge and respect the grief of both the Israeli and Palestinian parents whose children died as a result of these acts of violence. The murder of Khdeir as retaliation by Israeli youths was an act of cowardice and prejudice. To murder another person’s child in retaliation for the murder of one of your own children does nothing to right a wrong—it only compounds suffering.
I won’t bother taking time out of this piece to deconstruct Mason’s insultingly childish reading of the Middle East as a powder keg waiting ‘to turn into an absolute free-for-all controlled by extremists who want to kill us and turn women into their slaves.’ That piece of stereotypical straw-man can blow itself over without my having to play the part of the wolf. The main problem that I have with Mason’s article is quite simply that he circumvents the history of violence that surrounds the conflict and the inherent ethical issues connected to it in order to focus on Israel’s record on LGBT+ rights. I’m not denying that in a sea of unwelcoming nations, Israel’s somewhat progressive record on LGBT+ rights is worth taking notice of. I support their efforts to recognize the humanity not only of living LGBT+ people, but also to acknowledge those who died alongside their Jewish brothers and sisters in Nazi concentration camps.
That said, support for my rights as an LGBT+ person does not erase an act of violence.
In the most recent conflict, over 1,000 people have been killed, and even though estimates vary, it is suggested that around 800 were Palestinian civilians, around a quarter of which were children. Schools have been bombed, as have shelters and hospitals in an attempt to smoke out Hamas militants. There are thousands of Palestinian refugees and almost as many citizens who refuse to leave simply because there is nowhere for them to go.
Living in America, it’s difficult for me to imagine what it’s like to be on either side of the battle, knowing that a bomb from next door could go off in my living room tomorrow morning. We haven’t fought a war on our home turf in many years. The battle zones in Iraq and Afghanistan seem so far off that to most Americans, they probably don’t even seem real. (This might be why most Americans can’t find them on a map.) But the attempt to circumvent the importance of a balanced picture of the conflict by brushing off both the recent context and historical facts (‘Regardless of what happened in 1948…’) in favour of promoting a personal agenda is quite simply wrong. To ignore the terror that both sides have spawned in the other is wrong. To ignore the fact that children on both sides are dying in a battle that they might not even comprehend in order to promote one of those sides as a shining example of LGBT+ rights is wrong.
I like to believe that everyone on this planet has the ability to make up their own minds and to make conscious decisions based upon their knowledge and experience. If you desire to support Israel in the current conflict, that is your choice. I won’t tell you you’re wrong. Nor will I tell you that you’re wrong to support Palestine; that is also your choice. But to act as if a stance in favour of LGBT+ rights should be the deciding factor that makes us support one nation over another is not only a terrible argument, it makes for a policy which is not only bad, but dangerously limited in scope.