Yoni Leviatan
How to be Jewish: Be good. The end.

Israel is the gayest country on earth

When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the public discourse is very similar to American politics: roughly 80% of the people have made up their minds firmly in one direction or another, and all the chattering and social media blabbering is really just preaching to the congregation, while the remaining 20% mostly doesn’t care, or doesn’t have enough information to form an honest opinion.

This article is for that last 20% – the “undecideds” – who come with no predisposition toward either side, but are also not interested in learning a hundred years of history just to find out that both sides are right and wrong.

Therefore, I won’t talk about wars and terrorism or settlements and peace talks, because it’s all been hashed out before, and there’s no point in rehashing it in order to get to the truth, because it doesn’t exist. There is the Israeli truth and the Palestinian truth, and both believe theirs is the real and only truth.

So what is one to do if they are interested in this conflict and wish to form an opinion, but don’t have the time or energy to learn a mountain of biased history from two very biased peoples?

Very simple – turn to Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest and wisest leaders in human history, who said the following:

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

That seems like a fair measuring stick to begin with if you want to get just a glimpse of Israelis and Palestinians, their values and beliefs, and how they treat those who are different from themselves.

Why is this important? Because it’s entirely possible that one of these peoples might actually be more responsible for the conflict than the other, and you don’t need an ounce of history to know it, just a heart.

I think we can all agree that homosexuals have been, and continue to be, one of the most vulnerable groups in any society. This is also considered by most – especially today’s youth – to be the defining civil rights issue of our time, so let’s take a look how both Israelis and Palestinians treat the gay people in their respective societies. Let’s start with the Palestinians.

From Wikipedia:

Gay Palestinians are often arrested and tortured.

From an article in the Advocate, July 2006:

“Tarek, a young Palestinian gay man suspected of homosexuality, was sentenced to a “reeducation” camp run by Muslim clerics under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction. He said that for a period of two months he was “subjected to beatings with belts, clubs, and was forced to sit on bottles which were inserted into my rectum. I was hanged by the hands, I was deprived of sleep, and when I finally did sleep, my limbs were tied to the floor.”

From WikiIslam:

– Palestinian Authority takes part in widespread and sadistic intimidation, torture, imprisonment and deaths of gays.
– Gay Palestinian men are risking their lives to cross into Israel, claiming they feel safer among Israelis than their own people. There are now 300 gay Palestinian men secretly living and working in Israel.
– Gay Christian Palestinian who fled the PA for Israel, criticizes the oppressive Palestinian society and says, in contrast, Israel allows gays the “freedom to express (their) sex and take pride in it”.

These are just a few of the many stories we could list here to highlight Palestinian brutality toward homosexuals, however the most famous persecuted gay Palestinian is for sure John Calvin, who was raised in a pro-Hamas family in the West Bank.

In his recent blog post, he begs for asylum in Canada as they prepare to deport him back to the Palestinian territories, where it is more than certain that he will suffer the same fate of so many other outed gays that came before him, and had the unlucky fortune to be born into one of the most sadistic societies in the world when it comes to their treatment of homosexuals.

Read about John Calvin’s experience in an Israeli jail, and the treatment he got from the Israeli guards in comparison to his fellow Palestinian prisoners:

“It was in an Israeli jail where the doubts I had about everything I had ever been taught were finally silenced. Another man, a Palestinian man, hurt me in a way I could never have imagined, in a way that just isn’t talked about in our society. If that was unexpected, that was nothing compared to what came next. The Israelis who worked in the prison – “the Jews” – looked after me and took care of me, making sure the story never got out to those who would use it against me. The Palestinians I had been taught to die for had hurt and abandoned me while the Israelis I had been taught to kill acted with compassion and helped me heal.”

That’s just a small bite of how Israel treats its homosexual citizens. Let’s taste a little more.

From Wikipedia:

– Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Israel have generally been seen as some of the most advanced in the Middle East and Asia.
– Israel became the first in Asia to recognize unregistered cohabitation between same-sex couples, making it the only country in Asia to recognize any same-sex union thus far.
– Same-sex couples are allowed to jointly adopt after a court decision in 2008.
– Gays and lesbians are also allowed to serve openly in the military.
– Recent polls have indicated that a majority of Israelis support same-sex marriage.
– Tel Aviv has frequently been referred to by publishers as one of the most gay friendly cities in the world, famous for its annual Pride Parade and gay beach, earning it the nickname “the gay capital of the Middle East” by Out magazine. According to LGBT travelers, it was ranked as the best gay city in 2011.

Just this week on June 10, 2015, Israel’s left-wing newspaper, Haaretz, published an article entitled “Transgender teens get warm embrace at Knesset session” with the following sub-header attesting to the affection the group received in Israel: ‘I don’t remember a scene ever like this in America,’ U.S. activist Marsha Botser says.

And finally, if you need any further proof on Israelis’ views toward homosexuality, just take a look at these two lovebirds:

Photo by IDF Spokesperson's Unit
Photo by IDF Spokesperson’s Unit

Actually, this is a staged photo, which makes it even more indicative of the image Israeli society has of itself when it comes to homosexuals. You know who staged it? The I-D-freakin’-F. That’s right, those merciless, child-killing, Palestinian-blood-drinking soldiers you’ve heard about, went out of their way to support Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride week in 2012, and did so by posting this photo on the cover of their Facebook page. One soldier is gay, the other is not. It was staged because the IDF Spokesperson’s Office wanted to portray the most accurate picture of how the IDF views its homosexual soldiers: with love and pride, as they do every other soldier.

(It also bears mentioning that the picture is indicative of a culture within the Israeli Defense Forces that the straight soldier feels comfortable enough in his masculinity, and with his fellow soldier’s homosexuality, to be seen in such a public image holding hands with him.)

So for those of you who know nothing at all about this conflict, and wish to be just a little more informed so you can start to form an opinion, I ask you to consider this one fact as Tel Aviv celebrates its annual Gay Pride Festival this week:


It’s true. Although Tel Aviv may be where all the action is (as is the case with most pursuits in Israel), ask any gay who lives here, or any gay who’s been here, and they will tell you that Israelis are the most open and welcoming society in the world toward homosexuals.

There are no gay neighborhoods in Tel Aviv like there are in most other cities, because there doesn’t need to be. Homosexuals feel entirely welcome and safe to live anywhere they want.

Guys and guys walk down the street kissing and holding hands, just as girls and girls do, or guys dressed up as girls do. In fact, the winner of the 1999 Eurovision contest was the Israeli transgender superstar Dana International, who first had to get there with the help of public voting. Yes, out of all the possible representatives Israelis could have chosen to send, this is the proud image of love and acceptance they collectively wanted to portray.

I’m not saying anyone should forget about the unfortunate occupation, and all the other complexities surrounding the situation in the Middle East. All I’m saying is that if you know nothing at all about Israelis or Palestinians, and wish to start forming an opinion about these two societies, I suggest you begin with the litmus test that the magnificent Gandhi himself said is most reflective of a society’s true nature.

Israel and Israelis are not perfect in any way, not even in the subject of homosexuality. But I say with an enormous amount of truth, evidence and common sense logic that we are much more perfect than any of our neighbors.

I don’t take pride in that. I wish nothing more than that our neighbors would view life and love with the sacred respect and cherished gratitude that we do. But until then, the world should know that the policy of moral relativism will never be accepted by Israeli society, because in order to have relativism, first you must have morals. And I will believe the Palestinians are morally equal to Israelis when my partner and I can visit them in Ramallah as freely and safely as they can visit us in Tel Aviv.

Because all you really need to know about this conflict is in which direction the gays are fleeing to.

About the Author
Yoni Leviatan is a British-born, American-raised, Israeli-blooded musician, content producer, brand strategist, presenter and political commentator who loves to think out loud. Especially about Israel. Originally from Coral Springs, Florida, Yoni has been living in Tel Aviv since 2009, returning to the land of his parents and grandparents and ancestors before them. He has a BA in Criminology from the University of Florida and an MA in Political Communication from Tel Aviv University. Click to watch his videos. Click to hear his music.
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