It’s June 29, 2014 in Chicago, and the annual Chicago Pride Parade is in full swing. It’s a sea of color, cheers and laughter as 750,000 people join the celebration. After the parade, revelers flock to Boystown for a great night of dancing and partying.
Now let’s travel a couple weeks further back in time to June 13. The location is no longer Chicago, but the scene is nearly identical. We are now in Israel at Tel Aviv Pride Week. Once again, we are surrounded by drag queens, rainbow flags and sequined dresses. With more than 100,000 people in attendance, this is the largest gay pride parade in the Middle East.
But Israel doesn’t just host an annual parade. It offers a safe haven for the LGBTQIA community, a place where everyone is equal under the law and in the minds of the people. In fact, it is against the law to discriminate based on gender identity or sexual orientation in Israel.
LGBTQIA individuals openly serve in both the government and the military, where they are fully protected by the law. Furthermore, queer couples have full adoption and inheritance rights and, although Israel adheres to the strictest form of Jewish law by prohibiting gay marriage, the country recognizes common-law marriages and same-sex marriages performed abroad.
On Wednesday, Dec. 3 Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is hosting an event called “The Politics of Being Fabulous in the Holy Land,” asserting that Israel uses its gay rights as a means to divert attention from other political issues (a term known as “pinkwashing”). If this doesn’t sound absurd to you already, let me present an analogy.
Claiming Israel uses gay rights to hide supposed human rights abuses is like saying that states in the U.S. only grant marriage equality to cover up their corrupt state legislatures. Yet no one would make that claim here in the United States, so why should it apply to Israel?
In reality, Israel is surrounded by Arab countries where openly gay people are subject to beatings, imprisonment and sometimes death. And when LGBTQIA individuals, including Palestinians, seek refuge, it is Israel that frees them from persecution.
Even within the ranks of progressive countries, Israel still holds one of the best track records for LGBTQIA rights. Why? Because Israel is striving toward equality of all peoples. Because Israel recognizes the value of every individual. Because it’s the right thing to do.
Noga Barpal is a contributing columnist. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org