There is only one country in the Middle East where non-heterosexual marriages performed abroad are recognized and where LGBTQ+ rights are celebrated, and that, of course, is the State of Israel. Tel Aviv has been recognized for years for hosting the largest Pride events on the continent of Asia and is an internationally celebrated destination for LGBTQ+ travelers. Yet somehow, when medievalist terrorists inflicted inhuman violence on a defenseless population of Israeli civilians on October 7, murdering over 1,200 people in a single day of nightmarish rape, torture, and mutilation, the LGBTQ+ community was mostly silent. Next, Hamas and its supporters kidnapped at least 244 innocents from diverse nationalities. They were specifically targeting the vulnerable and defenseless, taking them to Gaza to be raped, tortured, and used as human shields. Some activists in our community have been brainwashed to blame the victims and support a regime that is actively killing us.
It should go without saying that a terrorist organization that murdered 260 young partygoers at a music festival for peace, gang-raping many next to the butchered bodies of their friends, is the brutal enemy of our community. Yet starting in about in the mid-2010s, anti-Israel activists in the United States began seizing control of intersectional platforms and excluding Jewish and Israeli individuals from progressive and particularly LGBTQ+ spaces. In 2017, the marginalization of Jews and Israelis was dramatically furthered when the Chicago Dyke March banned Jewish stars on flags and posters.
The irony is that the Palestinian territories rank abysmally for sexual freedom, ranking 160th of 170 in Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security index, behind countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Somalia. Throughout the years, many LGBTQ+ Palestinians have sought asylum in Israel. Stories abound like that of Ahmed Abu Marhia, a 25-year-old Palestinian gay man, who, after escaping to Israel and being granted asylum, was either kidnapped or lured back to Hebron in the West Bank, where he was publicly beheaded. Hamas even executed one of its own commanders, 34-year-old Mahmoud Ishtiwi, when he was accused of gay sex.
Hence the absurdity of the slogan “Queers for Palestine” popularized by the anti-Israel crowd. The Israeli political satire program Eretz Nehederet recently parodied the clueless activist crowd as the LGBTQH community – with “H” standing for Hamas. While lighthearted, the viral sketch parodied real students at Columbia University who released a statement calling the October 7 slaughter a justified “counter-offensive against their settler-colonial oppressor.” In the sketch, Hamas warns the activists that once they “finish with Israel… America is next.” Sadly, this, too, echoes real life, with Hamas commanders emphasizing their goal of jihadi world conquest: “The entire planet will be under our law, there will be no more Jews or Christian traitors.”
The LGBTQ+ organizations that have come down on the right side of history should be commended. Five advocacy organizations, including A Wider Bridge, are behind the online “LGBTQ Americans Unite Against Hamas Terror” petition, which recognizes that “Antisemitism, homophobia and transphobia travel together.” Refusing to be silent, the petition signatories assert that “It is absolutely imperative that as LGBTQ and allied Americans, we unequivocally condemn the brutal attacks of Hamas. We ask you to join us now in our grief for all the innocent lives lost and for the hostages still being held. We ask you to join us in our conviction that the State of Israel has a right to exist and reaffirm that the Jewish people deserve a homeland where they can live freely.”
Israel is way ahead of the curve in celebrating sexual freedom. Dana International, the child of Yemenite refugees to Israel and one of the country’s most iconic modern pop icons, is a transgender beauty who became an international sensation when she won the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest. Every member of our community should read her powerful testimony about the Hamas attacks, as she reminded her fans: “Are you aware that if you accidentally end up on the streets of Gaza, you won’t get out of there alive? Do you know that [H]amas sentences every LGBTQ to death by hanging (if not worse)?… If you do not condemn Hamas, you are against LGBTQ, against women, and AGAINST PEACE.” She also reminded her audience that there is another Middle East where people can live and love the way they please: “You are always welcome to the Tel Aviv gay pride that will accept you with open arms.”
Israel is the only country in the Middle East where a person can openly celebrate the nontraditional lifestyle of their choosing. The historically marginalized and persecuted Jewish population has built a thriving modern nation where love is cherished. After the attack of the Hamas murderers and kidnappers, the global LGBTQ+ needs to stand loud and proud behind our Israeli members and say: we are against murder. We are against rape and hostage-taking, and torture. We stand with Israel, and we stand with the Palestinian population that is yearning to breathe free from Hamas’ oppressive regime.
Hernandez is a former member of the Arizona House of Representatives where he founded the Arizona House LGBTQ caucus. He interned for U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords when she was shot and has been credited for helping save her life.