Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Advocate Published My Letter

The American magazine The Advocate just published my letter in regards to James Kirchick's inflammatory and factually-incorrect commentary piece, which I commented on before here. I have to admit one mistake, though. The original interview with Rauda Morcos spelled her name correctly. Kirchick then spelled it incorrectly, as Marcos, as if she were Spanish. I didn't notice this and misspelled her name, too. Oops! Anyway, here's my letter:

I take extreme issue with the commentary piece by James Kirchick published on you website on July 11 entitled "Palestine and gay rights". I feel that it is biased, one-sided, and gives a gravely inaccurate portrayal of the situation of gay people in the Palestinian Territories.

Primarily, I am concerned about Kirchick's treatment of Rauda Marcos from her interview with the Advocate on May 23. He's correct in his condemnation of "culturally relativistic posturing", but may be mis-analyzing her assertion. She is probably saying that Western countries are able to deal with gay issues as matters of higher priority because they are not facing occupation, high unemployment rates, lack of education, and other issues which, frankly, are more pressing. This can lead to a different "scale". It's clear from the interview that Marcos's English is far from perfect, and Kirchick affords her no leeway.

Secondly, I am horribly disappointed by Kirchick's blind bias towards Israel, painting it as a bastion of gay rights in the Middle East, which it certainly isn't. He fails to acknowledge many of Israel's major shortcomings, including anti-gay members of the Knesset, the stabbing at last year's Jerusalem Pride parade and threats of violence at this year's World Pride, the shunning of Dana International when she visited the Knesset, and many other factors. Worst of all, he fails to acknowledge the systematic abuse of gay Palestinian youth by Israeli intelligence.

Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, published an article called 'Queen Hussein' which documented the workings of the Israeli government. It says: "The Israel Security Service (Shabak) cynically uses Palestinian homophobia and coerces gays to choose between recruitment in its ranks and forceful outing. Most Palestinian gays choose the first option in order to save their lives. As such, every gay is considered a potential collaborator."

There are numerous other articles which attest to the same situation, and I personally have friends in Palestine who have told me of similar experiences. Kirchick says, "Unfortunately, Marcos appears to be a woman so blinded by her ethnic nationalism that she is unable to appreciate the advantages of Israel's liberal society. " It seems the reverse may be true of Kirchick, who is too blinded by his love of Israel to write objectively. Throughout his short journalistic career, Kirchick has continually written pro-Israel pieces, and it seems his vision has become clouded. This is shown by his blatant implication that Marcos is anti-Semitic, which he has no real proof for, and his constant allusions to the Palestinian Authority murdering gay people, which is horribly inaccurate, and unfounded.

I am not writing this because I am anti-Israel, or because I believe the Palestinian Territories are better for gay rights than Israel. I recognize that Israel is far ahead of the Palestinian Authority in these respects. But slandering the few pro-gay activists in the Arab World and falsely portraying Israel as a shining haven for gay people not only severely clouds the truth, it supports the prejudice that Arabs are backward and barbaric.

Thanks, Mike Davis, for suggesting I write them! I feel better now!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You point to what happened in the Knesset, but you "forget" to mention Israel has had an openly gay member of Knesset, and a party (Merets) which has identified itself with the gay community and has a number of MK's.

You also forget gays are welcome in the army and do not suffer from any discrimination in state jobs.

You can write 1000 letters; the fact remains that Israel is just like any European country when it comes to gays, whereas arab society on this matter remains backward and barbaric.

July 26, 2006 7:34 PM  
Blogger Al-Fil said...

Dear anonymous,

You miss the whole point. Get a life.

July 27, 2006 1:34 AM  
Blogger carine said...


you write beautifully, al-fil, and i thought your point came across very clearly (though i guess anon's comment may suggest otherwise... sigh...).

keep writing!!

July 27, 2006 1:38 PM  
Blogger Red Tulips said...

I think the ultimate point, however, is that the Palestinians and Israelis might as well live on different planets with regards to how they treat gays, however, obviously, it is not a gay paradise in Israel.

That said, as I pointed out earlier, the fact is that gay Muslims and Israelis have a common enemy, which I think you are ignoring, and that is Islamofacism. It is facist! It seeks to control the minds and way of life of people! It is an evil in this world that is NOT excusable, and is based on lies and hatred.

India is a post-colonialist nation that suffered from much of the same problems that Pakistan has - and yet now India is an economic powerhouse compared to Pakistan and Bangladesh, with modernism and learning stressed. It is a nation burgeoning on first world status.

Why is this? Because they are not ruled by Islamofacists. They decided they didn't want to be victims. This is key! It proves that it's not "post colonialism" or any of the other reasons given for the reasons why the Middle East is in the shape that it's in. The one common thread keeping these nations down is Islamofacism.

Another example - Dubai. First world, rich city! Not ruled by Islamofacism. Compare that to the surrounding areas - you can't compare!

Hell, even Israel - was a sandbox prior to the Jews taking it over.

The problem is with Islamofacism and the way it is anti-progress, anti-thought, and anti-all that is good in the world. They must be stopped.

And I fail to see why you do not see that gay Muslims have that same common enemy of Islamofacism that Jews have.

July 27, 2006 5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

July 27, 2006 10:37 PM  
Blogger libhom said...

I like the nuanced approach you took in your letter.

One thing I've noticed about American views of Israel and Palestine is that Americans seem to need to take sides, which clouds analysis. Getting an Arab view on queer issues in the Middle East that acknowledges complexity is really important, given how difficult it is to see anything like that from any perspective in the US.

July 30, 2006 4:45 AM  
Blogger mike davis said...

al Fils, i am delighted that your letter was published. I got the point of the letter, unlike some. Now...

send the letter and the original article to Ha'Aretz. I'll bet they will run it on their english language website.

The way forward for all gays in the middle east is to START TALKING TO EACH OTHER!!! that is step number one.

Politics is important and can be stressful (like right now) but please continue talking.

As someone who is neither Jewish nor Arab, I think it is factually wrong to describe the arabs as backward and barbaric. That was crtainly not my experience when I have been to the middle east...lots of improvements are needed but abuse or silence wont ever help.

Keep up the good work.

July 31, 2006 1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Compared to the other countries in the area, Israel is a bastion of gay rights. Of course, it has some shortcomings, but there are homophobes even in the Netherlands! As for the person who wrote in about a stabbing at a gay rights event, he should realize that this would never happen in an Arab country; they wouldn’t tolerate a gay rights event in the first place!

June 05, 2008 4:48 AM  

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