In 2016, you would expect the overwhelming majority of the world to grant equal rights to all including the LGBTQ community. However, the Middle East region truly fails in this area. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that recognizes LGBTQ rights and where any person of any sexuality can freely live.
The Middle East currently lacks rights for people who are a part of the LGBTQ community. If you are gay in the Middle East, there’s a good chance that you will be persecuted and even receive the death penalty. In Iran and Saudi Arabia one can be murdered if it is publicly revealed that you are gay. In many Middle Eastern countries, families will disown gay members and carry out “honor killings” if it is revealed that they have sexual relations outside of marriage. In addition, there are no laws put in place to prevent discrimination. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where members of the LGBTQ community are free to be who they truly are.
Anyone who is LGBTQ can live truly free in Israel and it’s the only place in the Middle East to do so. Israel has always been a champion of equal rights for all. Besides being progressive on LGBTQ rights, Israel has equal rights for women and minorities. Within 20 years of Israel’s existence, became the third country in the world to have a female prime minister, Golda Meir. Israel also has enacted laws to protect women’s rights. Israel has a committee in the Knesset to address and protect women’s rights, “The Committee of the Status of Women.”
Israel has always been a huge supporter of LGBTQ rights, in many cases for far longer than many Western countries, including the United States. From 1988 forward, Israel began giving equal rights to its LGBTQ community. First, the 1988 law that allowed same-sex sexual activities, then the 1992 law that prohibited discrimination of LGBTQ individuals in the workplace, and the 1993 law allowing openly gay individuals in the IDF, and there have been many laws since then that have furthered LGBTQ rights. Israel also saves LGBTQ Palestinians by giving them safety in Israel from the Palestinian Authority, who imprisons or sentences them to death.
In addition to laws being passed, Israel is home to Tel Aviv, which was voted the best LGBTQ travel destination in the world in 2011. Tel Aviv, along with other Israeli cities, boasts annual gay pride parades. The annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade is the biggest pride parade in all of Asia and the Middle East. Israel is the only place in the Middle East where members of the LGBTQ community and their supporters can come together and celebrate who they are.
Adding to the conversation on LGBTQ rights in Israel, our CAMERA – supported Emet for Israel group UB For Israel at SUNY Buffalo hosted Assi Azar, a popular openly gay Israeli television personality. He is the host of TV show “Big Brother: Israel” and he tours around Israel and the United States promoting LGBT rights in Israel. He spoke on the progressiveness of Israeli society and addressed the ways Israel is more so than the United States.
Many new faces attended the event, where Azar spoke about his rights in Israel as an openly gay man, and how Israel is the only country in the Middle East where LGBTQ can feel safe. He also filled the room with plenty of laughter through telling his personal humor-filled stories.
Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at SUNY Buffalo, Andrew Meyer.