By CAMERA intern Shoshana Kranish 

Back in June, Tel Aviv celebrated its 18th Pride Parade, the end to a week-long celebration filled with parties and beautiful people—Israeli and foreign, gay and straight. While the numbers are not exact, it is estimated that upwards of 200,000 people attended this year’s event, making it one of the largest Pride gatherings in the world. While I could go on all day about the beauty of the celebration and those who attended it, the more pressing issue here is the debate that surrounds it.

+972 Magazine published an article a few days prior to the parade entitled, “Why I Won’t Be Participating in Tel Aviv’s Pride Parade”. The left-wing magazine is made up of a conspiracy of anti-Israel writers, and this article does not stray from this. The author claims that Israel is responsible for “exploiting sexual orientation to blackmail gay Palestinians” within the Palestinian territories. If this sounds ludicrous, that’s because it is.

In Israel, same-sex couples have more rights than anywhere else in the entire continent of Asia. Like heterosexual couples, homosexual couples cannot have a civil marriage in the State of Israel. Like heterosexual couples, homosexual couples may marry elsewhere and have the union recognized by the State of Israel. Like their straight counterparts, gay people may serve openly in the military. They may adopt each other’s children.

In the Palestinian territories—which are, by the way, not controlled by Israel—same-sex couples do not share the rights their counterparts do on other side of the Green Line. In the West Bank, same-sex acts have been decriminalized since 1951, when the area was under Jordanian control. In Gaza, same-sex acts are illegal. In neither place are there stand-alone laws for the protection of LGBT individuals, and no type of civil union or marriage can be granted to couples.

In Israel, discrimination based on sexual orientation has been illegal since 1992.

In the Palestinian territories, LGBT individuals regularly flee to Israel to escape persecution from their families, society, and the law.

Is Israel then giving rights to LGBT individuals in their own country to spite LGBT Palestinians? An intelligent person would say no, that this is preposterous. In an effort to expand equality, the Israeli government recognized decades ago the importance of taking care of all of their citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation. It is not the fault of the Knesset that the governing bodies in the Palestinian territories have not done the same. The Israeli government, though they may be funding parts of the Pride celebration in Tel Aviv, are not doing so to show the Palestinians what they are missing out on. For years, TLV has been hailed as a top gay destination. In recognition of this, the Israeli government has made a strategic decision to help benefit not only themselves and the economy, but their own people.

More often than not, when someone commends Israel on their giving rights and protections to LGBT citizens, they are accused of ‘pinkwashing.’ Anti-Israel activists will say that celebrating Israel’s equality rights detracts from their human rights abuses. This tactic is as disgraceful as it is incompetent. Notwithstanding the fact that the two are unrelated, there is nothing wrong with celebrating the rights of a typically-marginalized group of people. Shouldn’t gay rights be something to be celebrated, not criticized?

The Pride Week Celebration in Tel Aviv is meant to highlight the vibrant LGBT community in Israel. It is meant as a time to be joyous, to be welcoming of everyone, to be proud. It is not, as the author suggests it, a “political protest.” To take something that is meant to show the goodness in society and turn it into something that suggests blackmail and exploitation is downright disgusting. I would ask the author to ask those who had the pleasure of spending time at Tel Aviv’s Pride Festival if they felt they were harming LGBT Palestinians by enjoying themselves, their sexuality, and their city. I can’t speak for all the partygoers, but I would assume they’d say they were just having a good time.

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