Thursday, March 18, 2010

For Gay Palestinians, Tel Aviv Is Mecca

Al-Fatiha — which calls itself the principal international organization promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arabs — is located not in Beirut or Cairo, but in Washington, D.C. And no wonder: The international movement for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people hardly exists inside the Muslim world.

Arab human rights organizations sometimes advocate for gay rights, but they do so sotto voce. In fact, the only country in the Middle East in which gay people may safely leave the closet is Israel. Which is why, for gay Palestinians, Tel Aviv is Mecca.

Gay Palestinian men flee to Israel because they are not safe in the West Bank and Gaza. They also have no place else to go.

“Israel is close and far at the same time,” says Haneen Maikey, a gay rights activist with Jerusalem Open House, one of the principal gay rights organizations in Israel. If the sexuality of a gay man in Palestine is exposed, his family might torture or kill him and the police will turn a blind eye.

Stories from the Territories

Mahmoud Zahar - Hamas Foreign Minister

“Are these the laws for which the Palestinian street is waiting? For us to give rights to homosexuals and to lesbians, a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick?”

Rami - 23 yearl old Gaza Refugee living in Tel Aviv

“When I was 11, I remember Fatah and other militant groups dragging people suspected of being gay out of their homes. They would break their legs and other bones and some were executed in public. Then the police would write on a wall the reason for the beating or killing as being against the morality of Islam.”

“Tel Elawa is the famous jail in Gaza up on a hill. There were many cells where people were tortured. Some rooms were pitch black, full of rats and cockroaches where you would be just left. Other people were given electric shocks; some had their heads tied into a sack full of shit.”

“You would be forced to sit on a glass bottle then kicked around until it broke inside you.”

Freikh Abu Meday - Minister of Justice for the PA

“We do not have a problem with this subject as there are no homosexuals living in the Palestinian Authority.”

Joseph Massad - AP of Modern Arab Politics & Intellectual History at Columbia University

"The Gay International whose "discourse ... produces homosexuals as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist."

"Orientalist impulse ... continues to guide all branches of the human rights community."

"For the Gay International, transforming sexual practices into identities through the universalizing of gayness and gaining 'rights' for those who identify (or more precisely, are identified by the Gay International) with it becomes the mark of an ascending civilization, just as repressing those rights and restricting the circulation of gayness is a mark of backwardness and barbarism,"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The American Jewish woman who brought feminism to Israel

From Haaretz.

For months the Knesset speaker rejected Marcia Freedman's request to speak about domestic violence in the legislature. In the end, the Knesset member finally received permission to raise the issue. "I hadn't even finished saying the words 'Honorable speaker, honorable Knesset,' when the heckling began," recalls Freedman, who is now 71. "Why the discrimination in how you're bringing up the issue?" shouted one MK from the Liberal party. "Why aren't you talking about wives who beat their husbands?" His colleagues giggled and several more similar jokes were made throughout her entire speech.

Hate Speech Growing in the Age of the Internet

From Towelroad.

The internet is allowing hate speech and groups to flourish, says a new report from the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Tolerance:

"Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized the way people communicate. But, those sites also give racists and terrorists a public platform to spread their hateful messages. 'We've seen an increase of almost 40 percent,' said Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper. 'We're looking at over 11,500 problematic websites.' When Timothy McVeigh orchestrated the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the Internet was home to only one known hate site. 88-year-old white supremacist James Von Brunn, who shot a security guard at the National Holocaust Museum last year, kept an anti-Semitic website. Authorities say Colleen LaRose, aka "Jihad Jane", used YouTube for her alleged terror activities."

Just recently, David Badash over at The New Civil Rights Movement outlined a number of anti-gay hate sites, which, once pointed out, were hastily removed from Facebook.

Sacha Baron Cohen gets sued... shocker!

From USA Today.

A Palestinian shopkeeper and father portrayed as a terrorist in the movie Bruno is suing film star Sacha Baron Cohen, David Letterman and others for libel and slander.
The lawsuit filed last week by Ayman Abu Aita in District of Columbia federal court seeks $110 million in damages.

In the movie, Cohen plays a gay Austrian fashion journalist trying to make it big in the United States. To achieve worldwide fame, Bruno travels to the Middle East to make peace. He interviews Abu Aita, and a caption labels the Bethlehem shopkeeper as a member of the militant Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade.

The Knesset Passes Civil Union Bill... But leaves gays out

From the Jpost.

With one of two crucial bills still in limbo, Israel Beiteinu succeeded late Monday night in passing a limited civil union bill, which would enable Israelis with no officially defined religion to join in civil union. But with no agreement reached on the conversion bill, coalition partners Shas decided to oppose the civil union measure.Israel Beiteinu had promised – and grounded in its coalition agreement with the Likud – that by the one-year anniversary of the forming of the government, on March 31, it would succeed in legislating a civil union bill.That anniversary falls during the Knesset recess that begins on Thursday, meaning that Israel Beiteinu needed to pass the bill before the end of the winter session. In an effort to do so, the party received exemptions last week from the House Committee from the usually required waiting-periods between hearings and votes on bills.

Jewish Borough President of Brooklyn attends Gay Vigil

From Towelroad.
A group of gay activists held a "kiss-out" in the Carroll Gardens section of Brooklyn late yesterday afternoon near the spot where a man was brutally attacked by five men after leaving a gay event at South Brooklyn Pizza last week.Groups of four couples stationed themselves on street corners in the neighborhood and kissed for 20 minutes.

The action was followed a couple hours later by a vigil. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn Brooklyn, Borough President Marty Markowitz, Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, Congressmember Yvette Clarke, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblymember Joan Millman, were among those scheduled to attend.

Tel Aviv's Pink House is gearing up for Summer Bookings

With all the hype surrounding Tel Aviv Gay Tourism this summer, Tel Aviv's Pink House is expecting a bumper summer... Hopefully the pink pound will outrun the economic downturn.


Gay Coupled Married outside DC Ben and Jerry's

From DCist.

First Hello Cupcake, and now Ben & Jerry's joins the list of dessert purveyors helping D.C. gay couples celebrate their newly granted marriage freedoms.

Keith Spangler and Andreas Vellios plan to exchange vows inside the
Georgetown Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shop on Thursday. Rev. Lance Orndorff will officiate the ceremony, but the couple will also be celebrating with the actual Jerry -- Jerry Greenfield, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry's -- who plans to be in attendance to offer a toast and say a few words about his company's history of promoting social justice.

After the wedding ceremony, Spangler and Vellios will welcome family and friends to share in their happiness, and enjoy, what else, some ice cream cake. We assume it'll be made with the
Hubby Hubby flavor.

Local marriage equality champion D.C. Council member David Catania and Freedom to Marry director Michael Crawford, who have both been attending a veritable marathon of same-sex unions this week, will also be on hand for a few congratulatory remarks.

Gay Jews in Poland, Who Knew?

From the Heeb.

Warsaw’s mostly ambivalent Jewish community unintentionally joined the progressive map when Rabbi Aaron Katz, a gay man with a Hollywood producer partner, became their new spiritual advisor.

Since it’s hard to say who
Poles hate more, gays or Jews, we figure he’ll have to dodge eggs on his walk home from Temple. (And yes, take it from me personally, that really does happen.)

Curious how, if at all, the gay element will affect Katz’s congregation. Perhaps congregants will stop hating on gays and start picking up much needed style tips. Then, all the city folk will look at the gay Jews with awe and glee. Tonight’s big show at
Warsaw’s National Opera will be a good start.

Asher Roth is straight...

From the Heeb.

Asher Roth Loves Football, Probably Not Gay

Jewish rapper Asher Roth, whose hit single "I Love College," declares his love of women, had gay rumors flying this weekend. Roth defended himself with a tweet on Sunday, stating he was "about to watch football." When that didn’t stop the homoerotic gossip, the rapper addressed the media with this surprisingly eloquent statement:

I hate to disappoint and take away the entertainment of it all but I am straight, not gay. It’s disheartening to know such “news” on someone’s personal life can be portrayed as fact with no viable source. This, to me, is an opportunity to expose our vulnerability to lies and manipulation through unprofessional and irresponsible news outlets, in which people consider TRUTH. Further, someone’s sexual orientation should NEVER be big news, as it delivers a troubling message to children that they can’t be themselves without fear of judgment. Race, creed, and sexual persuasion should not just be tolerated but understood and accepted. It’s extremely disappointing that this topic would be used with the intention of being hurtful. We are near 2010….2010!! Yet race, sex and religion still play a major role in a hate driven society. For the love of the future and humanity….let’s wake up.

What an insightful, sensitive and evolved point of view. [Editorial note: that is so gay.] So yes, let’s move on, people. Surely there has to be more important things to think about than a Jewish rapper’s sexuality, like this.

20th World Conference of GLBT Jews - Los Angeles 2010

Israel ready for gay PM?

According to a Yediot Aharonot poll 25% of respondents were certain they were "ready" for a gay PM and another 19% thought they might be.

Maybe one day we will see it... only this time Iceland beat us to it.

PM Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir

Two years on and The Open House is still in trouble

This week, after months of not being paid, the workers of the Jerusalem Open House will find out if they will even be able to keep their jobs. The centre has been in financial trouble since the US economic meltodown put a strain on Jewish philanthropy.

Things took an even worse swing when the New Israel Fund, one of the Open House's largest donors started to feel a pinch in its own income due to a report that accussed it of funding the biased Goldstone report.

Israel chooses 'Milim' as the 2010 Eurovision song

The gay runner up from 'A Star is Born 2004' Harel Skaat is to represent Israel with the song Milim. The singer is of Yeminite descent, which bodes well as all previous Israeli winners were also Yemenite.

Good luck Harel.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pride 2010

Every June for the last 11 years, the gay community in Israel celebrates gay pride in the streets of Tel Aviv. The city of Tel Aviv is bedecked in the rainbow colors for a week with the pride flag weaving from the flagpole all over the city.

This year the 11th of June will be the highlight Tel Aviv's pride month, with the biggest parade ever.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More on Michael Lucas

Interview from the Advocate.

He’s taken many a gay man to heaven with the adult films he’s produced, including La Dolce Vita, Fire Island Cruising, and Men of Israel, but now Michael Lucas is entering the travel business -- and wants to take you to Israel. He’s scheduled a 12-day tour of the Promised Land, including stops in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, and Eilat. So we asked Steven Burns, whose covers the comings and goings of Lucas’s day job, to get the scoop on the producer’s travel-related career turn.

Michael, I’ve got to ask the obvious: Why the shift into the tourism business?
It’s not so much a shift as it is something extra I’d like to do. This idea really came to me from so many people e-mailing me that they’d love to go Israel but didn’t know how to go about it. And since my first business in Russia was running a successful tourist agency, I do know what makes a great tour. So while I am organizing the trip here, I am also working with Israel’s biggest tourist [company].

Will you be offering trips to some of the other places featured in your films? Say a tour of Fire Island?
You don’t need me to show you Fire Island. You’ll find your way very quickly on your own there. But while Israel is one of the best places for a gay holiday vacation, it’s not yet a typical tourist spot for gay men. It offers an amazing combination of history, gorgeous architecture, restaurants [with cuisine] from all over the world, beautiful beaches, a wild nightlife, natural resorts, shopping. There are so many things to do and see -- all in one trip. I’m doing this because I enjoy introducing people to the country that I truly love.

Do people assume this is a porn- or sex-based trip?
It absolutely isn’t that type of trip. Once again, you don’t need me to find sex in Israel if that’s what you’re interested in. There are many gay clubs, two gay beaches, and Israeli guys are generally very friendly and curious. But no, this trip is about Israel, not about having sex.

So is the trip open only to men?
Everyone is welcome. The tour is aimed at people who are interested in exploring all of Israel. Gender, age, or body type don’t matter. People seem to be confused about this. I want to travel with a diverse crowd, and this trip is absolutely for anyone who wants to see Israel from a unique insider’s perspective.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

BRICUP writes to Sir Elton

British Committee for Universities of Palestine send open letter to singer asking that he cancel summer concert in Israel, refer him to Goldstone Report.

Here is their open letter and a link to their website;

Elton John Comes to Israel

Sir Elton John announced on Tuesday that he will be arriving in Israel for a single performance on June 17. This marks the British singer's second concert in Israel, the first of which took place 27 years ago in Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv.