Home Social Justice Inclination towards acceptance: queer liberation and the Middle East

Inclination towards acceptance: queer liberation and the Middle East

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In an event sponsored by Hillel, the LGBT Center, and the Jewish National Fund, a great deal of dialogue was introduced. 

Even-Zohar, a professor, author, gay activist, as well as former member of the Israeli Armed Forces spoke to the congregation in the Multicultural Center about numerous ways in which Israel leads the pack in terms of queer acceptance and progressive policy. Specifically Tel Aviv is quite accommodating to the queer community, at least in relation to other major Mid Eastern cities.

In talking about trans activist Nora Grinberg, Even-Zohar said: “In Israel you see amazing community leaders like (Grinberg) that would head queer organizations in Israel. And what they are trying to do, they work very successfully with the ministry of education in Israel to support teens in middle schools and high schools to provide support….”

Even-Zohar dismissed the notion that the United States was the most progressive nation in terms of policy and acceptance for queer individuals early on in his speech.

Take for example: In 1988, Israel struck down laws against sodomy on the books.  This just reinforced Israeli Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s that stated sodomy laws in effect from the British Mandate of Palestine would not be enforced (you can thank Queen Victoria for those laws). Israel began allowed gay soldiers to serve openly in the military starting in 1993.

The United States on the other hand, did not legislate the lifting of the sodomy laws at a federal level. The Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional in 2003 as a result of the “Lawrence vs. Texas” case, effectively ending the laws on the books against sodomy that remained in 14 states.

Queer individuals were not allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military until 2011.

In the United States, workplace discrimination exists in the sense that one can be fired in 29 states for being gay.

Israel made it illegal to discriminate against queer individuals in the workplace in 1988.

Even-Zohar said: “There is a lot of work we need to do with Congress to get it approved.” He speaks in this instance of ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which has passed the Senate but has yet to go to a vote in the House.

Delfin Bautista, director of the Ohio University LGBT Center placed emphasis on the perception of queer individuals from an inside and outside perspective.

Bautista said: “How we talk about LGBT identities here in the US is not always how our identities are talked about in other parts of the world.  My hope is that folks who attended are able to learn from the movement in Israel. “

The disturbing practice of “Honor Killing” was another topic that was broached during the course of the presentation. This entails mostly Saudi women and gay individuals killed by family members for having sex outside of marriage, for committing “lewd” acts (this pertaining to gays specifically) or for being raped.

Even-Kohar tied in literacy rates with some of the countries in the Mid East in terms of their acceptance of the queer community. Showing Saudi Arabia and Israel as starkly contrasting in terms of educating women, literacy most notably.

His personal mission in speaking on college campuses, is to “empower and inspire” activists for the sake of women, the queer community, and others Even-Kohar believes there is much to learn from Queer Liberation Movement in the Mid East.

Bautista looked positively on the event.

Bautista said: “There is an interest on campus for more conversations on the intersection of faith and sexuality; hopefully today’s lunch will be one of many collaborative events not only between Hillel and the LGBT Center but also find ways to bring other groups into the mix.”












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