Just as it takes courage to be an out gay person in this world, so it takes strength of character to proclaim an Israeli identity. In the case of both gays and Israelis, not everyone is self-confident enough to stand up to ignorance, stereotypes, and hatred.
But, astonishingly, this coming June in Berlin, we will see an example of self-loathing literally on parade. A delegation from Tel Aviv is planning to march in that city's pride events, yet this gay Israeli group doesn't have the balls to carry an Israeli flag. To avoid the jeers of Israel-bashers and anti-Semites, they've decided to leave behind flags and other symbols that would call attention to their national identity.
It's both ironic and pathetic.
Ironic because, when it comes to what pride is all about, there's no better symbol than Israel. It's the Middle East's one safe nation for LGBT people — a place where Christian, Muslim, and Jewish gay people are able to live with rights and dignity. On the other side of its borders and throughout the rest of the region, homosexuality is illegal and punished with humiliation, imprisonment, and death.
Isn't it also a bit ironic these Israeli marchers would deny their flag in Berlin, of all places? They're going there, after all, as representatives of a country created as a result of Nazi Germany's murder of 6 million Jews in World War II. These people don't have enough pride in themselves, nor enough respect for the dead, to announce themselves as gay Israelis.
I'm truly baffled by this situation. I've traveled to Israel many times and have always marveled at the don't-fuck-with-me attitude of gay men and women there. This is a country with a thriving gay community of brave, patriotic people — the vast majority of whom have defended their nation in the Israeli Defense Force.
Many in Israel will assume that the LGBT movement there is led by self-loathing losers. It will play into stereotypes of sissy gays who are too scared to stand up for themselves. Most gay Israelis would sooner die than betray their identity and deny their flag. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism isn't dead in Europe, and that includes from within the gay community.
Last year a delegation of gay residents of Tel Aviv was barred from joining a gay pride march in Madrid because authorities in the Israeli city had not condemned the recent attack on the Gaza flotilla. So now this Israeli pride delegation is making a pathetic plea: "Please, please let us into your pride. We hate our country as much as you do! We will not even bring our flags, we will just blend in, so you will not even know who we are! We are gays, we are not Israelis."
If this group marches in Berlin — and it's not too late to stop them — it will be a complete misrepresentation of both the strength and spirit of a people who have fought to defend both their country and their place in society.
Israel must send to Berlin individuals who've got the courage to hold their heads — and their flags — up high.