The debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provokes much passion and disagreement. Most individuals seem to agree, however, that ultimately, a two-state solution founded on common ground and peace is the right decision, and that we, the United States, should be doing everything in our power to encourage that result. I wholeheartedly agree and believe that both Israel and Palestine should take accountability for their actions and make the responsible choice to resolve this situation as soon as possible.
Having said that, there's a whole other side to this debate. Regardless of what happened in 1948 and whether or not the Palestinians have any validity in their argument about state sovereignty, etc., the fact is that Israel is absolutely critical for our nation and for the security and stability of the Middle East. We cannot afford for Israel to be anything but strong and secure, and this is particularly true for the LGBT community here in America and around the world.
I always am surprised and frustrated when this part of the equation doesn't get the attention it deserves. A lot of people who complain about Israel's actions toward Palestine are self-proclaimed "liberals" who are supposedly standing up in the name of human rights and freedom. They seem to have forgotten that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has stood up for human rights, particularly those of women and gays, time and time again.
Israel has a more progressive record on gay rights than even the United States. Israel made consensual gay sex legal in 1988, although the antisodomy laws had not been enforced since 1963. It prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in 1992. It was the first country, in 1994, on the continent of Asia to recognize same-sex unions. It made it legal for gays to serve in the military back in 2000. And a majority of Israelis, according to recent polls, support gay marriage. The capital city, Tel Aviv, is considered a gay mecca, where they are now building a monument to memorialize the LGBT people who were persecuted under the Nazi regime during World War II.
Yes, there are a few other Middle Eastern countries where homosexuality is no longer a crime (Jordan, for instance), and they should be recognized. But none of them have stood up as strongly for us as Israel.
For Israel to be so principled in its convictions and in its willingness to fight for us, while surrounded by countries such as Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death, is a testament to Israel's commitment and character.
Unless we want the Middle East to turn into an absolute free-for-all controlled by extremists who want to kill us and turn women into their slaves, then we need to do everything we can to protect Israel and stand in solidarity in any way we can. Not only is it in our interests, but Israel deserves it after all it has done for us.
JAMES DUKE MASON is a contributing writer to The Advocate and a political activist in West Hollywood. Follow him on Twitter @JamesDukeMason.