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Queers for

Queers for


Of all the slogans chanted and displayed at anti-Israel rallies over the past month, surely "Queers for Palestine" ranks as the most oxymoronic.

Of all the slogans chanted and displayed at anti-Israel rallies over the past month, surely "Queers for Palestine" ranks as the most oxymoronic. It is the motto of the San Francisco-based Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT), a group advocating financial divestment from the Jewish State. QUIT contends that Zionism is racism, regularly demonstrates at gay pride marches, organizes with far-right Muslim organizations, and successfully lobbied the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to boycott the 2006 World Pride Conference due to its location that year in Jerusalem.

What makes QUIT oxymoronic is that their affinity for Palestine isn't reciprocated. There may be queers for Palestine, but Palestine certainly isn't for queers, either in the livable or empathetic sense. Like all Islamic polities, the Palestinian Authority systematically harasses gay people. Under the cloak of rooting out Israeli "collaborators," P.A. officials extort, imprison, and torture gays. But Palestinian oppression of homosexuality isn't merely a matter of state policy, it's one firmly rooted in Palestinian society, where hatred of gays surpasses even that of Jews. Last October, a gay Palestinian man with an Israeli lover petitioned Israel's high court of justice for asylum, claiming that his family threatened to kill him if he did not "reform." He's one of the few lucky Palestinians to be able to challenge his plight.

And that's only in the relatively benign West Bank. The Gaza Strip, which has stagnated under the heel of Hamas's Islamofascist rule since 2007, is an even more dangerous place for gays, "a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick," in the words of a senior Hamas leader. As in Iran, Hamas's patron and the chief sponsor of international terrorism, even the mere suspicion of homosexuality will get one killed in Gaza, being hurled from the roof of a tall building the method of choice.

It's these facts that make the notion of "Queers for Palestine" so bizarre. Contrary to what some gay activists might have you believe, there really are not that many political subjects where one's sexuality ought influence an opinion. Aside from the obvious issues related to civic equality (recognition of partnerships, open service in the military, etc.), how does homosexuality imply a particular viewpoint on complicated matters like Social Security Reform, health care policy, or the war in Iraq?

The answer, at least for some of those on the left side of the spectrum, is one found in the early rhetoric of the Gay Liberation Front, the leading gay rights organization to emerge after the Stonewall riots. The GLF was, in the words of historian Paul Berman, the "gay wing of the revolutionary alliance" that in the 1970s challenged the liberal consensus and came to be known as the "New Left."

GLF leaders, for instance, played an instrumental role in the creation of the Venceremos Brigade, which dispatched starry-eyed American radicals to pick sugar cane in Cuba as a show of solidarity with the regime of Fidel Castro. (Like the Palestinian Authority, Communist Cuba didn't exactly return the kindness of its gay sympathizers; for decades it interned gays and HIV-positive individuals in prison labor camps). The GLF allied itself with a whole host of radical organizations (like the murderous Black Panthers) whose role in the struggle for gay equality was tenuous at best. And the very name of the GLF was adopted from the National Liberation Front, the moniker of the Vietnamese Communists.

Why does this history matter now? Although you will find few out-and-out Marxists in the leadership of gay organizations today, most gay activists still view the world with the same sort of "oppression" complex epitomized by the early radicals who led the GLF. They believe gay people to be "oppressed," and hold that any other group claiming the same victim status should earn the support of gays.

It's for this reason that every major gay organization was so hesitant to talk about the overwhelming support among African-Americans to ban gay marriage in California, and why the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force went so far as to commission a bogus study ostensibly refuting that disturbing statistic itself. In the estimation of the gay rights establishment, African-Americans, like gays, are "oppressed," and there is no room for enemies on the left.

But gays will never get anywhere as long as they view the world in this constrictive and counterproductive way. Indeed, if one wanted to construe a "gay" position on the Arab-Israeli conflict -- that is, examine the issue purely through the prism of the welfare of gay people -- the inescapable stance is nothing less than partiality for Israel. Israel, after all, is the only state in the Middle East that legally enshrines the rights of gay people. Gays serve openly in the military and occupy high-profile positions in business and public life, and Tel Aviv is an international gay mecca. As cliched as it may sound, Israel is an oasis of liberal tolerance in a reactionary religious backwater, and if gay people want to stand with the "oppressed" of the region, it is the Palestinians seeking a peaceful, two-state solution, not the murderers of Hamas or their backers in Tehran, who merit support.

None of this is to say that gay people are wrong for sympathizing with the downtrodden and genuinely oppressed; on the contrary, it's an admirable quality. But all too often, ideologues with ulterior motives and radical agendas pervert this worthy instinct.

It's one thing to express concern about the humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territories. But to stand alongside the enthusiasts of religious fascism isn't "progressive." It's obscene.

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James Kirchick