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August 12, 2011

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 12, 2011 How Israel is blowing the Arab Spring By Rabbi Shmuley Boteach I am currently in Israel leading a Birthright tripwhere the consumption of alcohol by the participants is largely discouraged. It's a policy that Israel should perhaps enforce among its member~ of Parlia- ment, because whatever Labor MK BinyaminBen:Eliezer has Aha. Are we talking about the same guy who ruled Egypt with an iron fist and used secret police and the military to quash all demo- cratic movements and stay in power for four decades? When Ben-Eliezer calls Mubarak a great patriot, is he perhaps conflating the misunderstand is that the Egyptian leader loved.power rather than his people• George Washington who in 1783 resigned his commission as the most powerful man in the newly formed United States--thus liberating his people from the possibility of yet another tyranny--was motivated by principle rath_er Israel has kept a low profile throughout the Arab protests• It's no secret why. Israel is banking on the belief that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. And this fear that something worse is going to come after Mubarak or Assad, like the Muslim Brotherhood, is causing Israel to violate all its most deeply efits of freedom if there was to be peace. Yet now, as Prime Minister, Netanyahu, Israel's most persuasive spokesman, has seemingly chosen not to openly champion Arab free- dom, partly out of fear ofwhat comes next and partly out of trepidation that his voice will give credence to those Arab tyrants and enemies of Israel . ._._._=,. ,.++: : _,+_ .. ...... L. ,,,+,~ It ++ PAGE 5A i been drinking lately, it's got to be some powerful stuff. As the Arab world applauds the spectacle of Egyptian tyrant Hosni Mubarak being tried for crimes against his people, including mowing down peaceful demonstrators, Ben- Eliezer seem,~_to be shedding tears for his~ddy Hosni. In a bizarre interview with term with despot? We welcome Mr. Ben- Eliezer to pray explain how he, as an elected representative of a flourishing democracy committed to the highest ideals of human rights, can praise a man who brutalized his people and robbed them of their freedom--not to mention their money--for the Jerusalem Post, Ben- four decades. Eliezer said, "It really,pained A short history lesson for m~t0see+himtheway~hi~as .++Mri Ben Eliezer~s edification today. He was the leader of the Arab world. The Middle East after Mubarak is a different • Middle East, a worse region. His people who he fought for showed him their back. He loves his people• I think he is a great Egyptian patriot. I hope he comes out of the trial alive. He is facing the pressure of the masses seek- ing revenge. Butsuch a great leader deserves to be treated respectfully and not as the lowest criminal in a cage." is in order. It was George Washington who was the patriot and GeOrge III who was the tyrant.. Itwas Martin Luther King, Jr. who was the patriot and Bull Connoll~vh0 was the persecu= tor. It was Nelson Mandela who was the patriot and P. W. Botha, "thee big crocodile," who was the oppressor. What Mr. Ben-Eliezer and other misguided Israeli lead- ers who are currently lament- ing the fall of Mr. Mubarak than ego. Mandela, who cherished beliefs. refused to run for reelection For decades Israel's argu- as South Africa's president ment has been that it is [he and risk becoming another soledemocracyinaseaofAr~ib Robert Mugabe, loved his tyranny. That the principle people more than power. But ' cause of Middle East war was Mubarak had contempt for that tyrants were scapegoat- Egyptians and took them to ing Israel in order to distract the cleaners to make himself from their ongoing suppres- and his children rich. sion of their citizens' rights ThataformerdeputyPrime and that good times would Minister of Israel can praise come to Israel and the Arabs if an autocrat like Mubarak these countries would finally is embarrassing and points democratize. to the incredible error, that I heard Benjamin Netan- Israel is currently making yahu make this argument in these unprecedented Arab passionately and eloquently uprisings, when he delivered a lecture Israel's voice has largely that]organizedatOxfordUni- faffed to blossom during the versity in 1992while he served .Arabspring.As Mubarakshot as Deputy Foreign Minister. protesters, Kaddafi bombed Bibiarguedthatinthe history cities, and Assad flattened of the world no two democ- his people with tanks, Israel's racies had ever gone to war protestshaveforthemostpart against each other and chal- been missing. L~ke President lenged his student audience Obama of the United States, to name a single instance. whohasacuriousrelationship The Arabs had to taste the with other people's freedom, economic and political ben- the Elders of Zion which was broadcast throughout the Arab world. For those who argue that at least Mubarak kept the peace, what choice did he have, dependent as he was on $2.5 billion in an- nual American aid and risking losing the Sinai peninsula, with its considerable oil and natural gas fields, had he gone who argue that the Jewish back to war. state is the secret instigator " . But regardless, the un- behind the unrest, seemly spectacle of the Middle But there is an equal fear that Israel, in its silence, or worse, in the case of the open encouragement given to Arab autocrats by people like Ben-Eliezer, will be seen as sympathizing with dictators who brutalized their people for decades. Indeed, few of any of these people were ~iends of I~rael, especially Mubarak. It was Sadat who made peace with Israel, which Mubarak inher- ited, transforming it into aft ice-c01d peace. For many years the Egyptian Ambassador to Israel remained permanently recalled in Cairo while state- sponsored media organs un- der Mubarak became some of the foremost purveyors of an- ti-Semitic propaganda in the world, including an infamous TV miniseries promoting the validity of The Protocols of EaSt's sole democracy failing to support a revolutionary freedom movement sprouting in Arab countries is a stark omission that the Arabs are not likely to forget. The ancient Jewish toast of "L'Chaim," to life, connotes a universal Jewish commitment to every human life. And rather than dectod officials like Ben- Eliezer getting drunk on their own pro-dictatorial rhetoric, Israel's voice should be loud and clear that it denounces tyranny ia every form. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of This World: The Values Network, will be pub- lishing his newest books, "Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Yourself" and "Kosher Jesus" in October and December respectively. Follow him on Twitter@Rab- biShmuley. If gay rights advocates take down Israel, what else goeswith it? By Lillian Faderman Americans have every reason to envy Israel's en- lightened policies toward their lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender citizens. So it puzzles me deel~ty when I hear of LGBT groups lending their sympathy to opponents of Israel. The rights we have been fighting for and still have not fully achieved in the United States, LGBT Israelis already enjoy. I came out in the middle of the last century and witnessed firsthand the persecution and oppression of LGBTpeople.ltwasbecause of those early experiences that I devoted the last40 years of my life to writing books and ar- ticles about our community's history and progress. In America, as late as 2003 there were still 14 states that punished gay men under sodomy laws. Israel abolished all sodomy laws ir~ 1988. In America, we've been fight- ing for decades for a law that would end employment discrimination against LGBT people. A few states have passed such laws, but the federal government has not. Israel passed a law in 1992 that protects arly citizen (Jewish, Christian, or Arab) from employment discrimi- nation for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. In America at mid-cen- tury, lesbians and gays in the military had to be absolutely closeted; they were witch- hunted and given dishonor- able discharges if found out. The "Don't Ask l)on't Tell" policy that was passed dur- ing the Clinton administra- tion was actually considered "progressive" abigimprove- ment over the old policy--be- cause lesbians and gays were to be booted out of the military only if they drew attention to their homosexuality. Finally now, 11 years into the 21st century, America is getting around to permitting lesbians and gays to serve openly in the military• Our Israeli brothers .and sisters have been able to serve openly since 1993, and since 1997 a same-sex partner is recog- nized by the Israeli Defense Department as a member of the soldier's family. When I was doing researcti for my 2006 book, "Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians," I interviewed an 83-year-old lesbian who had just lost her partner of almost 50 years. Their house had been in her partner's name and because the partner died without awill, the law granted the house to the deceased woman's distant cousin, with whom she'd had no conl~act for decades. My 83-year-old interviewee was left without a place to live. If she'd been an Israeli citizen--whether Jewish, Christian, or Arab-- she would be living in her home until her death because , lesbian and gay couples have full inheritance rights under Israeli law. My partner and I have been together for 40 years. Like 18,000 other same-sex couples in California, we got married in 2008. Though all 36,000 of us are still married as far as the State of Califor- nia is Concerned, Proposition 8 banned same-sex marriage for all others. Because federal laws don't recognize our mar- riage, our legal bond doesn't do us much good anyway. If we should decide to move next door to Arizona or Las Vegas or Oregon--or almost anywhere else in America-- we wouldn't be considered legally married. We both pay federal in- come tax, of course, but under the law we get none of the federal benefits that opposite-sex couples receive. In fact, the only result of our marriage with regard to taxes is that we have to pay our accountant triple: once for doing our state income tax as a married couple, a second and third time for doing our federal income tax as two single payers• And if one of us should die, that's the end of her Social Security benefits for which she'd paid in for more than half a century; the surviving spouse gets absolutely noth- ingofthose benefits. If we'd . lived in Israel, we'd be much better off. In 1994, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of granting spousal benefits to same-sex couples. In 2004, the court ruled that LGBT couples could qualify for common-law marriage sta- tus. In 2005, legislation was passed in Israel recognizing all same-sex marriages that are performed abroad• So.there can be no expla- nation for LGBT groups par- ticipating in wrong-headed actions such as the BDS movement that seeks boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Outside of Israel, every- where-in the Middle East, LGBT people are utterly despised under the law. In- deed, official treatment of LGBT people in other Middle East countries makes the bar raids and job losses and police entrapments that we experienced in the 1950s and '60s seern like coddling. If a familywishes to rid itself of the Letters To The Editor HERITAGE welcomes and encourages let- ters to the editor, but they must be typed. or printed and include name and phone number. We will withhold your name if you so request. Please limit letters to 250 words. Due to space limitations, we reserve the right to edit letters. Send letters to P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. Or e-mail to news@orlandoheritage.eom Join groups based on common interests Dear editor:. I was the first female to I read with a combination work at various radio sta- of amusement and disgust tions, for about 20 years or the article about Men's Clubs more, and have experienced in the July 22 issue of the various levels of discrimina- Heritage. Our Reform syna- tion, both in radio and in gogue, up north, does not my full-time job, based on have either a brotherhood or sex, religion, or whatever sisterhood;manyyearsagowe those in charge chose to use; hadasisterhoodbutitdiedfor the concept of men's clubs lack of use. unfortunately encourages I could not imagine join- that kind of discrimination ing a group based on what by making those involved kind of genitals ! have, and feel it is OK to use genitals my husband feels the same to separate women, or men, way. Nor have I ever wanted from achieving a particular to attend aWoman's Seder.We position. join groupsbased on common Bobbie Chase interests and activities. Worcester, MA embarrassment of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender member by "honor killing" there would be no legal conse- quences in the area governed by the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, or in Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia or Syria. Needless to say, and as even the Amnesty International LGBT website shows, there's no Middle Eastern country other than Israel in which les- bia/a or gay couples can receive spousal benefits, none other than Israel in which lesbians and gays dan serve Openly in the military, none other than Israel that protects lesbians and gays from discrimina- tion or hate crimes• In Iran and Saudi Arabia we're put to death. In Syria we're thrown in prison for three years. In Egypt, we're prosecuted un- der lewd conduct_laws, and we're illegal in Lebanon and Libya, too. After long years of strug- gle, American LGBT people have finally won a modicum of freedom and justice. Only insane logic or misinforma- tion could justify withhold- ing our sympathies from a country that grants our LGBT brothers and sisters not only the benefits that we enjoy but even more. Why would we work against such a country? Lillian Faderman has pub- lished eight books on LGBT history and literature, She is the recipient of several LGBT lifetime achievement awards,, including Yale Uni- versity's James Brudner Award, the Monette/Horwitz Award, Publishing Triangle's Bill Whitehead Award, and the ONE National Archives Culture Hero Award. This column originally appeared in The Advocate (, and is reprin_ ted with permission. Dry Bones