Two related headlines are blasting through cyberspace, first news of the tragic shooting in Orlando, and second, renewed calls to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) Israel.
The Sunshine State violence stemmed from a toxic interpretation of Islamic thought — homophobic hatred of the LGBT community reportedly motivated the shooter. The overwhelming majority of Muslims are peace-loving and want only the best for mankind. But a small, zealous minority, of a similar strain that controls the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, especially Gaza, wants only to persecute and extinguish nonbelievers.
As gay Jewish writer James Kirchick reminds us in The Tablet:
The mass murder in Orlando wasn’t a random display of ‘hate.’ It is an expression of a repugnant political philosophy that targets women, Jews, and gays.
It is profoundly sad that some leaders of the BDS movement on college campuses have been women’s groups. Women in extremist communities, from ISIS to Hamas, are suppressed and controlled through rabidly misogynist leadership.
Some American LGBT leaders have also sadly taken a stance against pro-Israel LGBT groups, with many supporting BDS. But as Pew data shows us, Israel is by far the most tolerant country in the Middle East for LGBT rights. Visit the beaches of Tel Aviv and you might confuse them with secular, tolerant European shores. Contrast that with both the West Bank and Gaza, where LGBT rights are non-existent (Gaza is particularly horrific), where gay Palestinians flee to Israel, where AIDS patients don’t get the care they deserve.
Activist Rennick Remley highlighted this incongruence in an ad in the New York Times and also on Facebook, writing:
My name is Rennick Remley. I’m a gay American. And I support Israel.
If I lived in Gaza or Israel’s neighboring states, I would be thrown in jail, mutilated or killed.
Though I am not Jewish, Israel is the only country in the Middle East where I can live without fear. I am free to adopt children, serve openly in the military, advocate for my community’s rights and be accepted as a human being.
I visited Israel and marched with thousands of people from around the globe in Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade, and all were treated with dignity. The freedom I experienced made me feel at home.
That’s why I’m appalled that so many in the Western world – including the media, Hollywood, and self-proclaimed human rights activists – fail to hold terrorist organizations like Hamas and autocratic governments like Iran accountable for their persecution of LGBT communities.
If we are to have any progress in moderating Islam, in empowering rational, loving Muslims who are willing to risk their safety to work with others, then LGBT activists would be smart to stop pushing for BDS. After all, BDS hurts the Palestinians much more than it hurts the Israelis, as I illustrated in Forbes.
By shunning Israel and pushing for BDS, LGBT activists are effectively marginalizing these brave Muslims who are willing to engage in peaceful trade with Jews. The courage these Palestinians show is undermined by outside Westerners who fail to recognize the incredibly irrational, violent and homophobic leadership practiced by many Territory leaders.
The tragic shooting in Orlando is a reminder of the extreme hostility that a minority of Muslims hold against LGBT people. By working with Israel, human rights activists can empower LGBT rights to become a priority throughout the Middle East and within the broader Muslim culture.