Metro Weekly

Prouder than Bombs

Commentary: Stonewall Baby

Here it is, some 60 years since the Israeli Declaration of Independence, and the bombs are still falling. Hamas is firing rockets into Israel and IDF troops are in Gaza. This Arab-Israeli conflict seems fresh, but it’s such an old tune — the kind that drives you insane once you’ve reached your limit.

Certainly it’s not contained, either. However limited in square acreage the violence may be, it’s impossible to ignore. I’ve been roped into a conversation examining Israeli atrocities at a gay happy hour. I’ve watched GLBT activists jump on a peer pulling the same line, wondering why the hell they should ever show support for gay-hating Hamas in its fight with democratic Israel. It just won’t go away.

As much as I’d like it to disappear, I bear some of the blame. I’m an American, home to the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, and its own history of anti-Semitism. I wasn’t part of the lynch mob who hanged Leo Frank in Marietta, Ga. I wasn’t among Americans who kept the SS St. Louis and its hundreds of Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler’s Germany from landing. But my country, for all it has done for Israel, bares some of the responsibility for its founding.

Not nearly as much as Germany, granted. Then there were the pogroms through Eastern Europe and the Dreyfus Affair in France. Let’s not forget the Spanish Inquisition and massacres through the Arab world. Zionism is a necessity created by non-Jews, as much as it is a desire for Jews to have a homeland. All it takes is a viewing of The Passion of the Christ to realize that Jews need a homeland for protection, if for no other reason.

And the Palestinians should have their Palestine, too. With the amount of friction that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has spewed upon the world, one would think there would be more interest in ending it. Expecting the Israelis and Palestinians themselves to negotiate their way out of a generational feud that could last indefinitely is asking too much. The Israelis and Hamas negotiate indirectly, but they shouldn’t be negotiating at all. The whole mess should be turned over to proxies — the U.S. and some neutral country, say Argentina, could stand in for the Israelis; while the Saudis and, hmm, South Africa-, stand in for the Palestinians. Or Hamas. Or Fatah. Or whatever! The deal is that the parties involved turn over authority to proxies who do the negotiating. Not to bring back a deal for approval, but to simply accept. Don’t accept- You’re on your own. That may seem like snatching away autonomy, but this conflict has global ramifications and nations that have influence here are obligated to use it.

The upside for the warring parties- Well, if a Hamas rocket lands in Israel, it’s no longer between Israel and Hamas; it’s between U.S.-Argentina and Saudi Arabia-South Africa. Similarly, it would be up to the Americans and Argentines to deal with illegal settlements, which may be a preferable option to having Israeli troops having to remove their countrymen.

That’s probably all just wishful thinking on my part. I’ve never known any body to cede power when it didn’t have to. And diplomacy is generally so delicate as to frustrate people to the point of feeling they’ve no alternative but war.

Wishful thinking or not, I still have to care. Looking to my own tribal identity, some of those Israeli troops in Gaza are probably gay, as Israel has conscription and being openly gay won’t get you kicked out. And because my tribe knows no borders, I can guess that some of the dead civilians in Gaza were GLBT. I won’t apply any of the percentile rules here, as I’m certain that if I were a gay Gazan I’d have done whatever I could’ve to get out long before this latest twist. Although you could probably apply that 2 percent/10 percent rule of gay demographics to the children who’ve been killed.

What’s not wishful thinking is Jerusalem Open House. Here is the GLBT entity that has stood up to Christian, Jewish and Muslim homophobes to express GLBT pride in the streets, leaving some members with knife wounds. A fellow entity, now independent of JOH, but housed in the same building, is Al-Qaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in the Palestinian Society.

Once again, the gay folks are left to make love and not war. As JOH’s Yonatan Gher-Leibowitz told me via Facebook last Sunday: ”It’s important to us that in one room a group of people can sit and prepare aid and action for the residents of Gaza, while in another room another group of people prepare aid and support for the Jewish cities surrounding Gaza. Our dream, of course, is that one day both groups will be able to sit in the same room.”

That sounds like a group I can get behind. Conveniently, the New Israel Fund, which accepts donations for both, is conveniently located at 14th and L. And both groups need funds now more than ever. Britain’s PinkNews Web site reported in October that the global financial crisis is seriously threatening JOH. Gher-Leibowitz confirms that Al-Qaws needs help, too.

One catch is that NIF requires contributions to be a minimum of $100 if they’re to go through the bureaucracy and cost of getting the funds transferred to specific groups overseas. If anyone else of moderate income and recession anxiety is up for a fundraiser or pooling funds, let me know.

To contribute to either JOH or Al-Qaws, send checks of at least $100 to the New Israel Fund at 1101 14th St. NW, Sixth Floor, Washington, D.C., 20005. Visit Jerusalem Open House online at Al-Qaws has an Arabic site at Both JOH and Al-Qaws are on Facebook.

Will O’Bryan, Metro Weekly’s managing editor, was born as the Stonewall Riots ended, making him a Stonewall Baby, he insists.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.