Friday, August 16

Why I don't support Yasser - In recent years, there has been a groundswell of liberal fealty in the U.S. towards the Palestinian Authority. Ever since Arafat and his ilk came into respectability with the Oslo Accords, it's been fashionable (even in establishment circles) to see the Intifada as just the Middle East's version of the "No justice, no peace" mantra. Palestinian statehood was a matter of the basic human right to self-determination. How could anyone disagree with that?

Classical liberalism (now better associated with conservative libertarianism), however, always asserted that self-determination was an individual right, not a group right. Israel is not a perfect place, but it surely offers a better model for how a Muslim in Palestine could achieve personal freedoms than does Arafat's corrupt and cronyist administration. A prime example of this principle lies in the case of gay Palestinians.

Under current regimes throughout the Arab world, gays are persecuted either by Islamic fundamentalists or by governments who find them to be a convenient scapegoat and distraction. (Recall the recent events in Egypt.) Nothing like the Israeli gay rights groups could flourish under those regimes. You certainly wouldn't find them out on the streets lending aid to runaway Israeli teens the way Agudah helps Palestinians. Gay life in Israel can be favorably compared to the United States:

[S]odomy laws were repealed years ago, discrimination was banned in the workplace, and immigrant same-sex partners of Israelis are eligible for visas even if they’re not Jewish ... More significantly, the Israel Defense Force policy on gays in the military resembles what Clinton once envisioned for the United States — before he broke his campaign promise. And perhaps more surprisingly, the Orthodox in Israel are less concerned about homosexuality than one may think.

Contrast that with the Arab world, where homosexuality is either punishable by death (as among our allies in Saudi Arabia) or subject to severe sanction under a crooked penal system (most everywhere else). There is little reason to hope a similar system wouldn't take root under a Palestinian state, at least not until there is a wholesale change in leadership and an embracing of moderate politics. I wish I could say I was optimistic about that development, but I'm not. In the meantime, Israel is a sole foothold of democracy and individual freedoms in a land that knows virtually nothing of those things. It deserves my support.