(photo credit: TWITTER)
Last Monday, Amir Ohana was sworn in the Knesset as the first openly gay MK to be elected via an open primary.
Ohana is a man dedicated to the State of Israel, having spent six years in the IDF and another six years in the Shin Bet security service. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was present at the swearing-in ceremony to welcome Ohana as a representative of the Likud party in this history- making moment and stated, “Ohana has a rich past in security and is the head of the Likud (Gay) Pride Group. I accept him with appreciation and pride.”
Absent from the swearing-in ceremony were the MKs from the ultra-Orthodox parties. After the event, Ohana said in an interview, “During my swearing-in speech I didn’t even notice that the MKs were absent. After, when I heard they were not present, I thought that with regard to the issue of LGBT rights, it would be wonderful if their absence would continue.”
These representatives from the ultra-Orthodox parties said their absence was due to their decision to skip a coalition vote against a motion of no-confidence.
But was the fact that this man who has dedicated and risked his life to defend the Jewish state not enough of a reason to be present? Many in the religious world justify their obsession with homosexuality by pointing out that the Bible uses the word “abomination” when describing it. But in reality, the Hebrew bible uses the word “abomination” more than 100 times, including for offering a blemished sacrifice and for eating non-kosher food such as shellfish.
Furthermore, many forget that God gave us Ten Commandments, but he divided them into two tablets. One group is for religious law and governs those aspects of our relationship with Him. This includes laws such as blaspheming the name of God and worshiping idols.
The second group are those commandments that involve our relationships with our fellow man. This includes prohibitions on theft, kidnapping, adultery and murder. These are laws that safeguard the rights of human beings and adjure individuals to respect one another and refrain from infringing on each other’s rights or acting deceptively, as in infidelity.
Homosexuality is firmly a religious rather than a moral prohibition. It is akin to the laws of not desecrating the Sabbath or eating non-kosher food. Someone who lights fire on the Sabbath is not immoral. He is contravening a biblical commandment.
In this specific case, I would have to take this a step further and ask, would those who would very likely choose to boycott a ceremony honoring an openly gay man serving in the Knesset prefer Israel’s neighbors who hang and murder gay men? Would they prefer Ehud Olmert whose bribery and corruption scandal caused him to be the first former prime minister to go to jail in Israel’s history? Would those who fight for Israel’s security prefer Olmert who was one of the architects of the Gaza withdrawal to a gay MK who supports Israel’s communities in Judea and Samaria? The truth is Ohana’s sexual orientation is immaterial in the face of his outstanding service to Israel and the security of the Jewish people. He is courageous and heroic and should be lauded as such. If he is an honest and qualified candidate, dedicated to his country and even willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the Jewish people, what other qualities do you need? When the world turns a blind eye to Islamic terrorism or even helps strengthen, it we need a man like Ohana. As he’s said in his own words, “When people shout Itbach al-Yahud [Arabic for kill the Jews], I am a Jew. When they shoot, boycott, label and expel, I am a settler... When soldiers are defamed, I am a soldier... When a girl is stabbed at the Pride Parade, I am a proud gay man.” These are the words of a leader ready to defend the Jewish state and its democratic values.
I am truly upset at how little media attention this event received. Jewish networks, with the help of pro-Israel supporters from around the world, should have employed Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everything else to share this story and show the entire world that Israel is the one Middle East country that elects homosexuals to democratic office rather than executing them.
My organization, The World Values Network, has in the past taken out a full-page ads in The New York Times and elsewhere pointing this very fact out. What I found so despicable was the reactions this ad received from those who hate Israel. They accused us of “pinkwashing” Israel’s oh so horrible crime of defending itself from genocidal terrorist organizations. It’s amazing that rather than acknowledge the fact that there gays are being slaughtered throughout the Middle East, they instead try to use Israel’s laws protecting gays and lesbian as a tool and slogan to criticize the Jewish state.
However, I want to once and for all proclaim loudly that yes, Israel does engage in pinkwashing. But not the pinkwashing that our vicious enemies are claiming. Rather it is pinkwashing the stains of blood from homosexual men and women who are being put to death daily by radical Islamists and by brutal and bloody governments like Iran’s.
On occasion, the media may make the slightest mention of the many gay Palestinian men who praise Israel for providing them haven from persecution, or the recent story of the gay Iranian poet who made it to the safety of Israel and fell in love with the country. Unfortunately, the sad fact is these gay and lesbian men and women who are able to escape from the clutches of these radical Islamic dictatorships and reach the borders of Israel are the lucky ones. These stories of freedom are few and far between compared to the huge numbers who will never be able to be free. They must live secret lives under the blade of religious maniacs who threaten them with imprisonment, execution, and in the case of Iran, forced sex changes.
Perhaps we should embrace the term pinkwashing and wear it as a badge of honor. Israel’s homosexuals are free to live in freedom and pursue happiness.
Furthermore, I think the time has come that we demand Western media and governments finally acknowledge the homosexual crisis throughout the Middle East. Millions of homosexuals are living in Islamic lands and face persecution and death at every turn with nowhere to run to and nowhere to hide. Basic human morality demands we step up and do something to stop these governments from persecuting people for their sexual orientation. These gay men and women should be offered refuge in the wider world. Western governments that unfairly criticize Israel should put their money where their mouth is and follow Israel’s example by granting sanctuary to gay men and women who face death.
This is one of the great testament to Israel’s majesty and moral excellence. Many, many Arabs and Muslims would do anything to live in the Jewish state over any other country in the Middle East.
Shmuley Boteach is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including Kosher Sex and Kosher Lust. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.