Spanish missteps

Gay Spaniards might want to ponder the ramifications of their identification with the likes of Hamas.

Israel-bashers make strange bedfellows. This week, aligning themselves with Islamist anti-Zionists, Madrid’s Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals (LGTB) banned the Tel Aviv municipality’s “TLV Love Embassy” float from participating in the Spanish capital’s upcoming international gay pride parade, considered the world’s largest.
The Israeli role in the Madrid festivities had been slated to be extensive, including “a large Tel Aviv party… led by Israeli DJs and artists, as well as meetings between… community leaders,” according to news reports in May, when the cooperation was first announced. Spaniards also cancelled a concert by transgender singer Dana International, who won the 1998 Eurovision contest as Israel’s representative. The declared reason behind gay Spain’s about-face was the Mavi Marmara incident.
“After what has happened [with the flotilla] and as human rights campaigners,” Antonio Poveda of the LGTB federation explained, “it seemed barbaric to us to have them [Tel Aviv] taking part. We don’t just defend our own little patch.”
In a convoluted line of reasoning, Madrid’s LGTB community chose to defend the Hamas leadership in Gaza – which openly attacks gays – along with the IHH, the Turkish group inspired by Muslim fundamentalism that sent the Mavi Marmara to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Meanwhile, Israel, one of the most progressive nations on gay rights, not just in the Middle East but in the Western world, has been recast as barbarous.
This is the same barbarous Israel that years ago accepted openly gay military personnel. (The US has only recently taken steps to repeal its “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gay military personnel.) It is the Israel that recognizes same-sex marriages performed abroad, allowing foreign partners to adopt children, receive residency permits, benefits and pensions. It is the Israel whose dynamically pluralist city of Tel Aviv provides additional municipal benefits to gay couples, putting them on a par with their straight counterparts.
It is the Israel whose parliament includes elected politicians such as MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who are openly gay. It is the Israel whose cultural scene embraces Dana International and features “out” performing artists such as Ivri Leader. It is the Israel that, over the years, has served as an asylum for Palestinians fleeing violent, religiously motivated oppression in Gaza and the West Bank.
What a contrast to Hamas, which does not hide its enmity for homosexuality. During its successful 2006 election campaign, Hamas’s co-founder, Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, declared: “Are these the laws for which the Palestinian street is waiting? For us to give rights to homosexuals and to lesbians, a minority of perverts and mentally and morally sick?” Zahar has since been appointed Hamas’s foreign minister.
GAY SPANIARDS’ disinclination to recognize Israel’s excellent record on gay issues, while ignoring Hamas’s open hostility, is part of a wider, distorted Spanish reaction to the flotilla episode and its context.
That skewed response was evident in the violence vented this Tuesday against a group of Israelis who had come to a Madrid conference to share their know-how in the field of renewable energy. One of the Israelis, Eytan Levy, CEO of Emefcy, was hit by a rock amid protests that necessitated police intervention to extricate the small, besieged delegation.
This mindset may perhaps be partly explained by Spain’s lack of a liberal, democratic tradition. Between 1939 and 1975, the country was ruled by General Franco’s pro-Arab, fascist dictatorship. The present Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero, apparently reflecting widespread opinion, has publicly expressed his loathing of America and purports to regard Israel as a stooge of American imperialism. His anti-American, anti-Israel views make him the natural ally of Islamists. It should come as no surprise that Zapatero, who succeeded the pro-Israel Jose Maria Aznar in the wake of the 2004 Madrid train bombings, was photographed during the Second Lebanon War wearing a keffiyeh in a public show of support for Hizbullah.
In this political atmosphere, vicious anti-Israeli views run rampant.“They [gay Israelis] want to transform themselves into victims whenthey are the executioners,” Miguel Angel Gonzales, president of theMadrid Gay Collective, told Libertad Digital thisweek.
Spain owes it to itself to strive for a more informed and fair-mindedattitude to Israel. And gay Spaniards might want to  ponder theramifications of their identification with the likes of Hamas.
Radical Islam is a growing force in Europe, which some pessimists havebegun to call “Eurabia.” If radical Muslims had their way in Spain,organizations like the Madrid Gay Collective would be disbanded, andmen like Gonzales would be running for their lives.