In “Coming Out in Lebanon,” published in the New York Times on December 30, Laura Boushnak and Mona Boshnaq praise the Middle Eastern country for slowly growing more tolerant to openly gay, lesbian, and transgender people. The Middle East, the reporters acknowledge, is a tough place for non-straight people. But Lebanon is the “one exception.”
This is wrong. Not only does Lebanon still penalize homosexual behavior, but Israel doesn’t, and it hasn’t since 1988. Israel was was the first country in Asia to recognize same-sex unions, and it does not exclude members of the LGBTQ community from its mandatory military service.
There are two possible reasons for this mistake, both embarrassing for the Times. The first: That every editor who read the piece and both reporters failed to catch that Lebanon is not, in fact, the “one exception.” The second: That the Times’s anti-Israel bias has led them to proceed as if Israel isn’t really part of the Middle East; that Israelis are something else, a nation of “others,” surrounded by the people who belong in the region.
Which is true, in a sense. Israel is a nation of “others” compared to its neighbors. It doesn’t sponsor terrorism, it doesn’t strip women of their rights, its government doesn’t murder its people, and, yes, the LGBTQ community has no call to wander the streets in fear.