Gay Rights in the Middle East

Jerusalem held its gay pride parade last week, after the event was delayed due to the Palestinian War from Gaza in July and August.  The event is an anomaly in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) where most countries consider homosexuality a crime.  In several countries such as Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Mauritania, gays are sentenced to death.

There are still over 76 countries in the world that consider being gay a crime.  Outside of Europe, there are only five countries that achieve a “perfect” score for gay and lesbian rights according to the ILGA, a leading gay rights group: Israel was the first to be awarded such score in 2008, followed by Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and New Zealand.

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Every Picture Tells a Story, the Bibi Monster

The “Every Picture” series highlights the power of photographs in the media and reviews the impact of size, color and placement of pictures along with their captions. The first installment reviewed how the New York Times painted a picture of Arab grief and suffering while portraying Israelis in a more aggressive and less sympathetic manner in a series of articles from June 30 to July 3 about the murder of three Israeli teens and a Palestinian teenager. If that article had a subtitle, it could have been “Palestinians trump Israelis”. You might think this second article in the series could be entitled: “Palestinians trump the World”, but the reality is much more subtle.

On July 7, 2014 the New York Times posted, on the top of its front page, a large color photograph of a Palestinian youth who was injured during riots against Israeli police. The bruised teenager was deemed to be a bigger story than victims of mass murders in other countries on a particularly violent day in Africa and the Middle East:


On page A4, the paper posted a large black and white photograph and article about  20 people who had their throats slashed in Kenya;

On page A7, the NYT posted a black and white photograph of soldiers and militiamen in Uganda where 50 people were killed in a battle between security forces and a tribal militia;

On the bottom of that same page, a short article (with no associated picture) described how 35 to 40 people were killed in Yemen in a fight between “Shiite rebels and tribesmen associated with the government.”

Pictures of mass murders buried in the NYT pages

While over 100 people were slaughtered in the region, the Times thought that a bruised youth was more significant than any and all of those atrocities. Could that have been because the teenager was a Palestinian Arab? That wouldn’t be logical as the Yemenis are Arab too. Could it be because the injured boy was a Muslim? That also would not make sense since al-Shabab is the Islamist terror group in Kenya that has been killing dozens of people every week, and both parties in the slaughter in Yemen are Muslim.

The difference in the dynamic of these stories lies in the counter-party – Israel – as evidenced by the other pictures in the news story. In a small picture on the (extreme right) side of the cover page, and then again in a color photograph on page A5, are close up pictures of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. Netanyahu is possibly the only world leader who is more despised by the NYT editorial board than former US President George W. Bush. The Times often uses pictures of Netanyahu alongside stories of Israeli aggression. It does this uniquely and consistently for Bibi.

By means of comparison, imagine an article about US drones killing civilians in Afghanistan, and then a picture alongside of it of US President Barack Obama. It doesn’t happen in the NYT or liberal media outlets. You probably wouldn’t even see a picture of injured people or mourning mothers in US papers. That is because they do not want to sketch a killer in Obama’s image.

As examples, here are two NYT articles that are critical of US policy of drone attacks – but include no pictures (let alone two!) of Obama. These are attacks that Obama ordered, (compared to a general situation in Israel which Netanyahu was not directly involved). Needless to say, the articles that simply report on the use of drones have no pictures of the US Commander-in-Chief.

In another article that is completely about Obama’s war on terrorism, the picture puts Obama so far in the background you would think he was accidentally caught in the photo.

However, the New York Times and various liberal publications like to paint Bibi and Israel as attackers. They use his image alongside articles which describe attacks and counter-attacks. He has been made into a caricature of war; a cartoon of a blood libel.

Every picture tells a story. It is time to ask what the artist had in mind.

“East Jerusalem” – the 0.5% Molehill

The Middle East is not short on drama. Things in the region are magnified by perfect faith and distorted by perceived foresight. The people in the land are The People of The Land. Their collective perspective has long ago been blurred by reading texts about ethereal matters too closely.

To wit, Arabs have stated a quest for a new country with a capital city they call “East Jerusalem”. The small matter that seems to escape them is that it doesn’t exist.

Jerusalem was founded 4000 years ago. In the city’s turbulent history, it reached religious heights and was vanquished many times. Still, in all but 19 of those 4000 years, it remained a single united city.

In 1947, the United Nations considered expanding the borders of the city and put forth a plan to create a “Holy Basin” which was to include Greater Jerusalem and Greater Bethlehem. The proposed entity would have housed the significant religious sites of the three monotheistic religions and been under international control. The Arabs rejected the proposal and five Arab armies attacked the new State of Israel in 1948 with the stated objective of destroying the country completely.

At the end of that war, the Jordanians seized and unilaterally annexed the eastern part of the Jerusalem and renamed it “East Jerusalem”. The joyful Jordanians gave the Palestinian Arabs Jordanian citizenship, but evicted all Jews from their “East Jerusalem”.

So the spiritual center of Judaism was stolen by the Jordanians. From 1949 to 1967, (0.5% of the city’s existence), the Jordanians banned Jews from the eastern part of Jerusalem.

In 1967, the Jordanians (which included Arabs from Palestine who were granted Jordanian citizenship) attacked Israel again, and lost the eastern half of the city. Israel dismantled the barbed wire that split the city and reunited Jerusalem. “East Jerusalem” existed no more.

In 1995, in an effort to establish peace in the region, Israel handed control of Bethlehem to the Palestinian Authority, thereby giving half of the “Holy Basin” to the Arabs.  The “Holy Basin” sat divided, but not Jerusalem.

Remarkably, despite the short dark blip in history 46 years ago, and current control of Bethlehem, the Arabs contend that East Jerusalem still exists and always existed. Should it surprise anyone that when it comes to Jerusalem, people would try to turn a 0.5% molehill into owning the Temple Mount?

The history of united + divided Jerusalem

The history of united + divided Jerusalem

The anthems of the Middle East Compared (enya)


Only Israel has an anthem of hope. The other countries in the region have hymns to martyrdom. Music from Enya- Hope has a Place