Connect with us

Middle East

Saudi Arabia & five Gulf Arab states tell Netflix remove content

The Gulf Cooperation Council called on Netflix to remove the offensive content from its platform, or it would risk facing legal action

Published

on

Kit Connor (Nick Nelson) & Joe Locke (Charlie Spring) stars of Netflix LGBTQ teen drama Heartstopper (Photo: See-Saw Films/Netfix)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia and five other Gulf Arab countries have issued a statement this week demanding that U.S. streaming service Netflix remove all content deemed to violate “Islamic and societal values and principles.”

Although the statement warned that recent material, including that made for children, contravened regulations, it did not provide any further details.

However, Saudi State Media in a tweet showed a clip from the Netflix animated show Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, in which two teenage girls confess they love each other and kiss, and blurred the image while labeling it promoting child ‘homosexuality.’

The Gulf Cooperation Council called on Netflix to remove the offensive content from its platform, or it would risk facing legal action.

“All legal measures will be taken to protect the Kingdom’s sovereignty, citizens and residents from any intellectual attack aimed at affecting its societies, values, safety of upbringing their generations and protecting them from harmful content,” Esra Assery, CEO at the Saudi General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM), told Arab News.

Although the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not have specific laws  regarding sexual orientation or gender identity, any sexual relations are prohibited but especially same-sex relations which under Saudi’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, consensual same-sex sexual conduct is punishable by death by beheading or flogging, depending on the perceived seriousness of the case.

To classify which content would be considered offensive, Assery indicated that Saudi Arabia applies “special classification systems, community standards, and special licenses for which type content is allowed to be broadcast in the Kingdom and GCC countries.”

The Gulf Cooperation Council’s committee had taken the decision to approach Netflix “in light of the recent observation that the platform was broadcasting visual material and content which violates content controls in GCC countries,” a commission statement said.

It was agreed that authorities would follow up on Netflix’s compliance with the directives. “In the event that the violating content continues to be available, the necessary legal measures will be taken,” the statement added.

The BBC reported that this past April, cinemas in Saudi Arabia did not screen the film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness after the Walt Disney Company refused a request from Saudi authorities to cut what they called “LGBTQ references.”

The animated Disney-Pixar film Lightyear, which featured a same-sex kiss, was also banned in the kingdom and the United Arab Emirates in June.

YouTube was meanwhile accused last month by Saudi authorities of permitting “inappropriate adverts” that violated Islamic values.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

Middle East

Court sentences 13 people to death for homosexuality in Yemen

Iran-backed Houthis controls large swaths of country

Published

on

(Illustration by Peter Hermes Furian/Bigstock)

IBB, Yemen — Reports indicate a court in Yemen has sentenced to death 13 people who had been charged with homosexuality.

Agence France-Presse reported the court in Ibb Governorate, which Iran-backed Houthi rebels control, announced the sentences on Feb. 4. The province’s main city is roughly 125 miles south of Sanaa, the rebel-held Yemeni capital.

The State Department’s 2022 human rights report notes Yemeni law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations, “with the death penalty as a sanction under the country’s interpretation of Islamic law.” The report also indicates there were “no known executions of LGBTQI+ persons in recent years.”

The Houthis have been attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea since Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023, launched a surprise attack against southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. The U.S. and the U.K. last month launched air strikes against the Iran-backed rebel group. 

Continue Reading

Middle East

Meta urged to make platforms safer for LGBTQ+ users in the Middle East, North Africa

Human Rights Watch, advocacy groups have launched #SecureOurSocials campaign

Published

on

Meta logo (YouTube screenshot)

By Amber Laenen | BEIRUT, Lebanon — The parent company of Facebook and Instagram is facing calls to improve the safety of LGBTQ+ people on its platforms in the Middle East and North Africa.

Human Rights Watch, Social Media Exchange (SMEX), INSM Foundation for Digital Rights, Helem in Lebanon and Damj Association in Tunisia have initiated the #SecureOurSocials campaign, which emphasizes the need for transparency from Meta.

The campaign, inspired by Human Rights Watch’s “Digital Targeting and Its Offline Consequences for LGBT People in the Middle East and North Africa” 2023 report, sheds light on the digital threats faced by the LGBTQ+ community. The report revealed that security forces in countries like Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia exploit platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to target and harass LGBTQ+ people, leading to offline consequences like arbitrary detention and torture.

Rasha Younes, acting LGBT rights deputy director at Human Rights Watch, urged Meta to be a global leader in making social media safe for everyone. The #SecureOurSocials campaign aims to engage Meta for increased transparency and accountability, urging the company to publish meaningful data on user safety investment, especially in the Middle East and North Africa.

LGBTQ+ people that Human Rights Watch interviewed reported severe real-life consequences; including job loss, family violence, forced relocations and mental health issues due to online targeting on Facebook and Instagram. The campaign calls on Meta to address harmful content, be more responsive to user complaints and enforce policies consistently.

The main goals of the #SecureOurSocials campaign include: 

• Protecting the safety of users

• Addressing online targeting

• Consistent enforcement of policies

• Investment in user safety

• Human rights integration 

“Governments and tech companies share the responsibility for protecting human rights, especially for LGBT individuals.”said Younes. 

Despite previous engagements with Meta, concerns raised by Human Rights Watch said its concerns have not been adequately addressed. 

The #SecureOurSocials campaign provides solutions for Meta to ensure the safety of LGBTQ+ users and urges the company to disclose its annual investment in user safety in the region. It also emphasizes the responsibility of social media companies to respect human rights with nondiscrimination and privacy policies and freedom of expression.

Mohamad Najem of SMEX outlined key recommendations directed at Meta, addressing the urgent need to safeguard user rights, particularly for the LGBTQ+ community. 

Najem underscored the importance of including rights, nondiscrimination and privacy policies and freedom of expression in Meta’s policies. He called for measures to avoid infringing on human rights, systematic handling of issues and the identification and addressing of human rights impacts stemming from their services. 

The recommendations further urged Meta to respect the right to freedom of expression, protect against unauthorized access to personal data and consider the specific experiences of discrimination and marginalization, particularly those faced by LGBTQ+ people in the Middle East and North Africa. 

“Meta needs to ensure that it respects the rights of people, especially when it comes to unauthorized access to their personal data,” added Najem.

Najem highlighted Meta’s struggles with content moderation, pointing out overenforcement and underenforcement issues. The insufficient investment in human content moderators and heavy reliance on automation were identified as undermining Meta’s ability to effectively address content targeting LGBTQ individuals.

Meta’s role in mitigating human rights abuses against LGBTQ+ individuals on its platforms is highlighted, with the campaign demanding accountability and transparency in policy application. Governments in the Middle East and North Africa are also urged to respect and protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people, promoting non-discriminatory laws online and offline.

A Meta spokesperson has not responded to the Washington Blade’s request for comment.

**************************************************************************************

Amber Laenen is a senior at Thomas More Mechelen University in Belgium. She is majoring in journalism and international relations. Amber is interning with the Blade this semester as part of a continued partnership with the Washington Center.

Continue Reading

Middle East

Brother of former Israeli hostage returns to US

Gili Roman’s sister was held in Gaza for 53 days

Published

on

Gili Roman in D.C. on Jan. 18, 2024 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — Yarden Roman-Gat, her husband, Alon Gat and their 3-year-old daughter, Geffen, were visiting her in-laws in Be’eri, a kibbutz that is near the border of Israel and the Gaza Strip, on Oct. 7, 2023.

Hamas shortly after 6 a.m. launched a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel from the Palestinian enclave it governs. Four militants placed Roman-Gat and her family into a car with two other Be’eri residents. They jumped out of it as it approached Gaza. Roman-Gat handed her daughter to her husband and they ran away.

The group the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization held Roman-Gat hostage in Gaza until her release on Nov. 29. Her brother, Gili Roman, a gay teacher and member of Israel’s Nemos LGBTQ+ Swimming Club who lives in Tel Aviv, returned to D.C. last week.

“She’s doing well,” Roman told the Washington Blade on Jan. 18 during an interview at a hotel near Union Station.

Roman-Gat spoke to “60 Minutes” less than a month after her release. Roman shared with the Blade details about his sister’s time in captivity.

He said she was alone, with three men guarding her.

“For 53 days she was observed and subjected to the will of three guys,” said Roman. “We are relieved because she was not abused, and we know that other people were abused and violently treated. This is not her case, but it was still a very traumatic experience.”

Militants on Oct. 7 killed her mother-in-law and kidnapped her sister-in-law, Carmel Gat, who remains in Gaza. 

Roman said his sister learned militants had murdered her mother-in-law when she overheard “a very small” part of a song on Israeli radio that had been dedicated to her. 

“This is how she found out that she had been murdered, that her sister-in-law is still a hostage,” Roman told the Blade. “Since they didn’t talk about her daughter and her husband, she concluded that they are alive.”

He said the men who held his sister hostage were members of Hamas and were religious. Roman told the Blade that some of them had university degrees and they explained to Roman-Gat why she had been kidnapped. 

“She was a tool of war,” said Roman. “They told her many times it is not about Gaza and it’s not about Palestine. It’s not about the Palestinians.”

“The only reason that they’re keeping her is for the global fight for Islam, is a sort of global jihad,” he added. “Of course, they do not expect to get a Muslim empire, now. She’s just a tool in the long run ambition of them to have a Muslim empire around the world. This is pretty harsh, and they constantly told her that. This is the kind of extremism that she lived in and had to protect herself (from.)”

Roman said they also forced his sister to wear a hijab.

“She said it became her only shield,” he told the Blade.

Roman said his sister didn’t realize she was going to be released until shortly before it happened. Roman told the Blade the militants wanted her to change out of the hijab she had been wearing and to appear happy, but “she wasn’t willing to do that.”

Roman-Gat reunited with her daughter, husband and her family at a Tel Aviv hospital a few hours after her release.

“It was super exciting,” recalled Roman. “It’s like the birth of somebody you already know … it was very, very moving.”

From left: Gili Roman celebrates Hanukkah with his niece, Geffen, and his sister, Yarden Roman-Gat, last month in Israel. (Photo courtesy of Gili Roman)

The Israeli government has said Hamas militants killed roughly 1,200 people on Oct. 7, including at least 260 partygoers and others at an all-night music festival in Re’im, a kibbutz that is a few miles southwest of Be’eri. Carmel Gat is among the roughly 130 people who Hamas continues to hold hostage in Gaza.   

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says more than 25,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began. Israel after Oct. 7 cut electricity and water to Gaza and stopped most food and fuel shipments.

Hezbollah, which the U.S. and Israel have designated a terrorist organization, has launched rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel.

The Houthis in Yemen have attacked commercial ships in the Red Sea since Oct. 7. The U.S. and the U.K. this month launched air strikes against the Iran-backed rebel group. 

Roman told the Blade that many Israelis do not feel safe in their own country.

“We are all feeling so fragile,” he said.

Roman said his sister thinks that “somebody could take me” when she is on the street.

“I told her I feel exactly the same thing … like somebody can take my family and I will not see them for 100 days and I will not see them anymore,” Roman told the Blade.

He also pointed out more than 100,000 people have been displaced from southern and northern Israel since Oct. 7.  

“We are under severe attacks from the north as well,” said Roman. “People are displaced. They don’t know when they are going to go back home. They know some of their houses have been attacked, demolished, bombarded.”

Roman noted Israelis who live near the West Bank are also concerned “their towns are going to be infiltrated” by militants who have dug tunnels. He also said there are reports of hostages and Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed “almost every day.” (The IDF on Monday said 24 soldiers were killed in Gaza.) 

“We are feeling overwhelmed with fear and anxiety,” said Roman.

The International Court of Justice earlier this month heard legal arguments in South Africa’s case that accuses Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, is under increased pressure to secure the release of the remaining hostages.

“[It’s] hard to answer,” Roman said in response to the Blade’s question about whether the Israeli government has done enough to secure the hostages’ release.

Roman spoke with the Blade after he and other hostages’ relatives met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and other lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Roman and his cousin also had a private meeting with U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

“They were so attentive, so reasonable, so supportive,” said Roman, referring to the meeting with Sanders and Warren.

No ceasefire until all hostages are released

Roman was in D.C. days before A Wider Bridge brought a group of LGBTQ+ activists from the U.S. to Israel.

The trip coincided with growing calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

“The genocide in Gaza and violent attacks in Israel and Palestine must end,” said the National LGBTQ Task Force ahead of its annual Creating Change conference that took place last week in New Orleans.

Roman told the Blade he was afraid to walk in public while holding a poster with Gat’s picture on it because people “screamed at me, commented on it” when he was in New York.

“They don’t see me as a person,” said Roman. “I don’t think they see Carmel or Yarden as a person. They don’t see them as people. They see them as what Hamas tried to make them, a tool of war.”

“You have many people who are not on our side, who are justifying the fact that people have been murdered, that people have been raped, slaughtered, taken hostage,” he added.

Roman also said there cannot be a ceasefire until Hamas releases all of the hostages.

“There might be a ceasefire if all the hostages will be released,” he said. “The hostages are key.”

Continue Reading

Middle East

Israeli Supreme Court rules LGBTQ couples can adopt children

The Court on Thursday unanimously ruled that existing law allows LGBTQ couples to adopt- as part of the petition submitted in 2021

Published

on

The Israeli Supreme Court (Photo Credit: Israeli Supreme Court/Gov. of Israel)

By Anita Gould |  JERUSALEM, Israel – Six years since the state pledged to change adoption law so that discrimination against same-sex couples would be eliminated, the Israeli Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ruled that existing law allows LGBTQ couples to adopt.

The judges issued their decision as part of a discussion of the petition that two LGBTQ couples submitted in 2021 with the Reform Center, the Aguda, Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance and the Proud Fathers Association.

The petition dealt with the adoption law that states “there is no adoption except by a man and his wife together,” thus discriminating against LGBTQ couples who can only adopt children in which heterosexual couples are not interested. These are usually older children or children with special needs, and it is required that the term “man and his wife” in the adoption law be interpreted to include spouses of the same sex.

“Six decades have passed since the box ‘man and his wife together’ was written in the adoption law,” wrote the judges in their decision, “Since then, we have learned to know that a stable and loving family unit, which can form a solid foundation for raising a healthy child, can be a family unit of a man and a woman, of a woman and a woman and of each person — provided that the best interests of the child are preserved. This insight is the focus of the interpretation given by us today to the provision of Section 3 of the law. In this interpretive ruling, which brings same-sex couples through the ‘main door’ of non-adoption, we are walking in a groove that has already been plowed in rulings in the field of family law and in other areas, which over the years have recognized the existence of same-sex relationships, the parenting of same-sex couples and their right for equality. Our ruling even continues an existing interpretive axis that refers to the adoption law, an axis that expands the range of potential efforts beyond the limits of the traditional family model of ‘man and woman,’ in order to fulfill the purpose of the law. This interpretation is therefore required by the changes of the times, the principle of the best interests of the child, human dignity and the principle of equality.”

More than seven years of struggle

The issue of discrimination in the adoption law was raised for the first time in front of the Supreme Court in the first petition submitted in 2016. The State then sought to amend the adoption law within a year and a half so that discrimination against LGBTQ couples would be eliminated. In 2019, a legal memorandum was published on the subject, but it was not published.

After the previous government stated there was no political possibility to amend legislation but they had no objection to the petition being scheduled for hearing before the High Court of Justice, a hearing on the petition was scheduled for the summer of 2022, but it was canceled in light of the fall of the government and the elections held at the end of 2022.

The first hearing on the petition was held in August. 

According to the State’s position submitted in advance of the hearing, the best way is to wait for the amendment of legislation, but because the justice minister believes that there is no political feasibility to amend legislation and due to the welfare minister’s opposition, who claimed that this “adds complexities and difficulties to the child” contrary to the positions of the professionals in his office, there is a legal anchor that will make it possible to receive the expansive interpretation that the petitioners request. The State, as well as the petitioners in this case, insists that this is also required due to the principle of the best interests of the child — to provide a home for the child regardless of the sexual orientation of his parents.

“This is a ray of light in a dark time,” said petitioners Shahar Gloverman and Shay Gortler. “For more than eight years we have been waiting in line for adoption. The High Court of Justice will no longer give us back these years or the consequences of the long wait, but we are happy that the door of adoption has been opened for the next LGBT couples.”

“During the difficult times we are in, we welcome small moments of kindness that inspire hope that we will rise from the ruins for a better, more just and united future,” added petitioners Tzafir Gideon and Ido Ziv, “We thank the court for its ruling that put an end to the discriminatory distinction between us as parents, which has no understanding And between the welfare of the child, one thing and another. Just as there are no second-class children, there are also no second-class parents. Love is love is love.”

A ruling that erases another expression of institutional discrimination

“For over seven years we have been fighting for LGBTQ couples so that they can realize their dream of becoming a family through adoption,” said attorney Ricky Shapira Rosenberg of the Reform Center for Religion and State who represented the petitioners. “We welcome the verdict, which accepted the position The petitioners that there should be no discrimination between same-sex couples and other couples for the purpose of adoption. The court ruled that the law stating that ‘there is no adoption except by a man and a woman’ should be interpreted as applying to couples of the same sex since the purpose of the adoption law is to ensure the welfare of the child, and in this regard there is no difference between LGBT families and heterosexual families. Once again it has been proven that the one who protects human rights in general and of the Lahtav community in particular is the Supreme Court.”

Aguda CEO Ran Shalhavi said “this is a historic victory and a groundbreaking achievement that gives a little light and hope in these difficult days. For years we have been fighting and fighting to be seen as equal in adopting children and starting a family in Israel, while Israeli governments for generations discriminated and incited against us just because of who we are, the Supreme Court once again proves its importance in protecting our rights. This day is the answer to homophobia, hatred, darkness and welfare ministers who for years denied our parentage, leaving us second-class citizens. The war only emphasized how disconnected inequality is from life itself. The time has come for equal rights in primary legislation in the Knesset: in parenting, in security, in marriage, without incitement and discrimination, and we will continue to march proudly until we get there.”

Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance stated “we welcome the verdict that erases yet another expression of long-standing institutional discrimination against the gay community, and congratulate Shai and Shahar and Tzafir and Ado that after years of legal struggle they will be able to expand their families. A big thank you to attorney Ricky Shapira and the Reform Center for Religion and State who led the petition. These are complex and difficult days for Israeli society. We demand that even at this time the political echelon does not stop promoting the rights of the gay community. Just as the battlefield does not distinguish between us, there is no justification for the rulebook to distinguish between us. We all hope that we will know more quiet, loving, and equal days.”

***************************************************************************************

Anita Gould is an Israeli photojournalist and writer who frequently contributes to Wedge (WDG), an LGBTQ community content news site and web magazine based in Jerusalem. WDG is the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel. It published a Hebrew version of this story on Thursday.

Continue Reading

Middle East

Hamas releases gay Israeli man’s sister, 15 other hostages

Militants kidnapped Yarden Roman-Gat on Oct. 7

Published

on

Yarden Roman-Gat (Courtesy photo)

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — Hamas on Wednesday released a gay Israeli man’s sister who had been held hostage in the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7.

Media reports indicate Yarden Roman-Gat is one of 12 Israelis and four Thai nationals who the militant group released.

Roman-Gat, a physical therapist who works with elderly people and those with physical and mental health issues, and her family had just returned to Israel after a vacation in South Africa when they decided to spend the Simchat Torah holiday with Gat’s parents in Be’eri, a kibbutz that is near the border between Israel and Gaza. They were in their home on Oct. 7 when Hamas launched its surprise attack.

Media reports indicate four militants placed Roman-Gat, Gat, their 3-year-old daughter and two other Be’eri residents into a car. One of them had reportedly been placed into the trunk.

Roman-Gat and Gat jumped out of the car with their daughter as it approached Gaza. Roman-Gat’s brother, Gili Roman, a teacher and member of the Nemos LGBTQ+ Swimming Club who lives in Tel Aviv, on Oct. 30 told the Washington Blade that the militants began to run after them. He said they were shooting at them when his sister handed her daughter to her husband because he was able to run faster. 

Gat hid with his daughter for 18 hours before they reached Israeli soldiers in Be’eri. He told Roman he last saw his wife hiding behind a tree to protect herself from the militants who were shooting at her.

“For us it’s like a Holocaust story,” Roman told the Blade. “It’s a horror story, the worst horror story that you can imagine.”

Gili Roman in D.C. on Oct. 30, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed since the war began. This figure includes at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in Re’im, a kibbutz that is a few miles away from Be’eri. Thousands of other Israelis have been injured and Roman-Gat is among the 240 people who militants from Hamas and other Muslim terrorist groups kidnapped.

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 13,000 people and injured thousands of others in the enclave.

A truce between Israel and Hamas that allowed for the release of hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinians in Israeli prisons took effect on Friday. 

The Associated Press notes roughly 160 hostages remain in Gaza. The truce that the U.S., Egypt and Qatar brokered was extended two days on Monday, but is slated to expire tonight.  

Continue Reading

Middle East

‘Wedding is both defiance and pride’

IDF reservist married partner in Ein Yahav on Nov. 22

Published

on

WDG is the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel. This article ran on WDG’s website on Nov. 23.

EIN YAHAV, Israel — Among dozens of reservists who became a family, with a spontaneous canopy at the B&B in Ein Yahav and refreshments donated with much love from Eilat businesses and residents, Adam Din and Ilan Cohen held their wedding ceremony Nov. 22.

“We did this wedding because it is important to us that the world knows that there is love even in the middle of the war and that we can celebrate love as well through it all,” said the couple.

Adam and Ilan’s wedding was scheduled to take place about two weeks ago on the beach between Ashdod and Nitzanim. The invitations were already prepared, but the terrible massacre on Oct. 7, and the war that broke out in its wake, postponed all their plans.

Ilan was immediately drafted into the reserves in the Gaza Division, leaving Adam alone at home. Nati Harosh, the couple’s best friend who was supposed to be the groomsman at the wedding, was also drafted into the reserves as a Givati Brigade fighter.

“We were supposed to get married on the beach,” says Adam, “The war postponed the wedding, and also took Nati.”

Adam Din and Ilan Cohen with Cohen’s battalion that organized his wedding. (Photo courtesy of Tal Rogovski/WDG)

Adam and Ilan met a year and eight months ago.

“We met on Tinder, not for a serious purpose,” says Adam. “After we met, Ilan introduced me to a group of travelers from the gay community and we used to go on trips together. Over time we got to know each other more and more and in an organic and natural way we became together. It never had an official date.”

The short acquaintance was very significant for both of them. 

“I was in the closet in front of the family before I met Ilan, and also childfree. And getting to know Ilan changed me completely,” says Adam. “I came out in front of my family and introduced them to Ilan, and I also decided that I wanted us to become parents together. My life changed thanks to him and we are really a family.”

The first friend Adam introduced to Ilan was Nati.

“Nati is a friend of mine from the time I lived in Jerusalem during my internship. We met through mutual friends and became very close friends. Nati was a giving person, like the meaning of his name Nathaniel. One of those people who were untouched by the cruelty of the world. Always ready to help. Doesn’t hold a grudge even when he is treated badly, and I would get angry for him and he wouldn’t get angry,” says Adam.

“Nati’s move from Jerusalem to Ramat Gan was one of the reasons that led us to move there as well, and since then we have been at each other’s house a lot on Shabbat,” he adds. “Nati came from a religious family, and he is liberal and open and loves every person regardless of who they are. And it was very clear and natural to me that he would be the one to accompany me on this significant occasion of mine. In the Utah wedding we held in Zoom, Nati was my witness, and we planned for him to be the groomsman in the wedding party.”

An April Fool’s prank that turned into a marriage proposal

Adam proposed to Ilan a few months ago.

“On April 1, we repeated one of our significant dates at the Saker Garden in Jerusalem,” says Adam, “Then Ilan knelt down as if he was going to propose to me and took out a Kinder egg. Kind of an April Fool’s prank. He thought it was funny. So I decided to get back at him and a few months later I also gave him a Kinder egg, only my Kinder egg had a ring in it.”

Three months ago, the two were married in a Utah wedding on Zoom in order to receive recognition as a couple who married abroad, with Nati accompanying them as a witness. They planned to hold the party itself at the beach between Ashdod and Nitzanim, at the exact place where Adam proposed to Ilan. About two months ago they returned to the place, found the perfect location for the wedding and we set a date.

But as mentioned, the events of Oct. 7 postponed the plans, and Ilan was drafted into the reserves.

“During his reserve service, Ilan saw horrible and terrible sights,” says Adam, “[It is] a horror that has no name, that gives him nightmares and scars his heart and soul. But when he comes home he comes to his shelter and his safe environment. Here he can get away for a moment from the horror outside. With the announcement of Nati’s death, the bereavement burst into our house, into our safe place.”

The two found out about Nati’s death through a news website. 

One evening at the beginning of November, when Ilan was at home for a short break, a message about the death of a Givati Brigade soldier in Gaza popped up on his phone.

“He fell silent and went to the side,” Adam recalled. “His face went blank, the way it went blank when he remembered the terrible things he saw there. I asked him what he saw. He didn’t want to show me and started crying. I asked him again what happened and then he told me that Nati died. I didn’t believe him and then he showed me the news. I looked and couldn’t believe what I was reading. I saw Nati’s photo in the article and I said, ‘What idiots, they accidentally put a photo of Nati. What a mistake.'”

“I quickly called Nati to tell him to ask for the photo to be taken down so his family wouldn’t see it, but he didn’t answer,” he added. “Since then I send him WhatsApps all the time. Yesterday I sent him a selfie of us and wrote to him: Tomorrow I’m getting married, you’re invited.”

Adam Din, left, and Ilan Cohen. (Photo courtesy of Tal Rogovski/WDG)

Many people will have to die for there to be equality

After Nati was killed, the two felt that the wedding was becoming more urgent. Ilan told the story of the wedding to his friends in the reserve battalion, and also told them about Nati, who was killed in the war.

“He told them that the wedding is now more urgent than ever, and that it is precisely now in this war that love should be celebrated, and his friends suggested that the wedding be held in the unit. Two days ago he came to me and asked: What are you doing on Wednesday? And I answered him that I was working. Then he asked me, do you want to get married? I told him yes and asked him if he was coming back from the reserves, and he told me: No. We will do it in the battalion.”

WDG: Did you felt complete with the choice?

ADAM: Ilan and his colleagues have been together for over a month. When I talk to him I hear them, and I hear him talking about them, they really became family. So although the wedding is spontaneous without my friends and family being able to come, it is being held with his family, who are actually the army and the friends from the reserves. And Nati will be there in spirit too. He died among soldiers, so we will feel his love among other soldiers who will be happy with us”

WDG: How does it feel to have a “military wedding”?

ADAM: This is not the wedding I expected, but I always told Ilan that I would marry him even inside a volcano. Everywhere. At the same time, this wedding has a lot of mixed emotions. This period is full of sadness and disappointment. The LGBTQ community is an equal partner in the national effort and the war, and its men and women do not receive equal status when they return home.

We could get married like everyone else but we have to do it in a crooked way with Zoom, and in no way, LGBTQ people are literally dead to protect us but no one counts them.

Ilan has been in service for a month and a half, and yet he had to find crooked ways to get married, feeling that he is worth less than other people, who don’t even join the army.

So for me this wedding is both defiance and pride. And this is the ambivalence. We feel a part and we sacrifice the most precious, and yet we don’t deserve to be married like everyone else and we are in a less good position. And yet we continue and get married in the middle of the war.”

Ilan Cohen, left, and Adam Din at their wedding. (Photo courtesy of Tal Rogovski/WDG)

WDG: Do you think that following this period, which highlights the gap between what we give to the state and what we receive, a change will come?

ADAM: For Sagi Golan’s law, Sagi had to die. Part of his mate is dead too, I guess. I do believe that we will have equal rights, I believe that many people will have to die for it.

WDG: What is it like to live when your partner is so far from home for such a long period of time?

ADAM: Since that terrible Saturday when he was called I have been sleeping on the sofa. I can’t sleep in bed without him. There are long periods when he is without reception on the phone and I am constantly refreshing the pages of the news sites, to see if anything has happened. And when he returns home afterwards there is a tremendous feeling of momentary relief and an opportunity to be together for a bit. Even though as a volunteer in the LGBTQ help line, even when he goes out to retire from the reserves, he takes a shift and volunteers remotely.”

The couple and WDG would like to thank WILLOW – Zimmer in Arava, for volunteering to host the ceremony.

WDG is the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel. This article ran on WDG’s website on Nov. 23.

EIN YAHAV, Israel — Among dozens of reservists who became a family, with a spontaneous canopy at the B&B in Ein Yahav and refreshments donated with much love from Eilat businesses and residents, Adam Din and Ilan Cohen held their wedding ceremony Nov. 22.

“We did this wedding because it is important to us that the world knows that there is love even in the middle of the war and that we can celebrate love as well through it all,” said the couple.

Adam and Ilan’s wedding was scheduled to take place about two weeks ago on the beach between Ashdod and Nitzanim. The invitations were already prepared, but the terrible massacre on Oct. 7, and the war that broke out in its wake, postponed all their plans.

Ilan was immediately drafted into the reserves in the Gaza Division, leaving Adam alone at home. Nati Harosh, the couple’s best friend who was supposed to be the groomsman at the wedding, was also drafted into the reserves as a Givati Brigade fighter.

“We were supposed to get married on the beach,” says Adam, “The war postponed the wedding, and also took Nati.”

Adam Din and Ilan Cohen with Cohen’s battalion that organized his wedding. (Photo courtesy of Tal Rogovski/WDG)

Adam and Ilan met a year and eight months ago.

“We met on Tinder, not for a serious purpose,” says Adam. “After we met, Ilan introduced me to a group of travelers from the gay community and we used to go on trips together. Over time we got to know each other more and more and in an organic and natural way we became together. It never had an official date.”

The short acquaintance was very significant for both of them. 

“I was in the closet in front of the family before I met Ilan, and also childfree. And getting to know Ilan changed me completely,” says Adam. “I came out in front of my family and introduced them to Ilan, and I also decided that I wanted us to become parents together. My life changed thanks to him and we are really a family.”

The first friend Adam introduced to Ilan was Nati.

“Nati is a friend of mine from the time I lived in Jerusalem during my internship. We met through mutual friends and became very close friends. Nati was a giving person, like the meaning of his name Nathaniel. One of those people who were untouched by the cruelty of the world. Always ready to help. Doesn’t hold a grudge even when he is treated badly, and I would get angry for him and he wouldn’t get angry,” says Adam.

“Nati’s move from Jerusalem to Ramat Gan was one of the reasons that led us to move there as well, and since then we have been at each other’s house a lot on Shabbat,” he adds. “Nati came from a religious family, and he is liberal and open and loves every person regardless of who they are. And it was very clear and natural to me that he would be the one to accompany me on this significant occasion of mine. In the Utah wedding we held in Zoom, Nati was my witness, and we planned for him to be the groomsman in the wedding party.”

An April Fool’s prank that turned into a marriage proposal

Adam proposed to Ilan a few months ago.

“On April 1, we repeated one of our significant dates at the Saker Garden in Jerusalem,” says Adam, “Then Ilan knelt down as if he was going to propose to me and took out a Kinder egg. Kind of an April Fool’s prank. He thought it was funny. So I decided to get back at him and a few months later I also gave him a Kinder egg, only my Kinder egg had a ring in it.”

Three months ago, the two were married in a Utah wedding on Zoom in order to receive recognition as a couple who married abroad, with Nati accompanying them as a witness. They planned to hold the party itself at the beach between Ashdod and Nitzanim, at the exact place where Adam proposed to Ilan. About two months ago they returned to the place, found the perfect location for the wedding and we set a date.

But as mentioned, the events of Oct. 7 postponed the plans, and Ilan was drafted into the reserves.

“During his reserve service, Ilan saw horrible and terrible sights,” says Adam, “[It is] a horror that has no name, that gives him nightmares and scars his heart and soul. But when he comes home he comes to his shelter and his safe environment. Here he can get away for a moment from the horror outside. With the announcement of Nati’s death, the bereavement burst into our house, into our safe place.”

The two found out about Nati’s death through a news website. 

One evening at the beginning of November, when Ilan was at home for a short break, a message about the death of a Givati Brigade soldier in Gaza popped up on his phone.

“He fell silent and went to the side,” Adam recalled. “His face went blank, the way it went blank when he remembered the terrible things he saw there. I asked him what he saw. He didn’t want to show me and started crying. I asked him again what happened and then he told me that Nati died. I didn’t believe him and then he showed me the news. I looked and couldn’t believe what I was reading. I saw Nati’s photo in the article and I said, ‘What idiots, they accidentally put a photo of Nati. What a mistake.'”

“I quickly called Nati to tell him to ask for the photo to be taken down so his family wouldn’t see it, but he didn’t answer,” he added. “Since then I send him WhatsApps all the time. Yesterday I sent him a selfie of us and wrote to him: Tomorrow I’m getting married, you’re invited.”

Adam Din, left, and Ilan Cohen. (Photo courtesy of Tal Rogovski/WDG)

Many people will have to die for there to be equality

After Nati was killed, the two felt that the wedding was becoming more urgent. Ilan told the story of the wedding to his friends in the reserve battalion, and also told them about Nati, who was killed in the war.

“He told them that the wedding is now more urgent than ever, and that it is precisely now in this war that love should be celebrated, and his friends suggested that the wedding be held in the unit. Two days ago he came to me and asked: What are you doing on Wednesday? And I answered him that I was working. Then he asked me, do you want to get married? I told him yes and asked him if he was coming back from the reserves, and he told me: No. We will do it in the battalion.”

WDG: Did you felt complete with the choice?

ADAM: Ilan and his colleagues have been together for over a month. When I talk to him I hear them, and I hear him talking about them, they really became family. So although the wedding is spontaneous without my friends and family being able to come, it is being held with his family, who are actually the army and the friends from the reserves. And Nati will be there in spirit too. He died among soldiers, so we will feel his love among other soldiers who will be happy with us”

WDG: How does it feel to have a “military wedding”?

ADAM: This is not the wedding I expected, but I always told Ilan that I would marry him even inside a volcano. Everywhere. At the same time, this wedding has a lot of mixed emotions. This period is full of sadness and disappointment. The LGBTQ community is an equal partner in the national effort and the war, and its men and women do not receive equal status when they return home.

We could get married like everyone else but we have to do it in a crooked way with Zoom, and in no way, LGBTQ people are literally dead to protect us but no one counts them.

Ilan has been in service for a month and a half, and yet he had to find crooked ways to get married, feeling that he is worth less than other people, who don’t even join the army.

So for me this wedding is both defiance and pride. And this is the ambivalence. We feel a part and we sacrifice the most precious, and yet we don’t deserve to be married like everyone else and we are in a less good position. And yet we continue and get married in the middle of the war.”

Ilan Cohen, left, and Adam Din at their wedding. (Photo courtesy of Tal Rogovski/WDG)

WDG: Do you think that following this period, which highlights the gap between what we give to the state and what we receive, a change will come?

ADAM: For Sagi Golan’s law, Sagi had to die. Part of his mate is dead too, I guess. I do believe that we will have equal rights, I believe that many people will have to die for it.

WDG: What is it like to live when your partner is so far from home for such a long period of time?

ADAM: Since that terrible Saturday when he was called I have been sleeping on the sofa. I can’t sleep in bed without him. There are long periods when he is without reception on the phone and I am constantly refreshing the pages of the news sites, to see if anything has happened. And when he returns home afterwards there is a tremendous feeling of momentary relief and an opportunity to be together for a bit. Even though as a volunteer in the LGBTQ help line, even when he goes out to retire from the reserves, he takes a shift and volunteers remotely.”

The couple and WDG would like to thank WILLOW – Zimmer in Arava, for volunteering to host the ceremony.

Continue Reading

Middle East

סיקור מלחמת חמאס נגד ישראל

אמריקאים להט”ב קראו לגנות ארגון טרור

Published

on

(אמריקאים להט"ב קראו לגנות ארגון טרור)

ובשיתוף Washington Blade, שותף המדיה של WDG בארה”ב

בעקבות מתקפת הטרור על ישראל בשבת השחורה של השביעי באוקטובר, יצאו חמישה ארגונים להט”בים אמריקאים בעצומה הקוראת לכלל ארגוני הלהט”ב האמריקאים לתמוך בישראל.

העצומה, שפורסמה ביום שישי האחרון, קוראת ללהט”ב אמריקאים לגנות את המתקפה הרצחנית שביצע חמאס נגד ישראל ואזרחיה.

מאחורי הקמפיין, הנושא את הכותרת “להט”ב אמריקאים מתאחדים נגד טרור חמאס” עומדים חמישה ארגונים – ארגון A Wider Bridge הפועל לקידום הקשר בין הקהילה היהודית לקהילה הלהט”בית, ארגון One Community מאריזונה, ארגון SAVE מדרום פלורידה, ארגון Equality California וארגון Garden State Equality מניו ג’רסי.

“באוקטובר 7, 2023, ארגון הטרור חמאס פתח במתקפה על מדינת ישראל והעם היהודי”, נכתב בעצומה, “מתקפה זו הביאה לרציחתם באכזריות של למעלה מ-1,400 ישראלים – כולל ניצולי שואה וילדים, חטיפתם ולקיחתם כבני ערובה של לפחות 200 נוספים, ולמותם הטראגי של אינספור פלסטינים חפים מפשע שחמאס מנעה את פינויים.

אנטישמיות, הומופוביה וטרנספוביה הולכות יחד. כאמריקאים להט”בים ובעלי ברית, אנחנו יודעים מה זה כשקיצוניים אלימים מנסים  להרוג אותנו בגלל מי שאנחנו ומי שאנחנו אוהבים. יתרה מכך, אנו יודעים היטב מה זה שאנשים שסמכנו עליהם שישמיעו קול של אומץ ומוסר שותקים לנוכח ההרס שלנו. חיפשנו את ליבנו בשבועות האחרונים כאשר מלמולים של “זה מסובך”, נשמעו מסביבנו כאזעקה מוכרת מדי. למרבה הכאב, אפילו ראינו כאלה שמאשימים את היהודים באלימות שהם סבלו.

לא נשתוק.

רצח של חפים מפשע לעולם אינו מוצדק. למרות שאנו מכירים בכך שאנשים בעלי רצון טוב עשויים לחלוק על ממשלת ישראל הנבחרת, איננו נקראים לפתור את סוגיית האוטונומיה – למרות שאנו תומכים בה הן עבור ישראלים והן עבור פלסטינים. זה הכרחי לחלוטין שכלהט”בים וכאמריקאים בעלי ברית, נגנה באופן חד משמעי את ההתקפות האכזריות של חמאס.

אנו מבקשים מכם להצטרף אל אבלנו על כל החיים התמימים שאבדו, ועל בני הערובה שעדיין מוחזקים. ומבקשים מכם להצטרף אלינו לקריאה כי למדינת ישראל יש זכות קיום וכי לעם היהודי מגיעה מולדת שבה יוכל לחיות בחופשיות; ושאין עוד לנצל את העם הפלסטיני ומגיע לו שלטון עצמי לגיטימי באומה שלו.

להטב”קים ובני בריתם האמריקאים יודעים שכל קבוצה המוקדשת לשנאה היא איום קיומי על כל האנשים המודחים לשוליים. עמדו איתנו בצד הנכון של ההיסטוריה היום. עמדו איתנו למען צדק, הוגנות ושוויון לכל האנשים”.

Continue Reading

Middle East

Brother of Israeli hostage travels to US

Gili Roman says his sister supported him when he came out

Published

on

Gili Roman in Washington on Oct. 30, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — Gili Roman and his sister, Yarden Roman-Gat, have always been close.

“We are best friends,” Roman told the Washington Blade on Monday during an interview in Washington. “We understood each other without words, with words. We always stand for each other.”

Roman was 26 when he came out as gay to his parents. He told his sister several months later when they were on vacation in Vietnam. Roman said she was “very angry at me that I came out to our parents before I told her.” 

“She said, ‘I don’t believe you told me after our parents,'” recalled Roman. “With my parents it wasn’t easy, but with her it was super easy and she was super excited for me because she wanted me to have this open and happy life.”

Roman spoke with the Blade less than a month after Hamas militants kidnapped his sister.

Roman-Gat and her husband, Alon Gat, lived in Be’eri, a kibbutz that is near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, for four years. They and Gefen, their 3-year-old daughter, moved in September because of what Roman described as “all the safety issues, and the missile attacks.” 

“She wasn’t willing to tolerate that anymore,” said Roman.

‘For us it’s like a Holocaust story’

Roman-Gat, a physical therapist who works with elderly people and those with physical and mental health issues, and her family had just returned to Israel after a vacation in South Africa when they decided to spend the Simchat Torah holiday with Gat’s parents in Be’eri. They were in their home on Oct. 7 when Hamas launched its surprise attack.

Roman, 39, lives in Tel Aviv, which is roughly 50 miles north of Be’eri. He said air raid sirens woke him and his sister up at around 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 7.

“When it happens, usually we send a text message to find out that they’re also fine because for them, the time to get to the shelter is much shorter.” said Roman, noting people who live around Gaza have seconds to take shelter when militants launch a rocket. People who live in Tel Aviv have 90 seconds to seek refuge. “After the second missile alarm, I turned on the TV and understood that this is not the regular routine.”  

“We started to see terrorists infiltrating different towns around the kibbutz,” he added.

Roman in a series of text messages to his sister asked her if she had locked the door to the safe room to which she and her family had gone and whether anyone had a weapon. Roman-Gat texted her brother every 30 minutes in order to keep their family updated about what was happening. 

“She would text me either a heart or a small conversation,” recalled Roman.

Roman said he last heard from his sister at around 10 a.m. He told the Blade the “terrorists entered the house and took them” about 20 minutes later.

“At first I just thought that they lost connection,” said Roman. “We didn’t know exactly what happened.”

Roman, a member of the Israel Defense Force’s reserves, said he was preparing to deploy to the country’s border with Lebanon with his unit when he and his family “started to understand that something really bad was happening in Be’eri.” Roman-Gat’s father-in-law later told Roman he had been “separated from the rest of the family.”

“He was still in the house, and he saw all of his family members taken separately,” said Roman.

Roman told the Blade he received a video a few hours later that showed his sister’s mother-in-law and three of her neighbors “being taken through the street next to their house with a few terrorists surrounding them.” He said Israeli media reports incorrectly suggested the militants took them to the kibbutz’ dining hall and planned to negotiate their release.

Roman said Gat called him at around 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 8 and told him what had happened the previous day.

Media reports indicate four militants placed Roman-Gat, Gat, their daughter and two other Be’eri residents into a car. One of them had reportedly been placed into the trunk.

Roman-Gat and Gat jumped out of the car with their daughter as it approached Gaza. Roman said the militants began to run after them. He told the Blade they were shooting at them when his sister handed her daughter to her husband because he was able to run faster. 

Gat hid with his daughter for 18 hours before they reached IDF soldiers at Be’eri. He told Roman he last saw his wife hiding behind a tree to protect herself from the militants who were shooting at her.

“For us it’s like a Holocaust story,” said Roman. “It’s a horror story, the worst horror story that you can imagine … the evil of it, of running, chasing an innocent family with a family.”

Yarden Roman-Gat, left, with her daughter, Gefen, and her husband, Alon Gat. (Courtesy photo)

Roman told the Blade he put on his IDF uniform and drove to Be’eri on Oct. 8.

“Once you started to go to the South, it was like what you’ve seen in the movies: Battlefields, everything was on fire,” he recalled. “You saw bodies scattered along the along the road, and you saw the cars all scattered with bullets because people were killed while driving.”

Hamas militants were still around Be’eri when Roman arrived. He said two of them “tackled” them and “were shooting at us.”

“The officers had to get out of the car, kill them and get back,” said Roman. 

He said it took a couple of days for the IDF to clear the militants from the area. Search crews were then able to mount large scale searches for those who were killed or kidnapped.

Roman said his brother-in-law was able to find the tree behind which Roman-Gat had been hiding. He told the Blade the searchers determined the militants had once again captured her and brought her into Gaza because they found her bare footprint next to a shoe print. 

“They saw they didn’t go much farther from the tree,” said Roman. “They assume that somebody was carrying her.”

Roman said Hamas on Oct. 10 released a video that showed his sister’s mother-in-law and her three neighbors with whom she had been taken at the “end of the street in their own pool of blood.” Roman told the Blade that her husband and sons saw it on social media.

The militants also kidnapped Roman-Gat’s sister-in-law. Roman said the family believes that she too is now in Gaza.

Gat and his daughter are now living with Roman’s father at his home in Givatym, a city that is just outside of Tel Aviv.

Roman said his niece understands there were “bad people in front of their house, their safe place and took them and she was supposed to hide.” He also said she knows that he and his family are working to find her mother. 

“They were inseparable,” said Roman.

Yarden Roman-Gat, right, with her daughter, Gefen. (Courtesy photo)

Roman’s mother passed away 10 months ago. He said his niece was “very close to both of” her grandmothers. 

Roman told the Blade his sister’s father-in-law is “doing his best.” He said he visits his family in Givatym every day.

“He’s a refuge in his own country,” said Roman. “He lost his wife, and his daughter is kidnapped and his daughter-in-law is kidnapped. It is very, very tough on him.”

Roman, 39, is a teacher who was previously the principal of the Eastern Mediterranean International School near Tel Aviv.

The school’s mission is to make “education a force for peace and sustainability in the Middle East.” Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs are among the students.

Roman has been a member of the Nemos LGBTQ+ Swimming Club for the last five years.

The Jewish Federations of North America brought Roman and his cousin to the U.S. They will travel to New York before returning to Israel next week.

CNN’s Jake Tapper is among the other reporters with whom Roman has spoken about his sister, who is also a German citizen. Roman noted he celebrated her 36th birthday last month when he spoke at a pro-Israel rally in Berlin that more than 20,000 people attended.

“It was very powerful, but also very evident that she was not there,” he said.

Roman when he spoke with the Blade was wearing a black baseball hat that read “Bring Yarden home now.” He also had a dog tag around his neck that had the Star of David on it and “bring them home now” engraved in Hebrew.

Maya Roman and Gili Roman in D.C. on Oct. 30, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed since the war began. This figure includes at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in Re’im, a kibbutz that is a few miles away from Be’eri. Thousands of other Israelis have been injured and Roman-Gat is among the 240 people who militants from Hamas and other Muslim extremist groups kidnapped.

Hamas rockets have reached Beersheba, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ben Gurion Airport and other locations throughout central and southern Israel. Media reports indicate Hezbollah, which the U.S. and Israel have designated a terrorist organization alongside Hamas, has attacked IDF posts and launched rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel.

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 8,000 people and injured thousands of others in the enclave.

The Israeli government’s decision to cut electricity, water and food and fuel shipments to Gaza has made the humanitarian crisis in the territory even worse. The IDF’s ground incursion into the enclave began on Oct. 27.

Gazan authorities on Tuesday said an IDF airstrike in the Jabaliya refugee camp near Gaza City left hundreds of people dead or injured. The Associated Press reported the IDF said it killed a Hamas commander and dozens of other militants.

Calls for a ceasefire continue to grow louder around the world. Acts of antisemitism and Islamophobia have also increased in the U.S. and in other countries since Oct. 7. 

Roman specifically applauded the Biden-Harris administration and the German government for their response to the war. 

The White House illuminated in the colors of the Israeli flag on Oct. 9, 2023. (Photo courtesy of the White House)

He said he “understands” and “relates” to some of the criticisms against Israel. Roman also acknowledged the “liberal world” and the “progressive world” and the global LGBTQ+ community “is very divided” on the war.

“I understand why people are hurting because of the lives that are lost right now in Gaza,” he told the Blade. “It’s not easy for me as well. I probably know more Palestinians than the people here.”

Roman said Hamas has “done harm to the Palestinian cause.”

“What happened in the South is not a Palestinian story,” he told the Blade. “The Palestinian ambition for liberty and for self-independence is very legitimate, but the jihadistic ambition is completely illegitimate.”

“It’s not something that anyone should justify in any way,” added Roman. “It’s pure evil, the desire to murder anyone who is either not Muslim or supports the ambition to create a Muslim empire.”

Oct. 7 was ‘the biggest failure of the Israeli state’

Roman pointed out he did not vote for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and did not support the right-wing coalition government he formed late last year. Roman also noted he supported the protest movement against the proposed reforms to the country’s judicial system that activists said would harm LGBTQ+ Israelis.

LGBTQ+ and intersex activists participate in a protest against proposed reforms to Israel’s judiciary. (Photo courtesy of George Avni)

He described Oct. 7 as “the biggest failure of the Israeli state.” Roman also reiterated the constant threats of rockets from Gaza is the reason that his sister and her family moved away from Be’eri. 

“My sister wasn’t willing to accept it and I wasn’t going to accept it, but what can we do,” he said. “We are not government officials, but for years the world has accepted, Israel has accepted that we are consistently under fire, and this is how it let it happen.”

A bomb shelter in Sderot, Israel, on Nov. 21, 2016. The city, which is near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, is a few miles northeast of Kibbutz Be’eri. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Roman told the Blade it is going to “take a while to control Hamas” and for the IDF to have military and political control in Gaza. He also said Hamas has a lot of support in the West Bank.

“It’s not something that you are being done with like a month or two,” said Roman. “It’s very necessary, but it’s going to be extremely hard.”

Roman told the Blade he is most concerned about what will happen once the war ends. 

“There could be compromise with the Palestinians as a national entity, as a people, but there can be no compromise with the jihadists,” he said. “As long as they prevail and as long as they are in power and as long as they get so much support from the Palestinian people, you cannot even sit at the table and discuss. What can you discuss? They want you to be eliminated. There is no conversation.” 

“We need to get to the point where the Palestinians realize that those two missions cannot be together,” added Roman. “They cannot wish to eradicate us and also get independence alongside us.” 

He said Israelis also “need to get a lot of trust they didn’t have in the first place in the intentions and ambitions of the Palestinians and of the Arabs around us.”

Continue Reading

Middle East

Advocacy groups urge LGBTQ+ Americans to condemn Hamas attack against Israel

Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7

Published

on

Rockets launched from the Gaza Strip head towards Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. (YouTube screen caption)

NEW YORK — Five advocacy organizations on Friday launched a petition campaign that urges LGBTQ+ Americans to condemn Hamas’ attack against Israel on Oct. 7.

A Wider Bridge, One Community in Arizona, SAVE in South Florida, Equality California and Garden State Equality are behind the online “LGBTQ Americans Unite Against Hamas Terror” petition.

“We call for LGBTQ and allied Americans to stand with us on the right side of history: For justice, fairness and equality for all people,” reads a press release that announced the petition.

The petition text is below and a link to it is here:

On Oct. 7, 2023, the terrorist group Hamas launched an attack on the State of Israel and the Jewish people. This attack resulted in the brutal murders of over 1,400 Israelis — including Holocaust survivors and children — the kidnapping and hostage-taking of at least 200 more, and the tragic deaths of countless innocent Palestinians whose evacuation has been prevented by Hamas. 

Antisemitism, homophobia and transphobia travel together. As LGBTQ and Allied Americans, we know what it is like to have violent extremists attempt to target and kill us for who we are and who we love. Further, we know all too well what it is like to realize that people we had counted on to speak with a voice of moral courage are silent in the face of our destruction. We have searched our own hearts these last weeks when murmurs of, “it’s complicated,” have sounded an all too familiar alarm. Painfully, we have even seen some blame Jews for the violence they’ve suffered. 

We will not be silent.

The murder of any innocents is never justifiable. While we recognize that people of good will may disagree with the elected Israeli government, we are not called to solve the issue of sovereignty — although we support it for both Israelis and Palestinians. It is absolutely imperative that as LGBTQ and allied Americans, we unequivocally condemn the brutal attacks of Hamas. 

We ask you to join us now in our grief for all the innocent lives lost, and for the hostages still being held. We ask you to join us in our conviction that the State of Israel has a right to exist and reaffirm that the Jewish people deserve a homeland where they can live freely; and that the Palestinian people must no longer be exploited and deserve legitimate self-government in their own nation.  

LGBTQ and allied Americans know that any group dedicated to hate is an existential threat to all marginalized people. Stand with us on the right side of history today. Stand with us for justice, fairness, and equality for all people.

The Nahal Oz border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Nov. 21, 2016. Hamas militants on Oct. 7, 2023, overran Nahal Oz, a kibbutz near the border crossing, when the militant group launched a surprise attack against southern Israel from the Gaza. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Hamas, which the U.S. and Israel have designated a terrorist organization, on Oct. 7 launched a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.

More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed since the war began. This figure includes at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in Re’im, a kibbutz that is near the border between Israel and Gaza. Thousands of other Israelis have been injured and militants from Hamas and other groups kidnapped more than 200 others.

Hamas rockets have reached Beersheba, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ben Gurion Airport and other locations throughout central and southern Israel. Media reports indicate Hezbollah, which the U.S. and Israel have designated a terrorist organization, has attacked IDF posts and launched rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel.

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 7,000 people and injured thousands of others in the enclave.

The Israeli government’s decision to cut electricity, water and food and fuel shipments to Gaza has made the humanitarian crisis in the territory even worse. The IDF has told the 1.1 million people who live in northern Gaza to evacuate to the southern part of the enclave ahead of an expected ground incursion.

Continue Reading

Middle East

Activists in Jerusalem discuss war’s impact on LGBTQ+ community

Thousands have been killed since Oct. 7

Published

on

The Pride flag flies outside the offices of Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance in Jerusalem on Nov. 14, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

JERUSALEM — Two Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance staffers on Thursday spoke about the war between Israel and Hamas and its impact on LGBTQ+ people.

The organization, among other things, organizes Jerusalem’s annual Pride parade.

A Wider Bridge — “a movement of LGBTQ people and allies with a strong interest in and commitment to supporting Israel and its LGBTQ communities” — hosted the virtual forum. Andy Austin, who chairs the group’s board of directors, moderated it.

Continue Reading

Popular