Ottawa
2 min

Sleeping with the enemy

Be careful who you get in bed with

There’s a political saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I’m not so sure it works, at least not for gay folks trying to make sense of the world.

There’s a war in the Middle East. Some are just calling it a crisis, but when two sides are dropping bombs on each other over and over, it’s a war. Israel says it’s defending itself from Hezbollah aggression. Hezbollah says it’s defending itself from Israeli aggression. And most Canadians think that we should be neutral between them.

I have a hard time with this idea of neutrality, for a lot of reasons. Hezbollah is a terrorist, jihadist organization dedicated to the eradication of Israel. But let’s just leave that aside for the moment. It also doesn’t like gay folks. As Terek Fatah, the outgoing communications director of the Muslim Canadian Congress said of Hezbollah when discussing his reasons for resigning, “I cannot walk with, cannot even build a coalition with, a group which thinks gays and lesbians should be killed.”

The Middle East is not a particularly gay-friendly place. In most countries, sodomy is still illegal. In Saudi Arabia and Iran it is punishable by death. Ironically, Lebanon, now being bombed, is among the most gay-friendly, with an active gay political and cultural scene. But that is not the Lebanon that Hezbollah has in mind if and when it gets its way.

Israel is a democratic state, which abolished its sodomy laws in 1988 and which has a thriving, if controversial, gay political culture.

The question of whether Israel’s actions in this war are warranted, and the impact on the people of Lebanon, is a point on which reasonable people– gay or straight–can and do disagree.

But let’s remember that Hezbollah is a group that wants to kill Jews and gay people. (Though bombing them in civilian areas will breed the next generation of extremists, who among other things, won’t like Jews or gay people very much.)

Regardless of whether one supports Israel, one needs to be against Hezbollah.

But here’s where it starts to get weird. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is for Israel and against Hezbollah. That unequivocal support has been enough to send some lifetime Liberals, like Heather Reisman and hubby Gerry Schwartz, into his arms. Others may follow suit. The enemy (Harper) of her enemy (Hezbollah) has become her friend.

Gay folks can’t–and shouldn’t–make this jump.

This is the same Stephen Harper who refused to attend the International AIDS conference. It’s just too gay for him. Forget the fact that the disease is decimating an entire continent, and that it actually has no sexual orientation–he’s not interested. I guess it just reminds him too much of those gay people, who are always trying to get married and stuff, a right which he wants to revoke. Harper wants to promote traditional heterosexual families and protect children from the perils of homosexuality.

It turns out that the enemy of my enemy is not actually my friend. Not even a little. Because the one thing that the enemies can agree on is a hatred of gay folks.

So, where do we find allies or cast our votes given a complicated set of commitments? Pro-gay and anti-terrorist. Supportive of the right of Israel to defend itself and sympathetic to the plight of Lebanese civilians.

How does it all add up? The problem is that it doesn’t. There are no easy answers, no clear place to stand. Anyone who offers a simple solution is, well, probably just wrong. Read about it. Think about it. Talk about it. Be prepared to live with the frustration of conflicting political values.

And definitely don’t pick your friends based on their relationship with your enemies. Because it turns out, they may not like us either.