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As the UN votes to allow gays to be executed, silence prevails

November 28, 2010 – 7:31 pm86 Comments

A 2008 protest in Paris against the execution of gays in Asia and Africa

By Anthony Frosh

Currently in Australia we are witnessing a much-publicised debate concerning the establishment of gay civil marriage.  I use the term ‘debate’ liberally since I am yet to hear any good arguments against it.  Within the Jewish community, as a regular Galus reader would know, we have also seen considerable discussion of late concerning how Jewish institutions relate to gay members of Jewish community and to what extent halacha could accommodate same-sex relationships.

As important as these issues are to our local community, we should recognise that in other places in the world, the struggle for gay rights has far higher stakes.  In a disturbingly large number of countries, being gay can result in long-term imprisonment and even the death sentence.

In what is arguably a new low for an organization already coming off an extremely low base, less than fortnight ago a UN General Assembly committee voted for an amendment to delete from a resolution a reference condemning executions of people due to sexual orientation.  For more details, and to see which countries supported this appalling amendment, read Thor Halvorssen’s article in the Huffington Post. As Jews of the antipodes, we can be proud (to the extent that one can take pride in not being absolutely disgraceful) that both Australia and Israel (the only country in the Middle East to do so) voted against this ghastly amendment.

In a country having its own ‘gay debate’, one might have thought that such a shocking turn of events would have attracted widespread media coverage.  However, while every mainstream media outlet was offering full coverage of the engagement of Prince William, the UN voting to allow gays to be executed did not rate a mention.

So even if both our commercial and public media outlets were letting us down, surely our earnest local leftist activists (the type that are so obsessed with vilifying and carrying out a boycott of Israel) would come to the rescue. Perhaps they just hadn’t heard of the story, since it received such little media coverage in this country.  Thus I thought it was my duty to bring the story to the attention of some BDS campaigners, to see if they might be able to summon the same energy to help stop gays being executed throughout the Middle East and Africa as they have put into their fight against all things deemed Zionist.

Unfortunately, these hopes were quickly shot down. Mostly I was just ignored – clearly these activists were not interested in this issue.  One so called peace activist responded by implying that I should be more concerned about extra-judicial killings carried out by the IDF.  I was stunned that he would equate the act of killing suicide bombers before they detonate with the act of killing people due to their sexual orientation.

A second more rabid anti-Israel activist gave me an even more bizarre response.  She actually blamed homophobia in the Islamic world on the Jews, claiming that Islam was merely carrying on the tradition of Judaism.  She also then blamed me as a Jewish individual for the contents of Leviticus.

In this world of moral relativism, it seems that what it is that ought to be the real fundamental universal human rights often gets lost.  No matter what our background, we should all be able to agree that no one should be imprisoned or executed merely because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation.  That seventy-nine nations voted for an amendment to allow the execution of sexual minorities, and a further seventeen abstained, should seriously alarm all of us, not least self-styled human rights activists.

Thankfully, there are still some human rights organizations that have not lost their moral compass.  A good example of this is the blandly named Human Rights Foundation, founded by the aforementioned Thor Halvorssen. Halvorssen recognised that many existing organizations have “redefined human rights in such a way as to weaken the concept” and thus he founded an organisation to focus on the core principle of freedom from tyranny.  The prolific Halvorssen also founded the Oslo Freedom Forum, an institution that appears to also share this clarity of vision. Let’s hope that other human rights activists and organizations follow the lead of people like Halvorssen by returning to the struggle for some of the most essential human rights.

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