Dramatis Personnae (with dialogue)
Eli Yishai [Shas leader]: “They are sick people”
Shlomo Benziri [former minister, in prison uniform]: “In the past they used to be stoned”
Nissim Zeev: “They will come back as hares and rabbits”
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Ahmadinejad: “We no longer have that phenomenon”
This is a cartoon by Haaretz’s Amos Biderman which takes on the ugly homophobia and incitement by Israel’s Sephardi religious party, Shas, in light of the anti-gay massacre in Tel Aviv yesterday. Eli Yishai, the Party’s current leader and current government minister has, in the past, called homosexuality a disease. The Party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Yosef (at whose “table” they all sit), has blamed all manner of national catastrophe on gays. Shlomo Benziri (in prison pinstripes) is a former Party leader convicted of bribery and serving a four year jail term.
The crowning irony of this graphic is that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad joins his fellow religious fundamentalists in fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of homosexuality. Though Iran and Israel may be on a collision course, Biderman is telling us that “their” crazies and ours aren’t so different.
After John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Malcolm X said it was a case of the chickens of coming home to roost. That is, that the very violence that Kennedy had not done enough to avert in the case of American Blacks eventually took his own life. In the case of Shas, just as in the case of the extremist settlers who likened Rabin to a Nazi and called for his death (and got their wish), so the chickens of incitement have come home to roost. In politics, words matter even though so many of them are empty lies. And in this case, some Israeli nutcase very well may have taken to heart the preaching of Shas and similar religious ranters.
In many societies crimes against gays and prostitutes are hardest to solve because the police have a natural antipathy to the victims and also don’t understand the social milieu in which they live. I only hope that the fact that the killer is still at large is not an indication of this in the case in the Tel Aviv massacre.
Yossi Sarid has written an especially powerful denunciation of Israeli homophobia in Haaretz. One interesting sidebar of his column is his attack upon an Israeli government plan to use Iran’s intolerance of homosexuals in order to besmirch that nation in the world’s eyes:
I…recently read…that Israel will escalate its public relations campaign against Iran. Our foreign ministry plans to enlist the gay and lesbian community worldwide to expose the persecution of homosexuals led by the ayatollahs and their people. We should hope that this campaign is being undertaken with the blessing of the entire coalition, some of whose members have characterized homosexuals as “deviants who should be put to death.”
The anti-Iranian campaign has now been short-circuited and poured down the drain.
H/t to Sol Salbe.