Lesbians and students, Israelis and Palestinians

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Two issues this week, one local and one from the LGBT community’s own wacky fringe.

First, let’s talk students, actually scholarships. There are two local LGBT scholarship funds in Philadelphia, the Jonathan Lax scholarship fund, which funds gay men, and the Sally Tyre scholarship fund, which funds lesbians.

Sally Tyre worked tirelessly to support gay women in Philadelphia, first as an ad rep at PGN, then as a partner in a club where she created an atmosphere that allowed women to be themselves and excel in their community. Until recently, the Tyre fund had been dormant, but Irene Benedetti has breathed new life into it. With a new board and new enthusiasm, they intend to grow the fund. Their first event will be a benefit at Sisters in March. Your support is an investment in the youth of our community.

Now for the wacky LGBT idea of the week: A queer activist group has suggested a boycott of the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival in June. There are so many points here it’s hard to decide where to start, but why would an LGBT organization boycott another LGBT organization in the only gay-friendly country in the Middle East? This is as crazy as those who wanted to boycott another gay-friendly film festival, Sundance. But let’s look more closely at this suggestion.

On full disclosure: I’ve been to Israel and traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, writing a series for the gay press from Beirut, Lebanon. I’ve also been a member of Peace Now, an organization that believes that Israel deserves to live in peace and the only way that can occur is to support the formation of a Palestinian state.

If anyone took the idea of boycotting the Tel Aviv LGBT film festival seriously it would put sexual minorities in the corner of the Palestinians — against the Israelis. Let’s compare. Israel, unlike the U.S., has gays in the military. Israel has limited domestic-partner rights, LGBT adoptions and common-law marriage for LGBT couples. Same-sex marriages performed in other countries are recognized, LGBT people have been elected to various Israeli government posts and some Israeli cities fund LGBT organizations.

As for the Palestinian Authority, Hezbullah, Hamas and all other countries in the Middle East, none provide rights for the LGBT community. Some states have been known to imprison and execute members of our community. The reality is that many LGBT Palestinians travel to live in Israel to escape the oppression of their families.

Putting all that aside, haven’t we in the U.S. learned by now that it is arrogant for us to be the international morality police?

Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He can be reached at [email protected].