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{Written by Julie Lenarz and originally posted to the Tower Magazine website}

Today, two diametrically opposed world views clash in the Middle East. One carries the message of love, respect, and freedom. The other is the embodiment of hatred, intolerance, and tyranny.

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Tens of thousands of people flocked to the streets of Tel Aviv on Friday as Israel’s 20th annual Gay Pride Parade kicked off at noon. At least 250,000 revelers from across the world are expected to join the Middle East’s largest LGBT event – a rainbow-colored oasis of pluralism and equality in an otherwise fractured region defined by entrenched prejudices of “the other.”

However, just over a thousand miles away, a very different ideology is at play today. On the last Friday of Ramadan, ever since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranians gather in the streets across the country to mark Al-Quds Day – an Islamist hate fest dedicated to the annihilation of the Jewish State.

Jew-hatred, anti-Americanism, and an ideological orientation against the concept of a liberal democracy bring together the who’s who of reactionism. Religious zealots, violent nationalists, and anti-imperialist forces export the ideology of Khomeinism far beyond Iran’s borders to London, Berlin, and other cities worldwide, where people openly and proudly wave the flags of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Year after year on Al-Quds Day, protesters chant messages of hate coined by the Iranian regime and its spiritual leaders. Flags are burnt, terrorist are glorified, and slogans like “Death to Israel,” “Death to America,” are displayed on massive banners.

The contrast between freedom and tyranny couldn’t be more striking. Feather boas in Tel Aviv. Assault rifles in Tehran.

At the Gay Pride Parade in Israel, there’s room for everyone. You see the young joining the old. Locals and foreigners. Straight people standing with gay men or transsexual women. Gender Fluids meet couples with children. Secularists mix with the devout. Dozens of ethnicities and nationalities bound together by mutual respect, and love for life.

In the Middle East, being born in Israel or somewhere else in the region can literally mean the difference between life and death. Israel has signed the UN’s Gay Rights Protection Resolution and recognizes a domestic partnership of same-sex couples. Lesbians can join the IDF. Gays can sit in parliament. Transsexuals turn into pop stars.

The LGBT community enjoy these rights nowhere else in the Middle East. In fact, in every other country, homosexuality either is a crime punishable by death (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen) or carries long jail sentences (Gaza, West Bank, Syria, Egypt, Qatar etc.). Homosexuals also are at risks of violence, torture, and “honor killings” by militias or even their own families.

Iran is one of the worst places in the world to be homosexual. The LGBT community in the country lives in perpetual fear – hiding their true self like an ugly rash – to escape hanging from cranes in public squares. Examples are many. In July 2016, the Iranian regime hanged a 19-year-old juvenile for engaging in sexual activity with another man. Human rights groups estimate that between 4,000 and 6,000 gay men and lesbians have been executed in Iran for crimes related to their sexual preference since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Israel has created a welcoming and safe space for LGBT people, and yet the “pinkwashing” crowd – which claims that Israel’s LGBT record is merely a smokescreen for its alleged human rights abuses – is relentlessly vilifying the country in the Middle East with real rights for the LGBT community.

The main group opposing the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv is the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which remains silent about regimes and actors that kill gay people – including the mullahs in Iran and Hamas in Gaza – and instead condemns the only safe haven in the region that rescues and protects the LGBT community to serve its own destructive political agenda.

“Palestine,” they insist, “is a queer issue.” But the hanging of LGBT people in Iran isn’t? The stoning of homosexuals by terrorist groups such as ISIS is irrelevant? The execution of gay men by Hamas is not worth a mention? Is this supposed to be a sick joke?

The choice is clear: you can join the vibrant, joyful, and inclusive crowds on the streets of Tel Aviv. Or you can speak the language of violence disseminated by the mullahs in Iran and their supporters. The truth is, that Israel’s “pinkwashing” critics are the real “pinkwashers,” ignoring the horrors committed against LGBT communities in the Middle East to pursue their obsessive hatred against Israel, and ultimately the destruction of the Jewish State.

Don’t let them get away with it.

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