LGBTory would like to congratulate Amir Ohana on his commitment to LGBT right's.
Out, right-wing — and in office: An Israeli lawmaker moves beyond identity politics
ISRAEL'S FIRST OPENLY GAY KNESSET MEMBER AMIR OHANA WITH ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU
A curious thing happened in Jerusalem late last month. Amir Ohana — a lawyer and father of two — was sworn in as Israel’s newest member of parliament. And guess what? Ohana’s gay and conservative and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-leaning Likud party.
He’s the first-ever openly gay legislator from Israel’s ruling bloc — the equivalent of a gay Republican entering Congress. And while he’s committed to LGBT rights, Ohana holds few of the “lefty” views typical of “minority” legislators in liberal democracies.
Instead, Ohana comes to the Knesset as a security-minded hawk who’s fed up with Fatah, opposes a two-state solution, thinks Israelis should have easier access to guns and believes Israel must remain a majority-Jewish nation. It’s tough — though not surprising — talk from a man who spent years as a military commander and member of Israel’s intelligence and security services.
But in this moment of extreme identity politics, Ohana’s unlikely success suggests that the era of single-issue politicking may finally — and refreshingly — be coming to an end.
“In the past, gay people were drawn to the left because there was no other option, but I believe we’ve finally matured as a community,” Ohana told The Post from Tel Aviv. “In Israel, LGBTs are now part of the military and business and political systems; we are everywhere. My party, the Likud, is Israel’s largest — and it’s natural that we are there, too.”
“Right” and “left” mean different things in Israel and in America. But the nations do share a tradition of expecting minority groups to immediately (and often illogically) blindly identify with . . . well . . . other minority groups.
In Israel’s case, the LGBT “establishment” has often been more aligned with pro-Arab causes than domestic concerns such as the economy and security. And conservative parties like Likud have typically shied away from progressive policies like LGBT rights.
But Ohana is helping to debunk and disrupt these types of monolithic thinking. “The left has traditionally held a monopoly on social issues here, and we want to break it,” he says.
As in America, Israel’s right wing “is viewed as ignorant and prejudiced and homophobic, and this is simply not true,” Ohana continues. “The Likud’s LGBT Caucus” — which Ohana co-founded — “is actually the largest gay political group in the entire nation.”
What’s truly pathbreaking about Ohana, then, is that he doesn’t allow his personal identity to dictate his partisan destiny. You can be openly gay, Ohana shows — in defiance of leftist orthodoxy — without allowing that minority status to totally define your politics.
Israeli progressives are confounded that an openly gay politico supports civil unions yet also opposes any withdrawal from the West Bank — which Ohana insists is more “Israeli” than the nation’s cultural and commercial capital, Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, ultra-Orthodox parliamentarians were so incensed by Ohana’s sexuality that they boycotted his Knesset swearing-in — though Netanyahu did make a surprise appearance.
Yet Ohana refuses to concede any part of himself simply to make others feel comfortable.
“I am here against all the odds. I am here with all of who I am and what I am, what I’ve chosen and what I haven’t,” Ohana declared as he was sworn in. “And I am proud of it all: Jewish, Israeli, Mizrahi, gay, Likudnik, a security hawk, a liberal and a man of the free market.”
Ohana unapologetically owns and embraces his supposed cultural contradictions. Here in the United States, such dualities would fall under the umbrella of “intersectionality” — the jargony, academic nonsense favored by the global left that boils down to the notion that “oppressive” systems always overlap, and can never be engaged with through the narrow lens of any individual identity.
But in refusing to allow his identities to define his politics (or potential), Ohana had traded defeatism for decision-making — or at least a seat at the table where Israel’s key decisions are made.
In a nation still lacking full marriage equality, Ohana’s prominence is, perhaps, the most significant example of the “mainstreaming” of LGBT Israelis. Indeed, Ohana’s success stands as a sharp refutation of what gays are supposed to believe — or who they’re supposed to be.
Back in his army days, Ohana says he never had a problem coming out as gay; though coming out as a conservative was far more challenging. Twenty years later, Ohana’s outlier activism has proven a smart move — and one that America’s identity warriors could learn from.
January 11, 2016 | 8:46pm
Source: New York Post
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