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Israel stands out in the Middle East region for its liberal LGBT laws; as such, supporting Israel should be a priority for those advocating for LGBT rights. However, when I made this point on social media a few days ago – as someone who also considers themselves part of the ‘LBGT’ umbrella – little did I know that I would end up receiving a barrage of hateful messages and abuse from pro-Palestine activists.

Their reason? The Eurovision Song Contest.

Over 450 queer artists, individuals and organisations have urged Olly Alexander, the UK’s Eurovision contestant, to boycott this year’s competition in a show of solidarity with Palestine. Signatories of an open letter, including Maxine Peake and Sarah Schulman, have called on the singer to withdraw from the May contest due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The letter, shared on Instagram by the account ‘Queers for Palestine,’ urges Alexander to heed the Palestinian call for withdrawal from Eurovision, citing concerns over a state allegedly involved in apartheid and genocide.

In truth, the rights and wellbeing of the Palestinian people rightly demands international attention. However, conflating this with Israel’s participation in Eurovision is misguided and counterproductive.

First and foremost, let us address the elephant in the room: Hamas. As a terrorist organisation, Hamas has a long history of violence and oppression. It openly advocates for the destruction of Israel and routinely targets innocent civilians, particularly members of the LGBT community. So forgive me if I refuse to bow down to the demands of an organisation that actively seeks to erase people like me from existence.

Now, let us talk about Israel. Contrary to the narrative pushed by activist groups, Israel is a beacon of hope and progress in the Middle East when it comes to LGBT rights. In a region where homosexuality is often punishable by death, Israel stands as a shining example of tolerance and acceptance.

In Israel, LGBT individuals are protected by anti-discrimination laws, have the right to serve openly in the military and can legally adopt children. Tel Aviv, the country’s vibrant cultural hub, hosts one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world, attracting thousands of people from across the globe. This is not tokenism; this is real, tangible progress. Nonetheless, it is Israel that the aforementioned Queers for Palestine want to boycott.

Why should Israel be punished for its commitment to equality? Should LGBT individuals in Israel be denied the opportunity to participate in Eurovision because of a war they have no control over? The answer is simple: they should not.

I refuse to be silenced by hate. I refuse to let a vocal minority dictate what I can and cannot say. And, most importantly, I refuse to turn my back on a country that has done more for the LGBT community than their neighbours.

To my fellow LGBT individuals: do not let anyone tell you who you can and cannot support. Our community is built on love and acceptance, not division and hatred. So, stand tall, speak out and never apologise for defending what you believe in. Israel, I stand with you. And I always will.

Isabella Wallersteiner is an Associate Fellow at Bright Blue.

Views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Bright Blue.

[Image: Author]