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New York Times: Lebanon Is Only Possible Exception in LGBT Intolerant Region


For 3:00 pm EST Update Scroll to End of Article: CAMERA Prompts Correction
 
The New York Times finishes off the year with another low in its Middle East coverage, with a feature yesterday (and in print today) which argues that if there is "one  exception" in a region intolerant towards gay, lesbian and transgender people, it is Lebanon ("Coming Out in Lebanon"). The "Paper of Record" completely ignores Israel, the only Middle Eastern country in which consensual sexual activity between individuals of the same sex is legal, according to the World Economic Forum, and in which the LGBT population enjoys rights far exceeding those in neighboring countries.
 
The online subheadline is: "Openly gay, lesbian and transgender people face persecution across the Middle East. The exception may be in Lebanon, which has slowly grown more tolerant thanks to the work of activists."
 
 
The article by Laura Boushnak and Mona Boshnaq, which is accompanied by numerous photographs of Lebanese lesbian, gay and transgender activists, repeats the false claim that Lebanon is the only possible exception to the persecution that these populations face "[t]hroughout the Middle East." At no point does the article even mention Israel. It reports:

Throughout the Middle East, gay, lesbian and transgender people face formidable obstacles to living a life of openness and acceptance in conservative societies.

Although Jordan decriminalized same-sex behavior in 1951, the gay community remains marginalized. Qatar, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen all outlaw same-sex relations. In Saudi Arabia, homosexuality can be punished by flogging or death.

In Egypt, at least 76 people have been arrested in a crackdown since September, when a fan waved a rainbow flag during a concert by Mashrou’ Leila, a Lebanese band with an openly gay singer.

If there is one exception, it has been Lebanon. While the law can still penalize homosexual acts, Lebanese society has slowly grown more tolerant as activists have worked for more rights and visibility.
On what possible basis can The New York Times single out Lebanon as the only tolerant country for gays, lesbians and transgenders, while ignoring Israel, where the situation for this population is far superior on all counts?
 
Tel Aviv has been recognized as the best city in the world for gays, and the city boasts an annual gay pride parade which attracts tens of thousands of tourists from around the world. In contrast, Lebanon this year marked its first gay pride week, but there was no parade through the streets. Gays have openly served in Israel's military since 1993, and transgender soldiers are also welcome in the Israel Defense Forces. A Pew Survey unsurprisingly found that Israeli society is the most tolerant towards homosexuality in the Middle East. Forty percent of Israelis surveyed believe society should accept homosexuality; 47 percent disagree. In comparison, just 18 percent of Lebanese surveyed believe that society should accept homosexuality, and 80 percent of Lebanese opposed the acceptance of homosexuality.
 
Israel ranks an impressive seventh on the Gay Happiness Index. Lebanon ranks a dismal 99, coming behind Turkey.
 
As CAMERA's Alex Safian reported last year, in Lebanon there is a law on the books (which The Times article does mention), Article 534 of Lebanon's Penal Code, which prohibits "any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature," which has long been interpreted and used to outlaw homosexual relations While at least one Lebanese judge has recently ruled in a case that the law should not be understood in that manner, the law is still on the books and has since been used by other judges in Lebanon. There is no such law on the books in Israel.
 
About the situation for Lebanon's gay, lesbian and transgender citizens, Human Rights Watch's 2017 World Report stated:
Sexual relations outside of marriage—adultery and fornication—are criminalized under Lebanon’s penal code. Furthermore, article 534 of the penal code punishes “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature” with up to one year in prison. In recent years, authorities conducted raids to arrest persons allegedly involved in same-sex conduct, some of whom were subjected to torture including forced anal examinations.
In February, a Syrian refugee, arrested by Lebanese Military Intelligence officers apparently on suspicion he was gay, was allegedly tortured while detained at Military Intelligence, Ministry of Defense, Military Police, and Jounieh police centers.
(Human Rights Watch is hardly friendly to Israel. Yet, its report did not publish anything critical about the country's policies with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity. The report's "Israel/Palestine" section only related to Palestinian discriminatory and oppressive policies.)
 
In addition, according to Gay Star News ("Lebanon anti-LGBTI discrimination event banned after threats from religious figures," May 16, 2017):

A Lebanon event to fight against LGBTI discrimination was canceled after threats from religious figures.

Proud Lebanon wished to host a International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) event, attended by journalists, artists and doctors.

However, organizers said they had to cancel the event due to security issues.

‘The Association of Muslim Scholars threatened to hold protests in front of the hotel, which finally cancelled the event,’  said Proud Lebanon director Bertho Makso.

 
The New York Times promises holiday readers facts "in abundance all year" and urges them to "[g]ive the gift of understanding, with on the ground reporting from more than 140 countries." These adds appear in this article identifying Lebanon as "the one exception" to Middle Eastern intolerance towards gay, lesbian and transgender people. Once again, The New York Times has failed its readers both in terms of facts and understanding. 
 
 
With research by Adam Levick
 
Update, 3 pm EST: CAMERA Prompts Correction
 
In response to communication from CAMERA, The New York Times has amended both the subheadline and the article, which now accurately identify Lebanon as possibly the one exception in the Arab world, as opposed to the Middle East.
 
In addition, editors commendably appended to the following correction to the bottom of the article:
An earlier version of this article misstated the exceptionality of Lebanon in the Middle East. While Lebanon is an exception in the Arab world, it is not an exception in the Middle East; in Israel, gay, bisexual and transgender people have widespread rights and freedoms.
For additional, New York Times corrections prompted by CAMERA, please see here.
 
Jan. 3 Update: Times Publishes Correction in Today's Print Edition
 
The Times published the following correction in today's print edition (page 12):
 


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