Israel likes fake ‘gay activists’ — doesn’t welcome real gay immigrants

How do you spot an Israeli who’s pretending to support Palestinians? He expresses no sympathy with Palestinians — that’s a clue.

The New York Times reports:

A YouTube video featuring a man who presented himself as an American gay rights activist disillusioned with the latest Gaza flotilla campaign has been exposed as a hoax.

The man in the video, who introduced himself to viewers as Marc and claimed that the organizers of the latest flotilla of ships bound for Gaza had rejected his offer to mobilize a network of gay activists in support of their cause, was identified as Omer Gershon, a Tel Aviv actor involved in marketing, by the Electronic Intifada, a pro-Palestinian Web site.

As my colleague Ethan Bronner explains, pro-Palestinian activists, including the prominent American author Alice Walker, are planning to sail a flotilla of small ships from European ports toward Gaza to protest Israel’s naval blockade of the Palestinian territory.

Just hours after the supposedly homemade video was uploaded to YouTube on Thursday, Benjamin Doherty of the Electronic Intifada pointed out that it had suspiciously high production values — most obviously, lights and what is known as B-roll — and was attributed to an activist calling himself Marc Pax, who seemed to have no other online presence.

While it remains unclear who produced the video, and Mr. Gershon has not responded to a request for comment, bloggers were quick to point out that people in three different Israeli government offices promoted it on Twitter soon after it was posted online.

As the blogger Max Blumenthal reported on Friday, one of the first people to draw attention to the video was Guy Seemann, who is an intern in the office of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.

The same day, the Israeli government’s press office advised its Twitter followers to watch the video and follow Mr. Seemann’s feed.

Seeman has subsequently deleted his entire Twitter feed and refuses to reveal the identity of the “friend” who he claims informed him about the video.

Haaretz sent the prime minister’s office a series of questions inquiring whether the office was involved in the production of the video in any way. The premier’s office in response did not deny that that the government was involved in the video’s production, and admitted that government bodies had distributed the link.

“Various bodies dealing with international media campaigns continuously monitor and distribute internet content when they recognize content that can serve Israel’s campaigns,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

Omer Gershon was not available for comment on his Facebook account or on the phone.

Meanwhile, although the flotilla does actually include gay participants, Israeli gay hasbara sometimes clashes with reality.

The Interior Ministry is refusing citizenship and new immigrant status to a homosexual married to a Jewish new immigrant, despite the law’s stipulation that the child, grandchild and partner of a Jew are entitled to Jewish immigrant rights.

Joshua Goldberg and Bayardo Alvarez, both American citizens, immigrated to Israel two weeks ago. Goldberg, who is Jewish, received an Israeli identity card and immigrant certificate on arrival, under the Law of Return. Alvarez, despite exerting much pressure on the ministry, was granted only temporary residence.

The Law of Return stipulates: “A Jew’s rights and an immigrant’s rights … are also imparted to the child, grandchild and partner of a Jew, except in the case of a Jew who willingly converted to another religion.”

Attorney Nicky Maor, director of the Legal Aid Center for Olim, says if the couple were a man and woman, there is no doubt they would both have received Israeli citizenship.

“The only reason the Interior Ministry doesn’t know how to handle it is that they’re gay,” Maor said. “The Law of Return says ‘partner,’ not husband and wife. There is no definition preventing recognition of same-sex partners.”

Goldberg and Alvarez, from Baltimore, Maryland, have been living together for 11 years. At the end of 2007, they were married in Canada, where same-sex marriages have been legalized, even for non-Canadians. They started immigration procedures about six months ago, with the help of the Israel Religious Action Committee.

In 2006, the High Court of Justice instructed the Interior Ministry to register same-sex marriages of couples who were married outside Israel in the Population Registry. In the wake of this ruling, the Interior Ministry registered Goldberg and Alvarez as married when they came to Israel. But despite the implications, the ministry refused to give Alvarez citizenship and an immigrant’s certificate.

“We demanded an immigrant’s status for Alvarez before Passover,” says Maor. “Since then they’ve promised they are discussing it on all levels, and say they must discuss it with the State Prosecution department and formulate a stand.”

The ministry knows that if it refuses, the issue will be brought to the High Court of Justice. “They want the prosecution’s backing. They say this is holding things up,” Maor says.

Goldberg, 40, a publicist and PR agent, and Alvarez, 33, a flower arranger for weddings and events, both work as waiters in an Eilat hotel and are looking for work and housing in the central region.

Alvarez was granted temporary residence after the couple had been summoned six times to the Interior Ministry branch in Eilat, where they say they were treated in a hostile, humiliating way by the clerk. Goldberg claims it was clear they were looking for excuses not to grant him residence.

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