rule #1 to peacemaking: do not sexualize soldiers

May 5, 2007

OK I get it, it’s tongue in cheek, I should stop being so serious all the time. Laugh! But I can’t. Because when websites like Mideast Piece try to be funny, they only make me shake my head in disgust. Mideast Piece, whose tagline is ‘Uniting Gay Men for Peace,” is all about “GLBTQ community-building and human rights.” Most interesting is seeing it described in the G-rated Israel-news site Israel21c:

Matt Lebow and John Leonard wanted to do something different. Fed up with traditional gay Internet sites that offered only crude and X-rated material, the Israel-based students decided to create a new web site that would combine their fervid interest in the region’s handsome men with a bit of culture, a dash of political activism and human rights, and most of all peaceful dialogue with other gays throughout the Arab world.

Firstly, both of these men are Americans, one is Jewish, neither are Arab. Perhaps not the best candidates to start a blog to unite gay Middle-Easterners. Their tongue-in-cheek mission statement of the website gets under my skin the most. After describing the beautiful, tanned men of the Middle East and explaining that the world better start caring about preserving them and preventing them from killing each other, they move on to the “values” of the site. If you were a Palestinian gay man, wouldn’t you want to read and contribute to a blog like this? Value #1:

• Soldiers are hot. They should not be killed in war. They should be trained – strenuously – and put on display for all to lust after. That’s Mideast Piece.

Oh boy, where do I even begin. How about “They should not be killed in war. They should also not kill in war. Or out of war. No one should kill. At all. We should not be fetishizing an image that valorizes and sexualizes uniforms, weapons, wars, and military might. This will contribute to more MIDEAST PEACE than any website fetishizing “that most sacred and bronzed of species, the Middle Eastern man.” Dear god. Onward, values #2, #3, and #4:

• Gay men and their supporters face similar challenges all over the world. Mideast Piece is where a shared dialog can provide solutions, mutual support, and hope to gay men of the region – plus tips on where to get a great body wax.

• Gay Jewish Israelis and neighboring gay Arabs have more in common than, say, a gay New York City Jew and a homophobic Salt Lake City Mormon in the US. We must focus on what unites us, instead of what divides us, i.e., a great ass, nice arms, killer smile, etc.

• Young gay men of Israeli Jewish background and young gay men of Palestinian Muslim background should get to work, which is what Mideast Piece represents. They must educate all gay – and curious – Middle Eastern men and their allies to make Mideast Piece, not war.

Actually, contrary to what white gay men from the West might think, not all gay men share the same life experience. What usually happens in these situations is that the voices of actual gay men from the Middle East get erased. The blog editors admit that they are having a hard time getting Muslim contributors. However, they attribute this only to the oppressive situation of gays in Muslim countries, not to the fact that perhaps those gay men might be turned off by who started the site, what assumptions are made (the masses agree: soldiers are hott), and to whom the site is directed. This blog receives thousands of hits a month. It is clearly a popular site. I just wonder if it’s more for the pictures of fetishized man candy or than the unity and dialogue. What are we really trying to accomplish here? Why does the mission statement of “GLBTQ dialogue and human rights” seem so far off from the content of the actual blog? And why are Jewish men posting about Islamic history? Say what?

The one thing I will commend them for is not even attempting to include lesbians in this blog, save for the requisite L in GLBTQ. At least the rule of “I am not X, I am Y, therefore I should not claim to speak for X but only for Y” applied for gender, if not for race, nationality, and religion. I await a diversity of voices on this website, but I’m not holding my breath. I could imagine the possibility that some gay Muslims would probably look at the politics of this blog with a tremendous amount of suspicion.



  1. all i can think of is Yosi in Bil’in telling the soldier who has arrested him: “come on, is that the best you can do?” as they tighten his handcuffs. And then, as they hit him, “oh, that was hot, harder” that’s the way to make peace and sexualize soldiers at the same time I say

  2. That’s quite a BDSM scene you just described. If only it were at a play party and not in Bil’in.

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