Palestinians Should Embrace the LGBTQ Community to Better Face Occupation

Thursday 8 August 201901:39 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية

A 16-year-old Palestinian boy was stabbed by his two brothers in Tel Aviv because of his sexuality. Like many cases of violence in the Arab community of the 1948 Palestinians, the incident elicited little attention because it was an LGBTQ  attack. This time, Palestinian civil society organizations expressed their solidarity with the victim and strongly condemned the violence against non-conforming individuals of various sexual orientations, calling for a protest on August 1 in the city of Haifa.

What made the protest significant?

This vigil is the first of its kind for Palestinians, expressing an important statement by a sector of Palestinian activists who see personal freedoms, including gender issues, as an integral part of their struggle for collective freedom.

When Palestinians deal with issues that intersect with the occupation, racial discrimination, and persecution based on sexual and gender identity, they don’t just empower the feminist and LGBT movements in the battle to remove these structures of violence and racism, they also engage in these battles. This is the real change for which we must strive.

The details of the stabbing what it means to society

This violence against the LGBTQ community is not new but this is the first time it has taken this dangerous turn and is clearly directed towards someone because of their sexuality with a view to discourage homosexuality.

The peculiarity of this incident is further highlighted by the solidarity of Palestinian civil society at large and clearly signalling its refusal and condemnation of such hate crimes

In addition, some politicians have addressed the issue of gender-based violence against women and transsexuals and the need to confront it. For the first time, we are witnessing objective and responsible media coverage of the event and the participation of media professionals in an initiative launched by civil society, namely, promoting an awareness video that invites people to participate in the protest and explains the importance of combating violence against LGBTQ people.

The role of institutions active in achieving gender justice?

Civil society organizations that deal with gender and sexuality have the responsibility to lead debate on gender and sexuality issues and should be active in creating a liberal Palestinian society which embraces gender diversity and a plurality of sexual identities and fights against all forms of oppression, violence and discrimination.

These institutions aim to enable young activists to unite and challenge stereotypes and change them and present progressive rhetoric that strives for change as well as political and social justice.

The unfortunate incident highlights our responsibility to continue our educational and awareness activities and to strengthen partnerships between the institutions of our society. It also emphasizes the importance of highlighting the intersection of social and political struggles and linking them to fight all forms of repression and violence.

Why #Palestinian society must embrace LGBTQ people: A society capable of embracing the differences of its members and their freedoms is an interdependent society capable of confronting external aggression
"Our society must play a role in addressing the phenomenon of violence against its #LGBTQ members, providing them with protection. We cannot count on the Israeli authorities, which often impede #Palestinian initiatives that strive to curb these phenomena”

The incident shows the need to continue to provide support, support for our people to promote individual and collective rights, and create spaces and opportunities to discuss sexual and gender identities and move them from the margins to the centre of the agenda for social change.

We at "Aswat" - the Palestinian Feminist Center for Sexual and Gender Freedoms - commit ourselves to link struggles for sexual, feminist and national freedoms and to develop mechanisms to combat all forms of oppression in order to achieve freedom and justice for our Palestinian people.

Why would a gay Palestinian seek protection in Tel Aviv?

In an attempt to pinkwash its image by distorting the image of the Palestinian Arab, Israel fabricates lies and invent myths about "saving" Palestinians from their families and communities, offering them protection in Tel Aviv, the "oasis of liberties for homosexuals." Tel Aviv may be a paradise for the Israelis, but this is not the case for Palestinian homosexuals, and the stabbing case proves just that.

The weakened economies of Arab towns, combined with campaigns of ignorance and violence, under the auspices of Israel, make an LGBTQ shelter in these towns a seemingly impossible dream.

Under these circumstances, the only recourse for those who want shelter from attacks is in Israel, which they promote through  "pinkwashing" campaigns (presenting themselves as gay-friendly) and further pushing this image through the hasbara (a term used for public relations and propaganda to promote Israel).

What is the role of schools in education about pluralism and freedoms?

The Israeli Ministry of Education, which is responsible for all educational institutions, works to exclude Palestinian schools and associations from any project aimed at promoting tolerance and respect for diversity and pluralism on the subject of sexual orientation and gender identity in Arab schools.

As part of its policies, Israel hinders Arab schools' efforts to start training courses and study days on gender orientation and identity for professionals and service providers working in educational institutions. Israel also implements a series of discriminatory rules and procedures, most notably the unequal distribution of resources in favour of Israeli schools, institutions and associations at the expense of Palestinian schools and associations, especially in projects involving Palestinian citizens.

Why Palestinian society must embrace LGBTQ people

First of all, because everyone has the right to express their aspirations, orientation and dreams, and it is the duty of every society to guarantee this right. A society capable of embracing the differences of its members and their freedoms is an interdependent society capable of confronting external aggression.

Regardless of their sexual orientation, Palestinians are subjected to all forms of discrimination and gross human rights violations. The stabbing incident confirms that Tel Aviv does not present a solution or a so-called haven.

A safe haven should exist in a society capable of accommodating differences (at the very least, capable of renouncing violence). Here the oppressive police force and the institutions go after Palestinians simply for being Palestinian regardless of their gender or orientation.

As mentioned in the joint statement of our institutions on the matter: "Our society must play a role in addressing the phenomenon of violence against its homosexual and transgender members and provide them with protection. It is no secret that we cannot count on the Israeli authorities, which often impede the Palestinian community initiatives and efforts that strive to curb these phenomena. Shelters in Tel Aviv and elsewhere cannot provide full protection to all those who are threatened and, although important, only deal with one aspect of this multifaceted issue. Social gender-based violence is similar to other kinds of violence, they require being dealt with by society completely and from its roots.

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