The 2015 Tel Aviv pride parade. (U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)

Palestinian LGBT Community Under Attack

Police threaten summer camp planned for young gays

A social media firestorm has been ignited in the West Bank in reaction to a call by Al-Qaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society to hold a camp for the LGBT community at the end of August.

“I, My Nationalities and Society” would have been the name of the camp, designed to provide a space for young Palestinian men and women of different sexual and gender orientations to and explore aspects of their relationship with society.

While many Palestinians have been critical of the activities of Al-Qaws, others have rejected the way the organization has been attacked, which has included calls to “burn participants.”

“What is happening is extremely wrong. What happened to personal freedom?,” a gay Palestinian told The Media Line on condition of anonymity. He said that “nobody has the right to interfere in other people’s lives and personal space.

“They can’t kill us for practicing our right of self-determination. In Arab societies, gay people are being killed and tortured. That is extremely shameful,” he said.

Another person from the Palestinian LGBT community told The Media Line that the reaction to the camp made him “feel unsafe and upset. The feeling of insecurity and threat is controlling me. It’s not fair. They can live the way they want and allow us to be.”

He said many gay people are leaving Arab countries because of the discrimination they face. “Life has changed and developed, but our societies haven’t. Even the government is against us. They arrest gay people and investigate them.”

Louay Arziqat, spokesperson for the Palestinian police, posted a statement, which was later deleted, saying authorities would prevent Al-Qaws from operating in the West Bank.

“Such activities are a blow to the ideals and values ​​of the Palestinian society that have preserved them throughout history,” the statement said.  “There are suspicious parties that are trying to create sedition and prejudice the civil peace of the Palestinian society.”

The statement added that “the police will not allow the disenfranchisement of citizens, and will work to prosecute those in charge of the gathering, and be brought to the judicial authorities upon arrest.”

While some applauded the police statement, others condemned it.

Jalal, a Palestinian resident of Ramallah, who asked The Media Line not to publish his last name, said, referring to the LGBT community, that it’s “extremely annoying to see the police target a miserable and outcast and isolated part of society, while it ignores the many cases of crime, violence and corruption within Palestinian society.

“The police are focusing on the least important matters,” Jalal continued. “They put the lives of gay people in danger as they act irresponsibly by publishing a statement that provokes citizens against gay people.”

Amneh, a Palestinian living in the West Bank, who likewise did not want his family name published, told The Media Line that he believed “what the LGBT community is doing is against human values and life. All religions reject what they do, which conflicts with the human body health rules. They hurt our feelings with what they do.”

Al-Qaws issued an official statement criticizing the crackdown. It noted the “unprecedented attack” against it, including “threats of violence, prosecution and promotion of lies” about the organization.

Al-Qaws took issue with the police statement’s accusation that it is “a suspicious entity working to break up Palestinian society.” The organization urged the police to “read Al-Qaws’ principles that are published on all social media and learn about our work.”

Al-Qaws, which was created in 2001 and also works with the Arab-Israeli LGBT community, stressed that it is “outrageous how much and the kind of violence and incitement we have seen in the past two days, whether from official or popular bodies.”

Nevertheless, the group affirmed, “we have to complete the work that we started years ago.”

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