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Stop gaywashing the occupation

Israel/Palestine
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Palestinian gay-rights activist Haneen Maikey, in the great Haaretz (thanks to Angry Arab and Seham), explains the moral order of civilization:

"It´s really pathetic that the Israeli state has nothing besides gay rights to promote their liberal image," says Maikey. …a Palestinian citizen of Israel… a 31-year-old feminist with a Master’s degree in community organizations management and co-founder and director of Al-Qaws ("the rainbow" in Arabic) for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society.

…[T]he main problem, she says, remains that Israel presents itself abroad as a gay refuge, by exploiting tales of terror of oppressed Palestinians, thus increasing Israel’s own sense of self-righteousness. In the words of the Israeli ambassador to Denmark:

"Most of us take for granted the equality of sexual minorities and the struggle for their rights. Unfortunately reality is different for the majority of homosexuals in most other places in the region (the Middle East), where gays and lesbians suffer from persecution, violence, and murder."

"I refuse to be a part of your campaign," says Maikey. "Stop speaking in my name and using me for a cause you never supported in the first place. If you want to do me a favour, then stop bombing my friends, end your occupation, and leave me to rebuild my community. I’m aware that my society has a long way to go in terms of human rights and social issues, but it’s my responsibility, not yours."

Wow. Now I get it.

The struggle for gay rights across the Arab world has many similarities: most live in traditional, closed societies and face similar issues with family, expectations, and norms…

[One of her goals] is breaking out of the current social structure, the hierarchy of sexuality and gender perceptions in the Arab communities and Palestinian societies inside Israel and the occupied territories.

This is a process that runs parallel to assembling people for joint activism and exchanging ideas. But even though Al Qaws has picked up more than 600 members since its establishment in 2001 and is working with local leaderships in Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth, and the West Bank, physical and social division are still the most daunting challenges.

For the time being, the only space Al Qaws has is its small, well-guarded office in Jerusalem.

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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