Palestinian Gays Under the Hijab in Israel
By Nisreen & Dayna
What do they mean by “we can’t go this far”?!
While throughout the world, the legend of Israel as the only democratic state in the Middle East keeps repeating itself, relying on jingles emphasizing the tolerant city of Tel Aviv as the provider of shelter to Palestinian gays running from their society and families, the Palestinian gay community and supporters are intentionally excluded from public events. Most recently, I am referring to the solidarity and anti-homophobic demonstration that was held on 15 August 2009 at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.
The stage was full of politicians, of which several are well known to be homophobic. The majority of the gay community in Israel believes that their struggle has nothing to do with “politics,” for this is what explains the sudden need for a “social peace” that one of the gay activists and victims of the attack spoke about at the rally in Tel Aviv, distinguishing it from the other peace, the so called “bad” one, the forbidden one, with Palestinians.
The reality we live in, that of a conflict zone, where people die and kill every day and violence is everywhere, makes people less sensitive to the violence surrounding them. People are becoming less sensitive to gender violence, the murder of women, xenophobia, racisms and to each other’s lives. This is how a thousand people and more can be killed in less than one month in Gaza while everyone remains silent.
While Israeli society, including the Israeli gay community, chooses to ignore the increasing level of internal hate and violence generated by the occupation and its violence, the violence will keep intensifying and infecting others. Instead of facing this problematic and complicated situation, the leaders of Israel’s gay community choose to exclude Palestinian gays and supporters and to push them back into the closet. It is the easiest thing to do, and it goes hand in hand with the legend they create and promote.
The highlight of the rally in Tel Aviv was the presence of Israeli President, Shimon Peres, who attended to demonstrate public solidarity with the gay community. Despite his homophobic record, by uttering the sentence “we are a Thou-Shall-Not-Kill Nation,” he is in fact enforcing the public blindness to the mass killing of Palestinians that happens so often and so frequently by the State of this Nation. In addition, Peres’ message is publicly condescending to other nations, regionally and worldwide.
For the Palestinian gays who live and struggle for their lives under the occupation, Tel Aviv is not an alternative or a safe shelter. The few who succeed to find their way to Tel Aviv usually end up living and working on the streets. They are the victims of Israeli propaganda that exploits their cases to promote Israel’s image.
The Palestinian gays, including those who are citizens of Israel, are excluded and not welcomed by the Israeli gay community and its leaders, who prefer to keep them in the closet and, if needed, to push them back there. This way, they can go on narrating their legend the way they like. If it was up to them, the Israeli gay community and its leaders will put the Palestinian gays under the Hijab. By doing that, they can be the only ones who can tell the world what Palestinian gays and lesbians look like, legitimizing the occupation by claiming that they are the protectors of freedom.
The majority of the Israeli gay community chooses not to see the link amongst the types of violence that are abundant in Israeli society. The killings in the gay youth center in Tel Aviv deformed the image of Israel as the paradise for gays in the Middle East. As a result, it created a worldwide international solidarity wave. Seeing all these people going out in solidarity makes us wonder regarding the message of this solidarity reaction; is it mourning the loss of the non-realistic image of Tel Aviv as the gay paradise in the Middle East, or is it a call for raising voices against homophobia infecting all societies around the world?