Monday, January 10, 2011

"Palestinian Queers"

There are several valid reasons for questioning the policies of the state of Israel. However, the status of gay men and lesbians in the Jewish state is not one of them. To be sure, some rabbis fulminate against us, but so do Christian ministers in this country.

Very different is the situation in the Palestinian territories, where gay men in particular are regularly harassed, tortured, and even killed. Some flee to Israel itself, where they live clandestinely.

A hopeful sign, it would seem, is the formation three years ago in Jerusalem, of Al-Qaws, the Palestinian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) community project of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH). The group describes itself as the first-ever official Palestinian LGBTQ organization.

Unmentioned is the fact that this group had to be based in Israeli-controlled Jerusalem, instead of the Palestinian territories themselves.

Now, I have learned, a off-shoot of Al-Qaws, billed as Palestinian Queers, is beginning a transcontinental US tour in February. Will the speakers expose the terrible situation of gay men in the Palestinian territories? Given the leftist auspices of the group's tour, I would doubt it.

The choice of the word “queer” is also significant. While Queer Theory has gained some foothold in academia, the q-word is generally avoided when it comes to serious social issues. We do not speak of “queer marriage” or “queers in the military.”

Why then this off-putting nomenclature? The answer is that it may reflect a view dominant among some “progressive” intellectuals, who hold that the concept of homosexuality is alien to the Middle East. It was introduced there by meddling imperialists, currently represented by the mythical “Gay International.’ If only the imperialists had abstained from this particular form of interference, everything would be just dandy with same-sexers in the Middle East. Alas, this claim is simply a fairy tale.



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