The recent persecution of the LGBT community in the Palestinian Authority is a stark reminder of the sad state of affairs of similar communities throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds.
In what can be called without exaggeration an act of state terror, the Palestinian Authority on August 18 prevented a gathering of the local LGBT organization known as al-Qaws, which acts as an umbrella for smaller LGBT groups. Not only did Palestinian police forcibly prevent the activities of al-Qaws activists, they also issued a threat against any future campaigns. The Palestinian Authority went so far as to call on its citizens to inform on any active members of the LGBT community.
The statement issued by PA Police spokesman Louay Arzeikat to the residents of Nablus read:
“The Palestinian police will prevent the gathering, and want to be clear that it was unaware of similar events in the past in the city of Nablus. The gathering does not match the conservative nature of the city, and will damage the values of the local population and the city of Nablus.
“The gathering, if it takes place, will be an insult to tradition and strikes at values that Palestinian society has maintained throughout its history.”
He went on to assure any informants who come forward with information on LGBT activity will enjoy full anonymity.
It must be noted that such a harsh statement, effectively labeling homosexuals as criminals, must have come from much higher up, perhaps even the top levels of the Palestinian Authority.
The Nablus gathering was of course cancelled, but of greater concern is the institutionalized incitement against and persecution of the Palestinian LGBT community. One member of the community responded:
“We have received hundreds of threats and hate messages. The assault on us is unprecedented. They call us traitors and deviants, and many call for our eradication. We are frightened for our lives.”
The Arab world without exception is characterized by what Western liberals call “homophobia.” There is not a single Arab state that supports gay rights, and those adhering more closely to Islamic tenets (Sharia Law) view homosexuality as a punishable crime. Different countries are either more or less tolerant, but the problem remains the same everywhere.
Homosexuals in Islamic society do not publicly declare their sexual identities, as most live in fear of being murdered either by family, acquaintances or the local authorities. They don’t live “in the closet.” They live underground. And the situation is becoming more, not less, dangerous, as Muslim clerics continue to demonize the LGBT community in the harshest terms. The latest trend among these “holy men” is to label homosexuality as a disease imported from the West with the aim of destroying conservative Arab society.
By contrast, Israel is considered an LGBT paradise, and some call it the “gay capital” of the Middle East. As such, members of the LGBT community in the Palestinian Authority and further afield often seek asylum in the Jewish state. And that will continue as the intolerance in the Arab states grows.
Ironic, considering the charges of apartheid and persecution often leveled against Israel.