Court: Palestinian Persecuted for Homosexuality Can Stay in Israel

Nablus man says would be killed for sexual orientation, collaborating with Israel, if expelled to PA.

Tomer Zarchin
Tomer Zarchin
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Tomer Zarchin
Tomer Zarchin

In an unusual ruling, the High Court of Justice ordered the state late last week to evaluate the degree to which the life of a young Palestinian is at risk, in part because of his sexual orientation. The Palestinian is asking for permission to remain in Israel because he fears for his life if he is expelled to the Palestinian Authority.

Speaking to Haaretz, he said that "in other times, when they brought me to the roadblock the entire village chased me and beat me, and nearly killed me. I prefer to sit in prison than to go back."

The official position of the state, which was also presented to the court, is that the committee on persons at risk operates in accordance with the office coordinating operations in the territories, and is authorized to address requests of Palestinians claiming to be under threat for their collaboration with security forces.

On the other hand, according to the state attorney, the committee is not authorized to discuss the cases of those whose behavior is seen by Palestinian society as being "morally degenerate," including prostitutes, criminals and drug addicts.

The Palestinian, in his 20s, maintains that his life is threatened because of his sexual orientation and because he has been marked by Palestinians as having cooperated with Israel.

Former sex worker

A native of Nablus, he fled his home at 12 and came to Israel as a result of violence and abuse at the hands of his father. At one point he worked as a male prostitute in Tel Aviv's Gan Hahashmal. Six months after living in Israel, he returned to his family in Nablus.

In the PA he was arrested by Palestinian intelligence who suspected him of collaborating with Israeli security forces. He says that he was jailed, tortured and abused until he was forced to admit such collaboration.

Following his forced confession he was jailed at a facility near the Muqata'a for what he says was two years, waiting for a death sentence to be carried out for alleged treason.

The young Palestinian petitioned the High Court through attorney Yohanna Lerman, a public defender, said that during IDF operations he managed to escape and was asked to identify those who jailed and abused him openly, exposing his own identity.

Following his exposure to the Palestinians as appearing to "collaborate" with Israeli forces, he was granted temporary permits to stay in Israel by the Shin Bet. During his stay in Israel the young Palestinian was arrested and jailed for his involvement in acts of violence and theft.

The committee evaluating the degree to which Palestinians are at risk for alleged collaboration with Israel decided in November that the young man was not at risk. The committee also said that he failed to meet his commitment to avoid illegal activities, which in turn threatens public safety.

The state argued in response to the High Court petition that many Palestinians who have claimed similar risk to their lives for collaboration are actually threatened because Palestinian society considers their behavior to be "morally degenerate."

"This unfortunate fact cannot impose on the State of Israel the legal responsibility to allow every Palestinian from such groups to live in its territory," the state attorney's office wrote.

The court ruled that there must be an authority capable of taking responsibility on deciding whether a threat exists and what its nature is, in areas that are not necessarily linked with collaboration.

"To date the committee, the state and the court avoided interfering, but now the judges have asked that there be a collective approach that also includes the issue of sexual orientation," Lerman said, pointing out that both local and international law state clearly that someone whose life is at risk cannot be abandoned.



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