Targeting LGBTQ Organization, Palestinian Authority Calls to Halt West Bank Community Event

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Protest by the Palestinian LGBTQ community in Haifa, August 1, 2019.
Protest by the Palestinian LGBTQ community in Haifa, August 1, 2019. Credit: Amir Levy

Palestinian Authority police targeted the Palestinian LGBTQ community last week, calling on citizens to report "suspicious" activity and vowing to break off community events, even though same-sex relations are not illegal in the West Bank.

The statement the Palestinian police released specifically targeted the al-Qaws organization for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, after it announced it will hold a "queer camp" at the end of August near the West Bank city of Nablus. According to the organization, the event was to provide an opportunity for young Palestinians to discuss their sexuality and experiences. 

The police spokesman said such an event hurts the values of Palestinian society and is organized by "suspicious figures attempting to provoke and harm the Palestinian social fabric." The spokesman added that the police will pursue the organizers, although it does not have concrete information regarding the place of the event. 

>> Read more: The Mideast's Stonewall? From Iraq to Morocco, the fight for LGBTQ rights rages on ■ Pride and prejudice: The hellish life of Gaza’s LGBTQ community

In a statement, al-Qaws said that the police is meant to defend the Palestinian society in its entirety and not be dragged by extremist entities. The police, the organization continued, should certainly not give backing to violent discourse. "There was no direct police stoppage for any of our activities, and we will continue our community work as before," al-Qaws said.  

The event's publication and subsequent police statement unleashed a wave of violent and hateful comments on social media, with some calling to burn members of the community.

Al-Qaws has since expanded the activity of its support hotline, saying "it is outrageous and resentful [of] how much and what kind of violence and incitement we have seen in the past two days, both official and popular."

A West Bank activist who works on LGBTQ rights told Haaretz that she believes the backlash happened because the event was supposed to take place in Nablus. She said that Palestinian LGBTQs enjoy some freedom in liberal spaces, but "to organize the event in a conservative city like Nablus is too big a step, you have to keep a balance."

Al-Qaws claims that the backlash is a "direct response to the dismantling of societal denial regarding the existence of LGBTQ Palestinians." Last month, the organization held a demonstration in Haifa, following the attempted murder of a gay teen from Tamra by his brother.

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