Published On: Tue, Aug 20th, 2019

Palestinian Authority bans LGBT activities in the West Bank as ‘harmful to the higher values’ of sociey

In a shocking homophobic move this weekend, the Palestinian Authority banned all of the events by alQaws, an LGBTQ rights organization, noting that they go against “traditional Palestinian values.”

alQaws banner

Palestinian police intervened on Saturday as prohibiting “any event organized,” calling the participants “foreign agents,” according to the alQaws statement Sunday, which can be read below.

“AlQaws condemns the use of prosecution, intimidation and threats of arrest, be it by the police or members of society,” the group wrote on Facebook. “We have always been public and accessible about our work, through maintaining an active website, social media presence and engagement in civil society. However, we have never received threats to this extent before.”

The statement from the Palestinian police announcing the ban came after alQaws held an event in Nablus, a city in the northern West Bank, in early August. The organization had plans to hold another event there at the end of the month.

Luay Zreikat, spokesperson for the PA Police, said that such activities are “harmful to the higher values and ideals of Palestinian society.”

Zreikat said that the group’s activities were completely “unrelated to religions and Palestinian traditions and customs, especially in the city of Nablus.”

He accused unnamed “dubious parties” of working to “create discord and harm civic peace in Palestinian society.”

AlQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society emerged as a project in 2001 and formalized in 2007, according to its website. It’s goal is for the “fighting for vibrant Palestinian cultural and social change, building LGBTQ communities and promoting new ideas about the role of gender and sexual diversity in political activism, civil society institutions, media, and everyday life.”

Full statement below:

Last night (Saturday, August 17th), the spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority police, Louai Irzeqat, issued a statement concerning alQaws’ activities in the West Bank. This first-ever statement about alQaws declared that the PA police would prohibit any event organized or held by alQaws for Gender and Sexual Diversity in Palestinian Society. The police claimed it goes against “traditional Palestinian values” accusing us as “foreign agents.” The statement went further, calling on citizens to complain about any “suspicious” activities and for the persecution of alQaws staff and activists.

This statement comes a week after alQaws held a widely published discussion-based event in Nablus, and three weeks after last month’s stabbing of the Palestinian queer teen and alQaws’ subsequent organizing around it. Prior to Irzeqat’s statement, there had been a wave of unprecedented attacks by dozens of people flocking to alQaws’ social media platforms, angered by the announcement of our event in Nablus, considered a sacred ‘traditional’ Palestinian city. Those hateful messages and posts threatened violence and prosecution, promoted lies about alQaws and our activities, as well as myths about LGBTQ people in general.

alQaws condemns the use of prosecution, intimidation, and threats of arrest, be it by the police or members of society. We have always been public and accessible about our work, through maintaining an active website, social media presence, and engagement in civil society. However, we have never received threats to this extent before. This backlash paves the way for unethical media practices to thrive by adopting and fueling violent discourse that is gaining traction and legitimacy in social media. We believe that the police and Palestinian society at large should focus on combatting the occupation and other forms of violence that tear apart the sensitive fabric of our society and values, instead of prosecuting activists who work tirelessly to end all forms of violence.

This recent backlash is in direct response to the dismantling of societal denial regarding the existence of LGBTQ Palestinians! For the past couple of weeks, alQaws and LGBTQ Palestinians have faced an unprecedented amount of violence and incitement s, which has escalated in the last couple of days. However, it is clear that this backlash is the response to twenty years plus years of field-work. That and alQaws’ strategic focus in the past few years to challenge society’s denial through various grassroots professional and community initiatives.

The crackdown against the fight for sexual and gender liberation is not new. Throughout modern history, it has served as a powerful card for oppressive regimes and governments. Sadly, the PA statement and subsequent public responses are well-honed tactics in the game of political gain and smoke-screening, not limited to the Palestinian Authority or to this particular event.

While we face a storm of attacks and violence, we want to uplift the love and appreciation of our many supporters and allies. Especially those who have publicly rejected the violence and prosecution and taken an active stand in support alQaws and LGBTQ Palestinians. This past month our allies have advocated publicly to combat social violence and take a clear stand in support of LGBTQ people in Palestine.

The police’s statement prohibiting alQaws’ activities in the West Bank and calling for the prosecution of our team is unacceptable. Furthermore, the accusation of alQaws being a “suspicious entity” working to break up the Palestinian society is unfounded and entirely untrue. As such, we request the police and its spokesperson, Irzeqat, read and educate themselves on the values and the work of alQaws.

We are a Palestinian anti-colonial organization that works in all of historical Palestine since 2001 and challenges patriarchal, capitalist and colonial oppression. We have collaborated with dozens of other Palestinian civil society organizations to create programming and spaces to discuss gender and sexual diversity issues. For two decades, alQaws has worked tirelessly to combat the violence of the Israeli occupation as well as social violence against LGBT Palestinians as part of our vision for a liberated Palestine. We will continue to do so despite colonial barriers and threats of prosecution, in the hopes of expanding the discussion around sexual and gender diversity.

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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