OpinionMiddle East

The paradox of ‘Queers for Palestine’

Don’t let antisemitism allow you to align yourself with those who would kill you at the first opportunity.

An anti-Israel parade-goer walks past the crowds during Pride In London on June 29, 2024. Credit: Alex McBride/Getty Images.
An anti-Israel parade-goer walks past the crowds during Pride In London on June 29, 2024. Credit: Alex McBride/Getty Images.
Steve Rosenberg
Steve Rosenberg
Steve Rosenberg is principal of the GSD Group and board chair of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. He is the author of Make Bold Things Happen: Inspirational Stories From Sports, Business and Life.

In the mosaic of global LGBTQ advocacy, few stances appear as paradoxical as the support some LGBTQ groups extend to Palestinian groups like Hamas, a stance popularly encapsulated by the movement “Queers for Palestine.”

This perspective seems to stand in stark contrast to the actual policies and societal norms that govern life in areas controlled by Hamas and others, especially when compared to Israel, which is known for its vibrant LGBTQ community and progressive rights. Anyone who has ever been to Israel knows firsthand the freedoms that exist there and the incredible support for gay rights.

First and foremost, it’s crucial to understand the legal and social landscape of LGBTQ rights in the Middle East. In Gaza, where Hamas has governed since 2007, the rights of LGBTQ individuals are severely restricted.

Homosexuality is illegal under the current laws inherited from Egyptian rule of Gaza and punishable by imprisonment. Social stigma, fueled by conservative interpretations of Islamic teachings, can lead to harsher unofficial punishments, including honor killings and violence against LGBTQ individuals. Those who claim to be in the “Queers for Palestine” camp would last less than 10 minutes in Gaza. They’d be killed for their views. This is further proof that intersectionality is not a one-size-fits-all panacea for the world’s ills.

Contrast this with Israel, which is often heralded as one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East regarding LGBTQ rights. Tel Aviv, in particular, is famous for its annual Pride parade, one of the largest in the world, attracting thousands of international visitors. Israel was the first country in the region to legalize same-sex relations and recognize unregistered cohabitation between same-sex couples, granting significant legal protections to LGBTQ individuals. Moreover, openly gay soldiers have served in the military since the 1990s and LGBTQ politicians hold seats in the Knesset.

“Queers for Palestine” raises profound questions about the alignment of advocacy and real-world conditions. Such movements might argue that their stance is pro-human rights, standing in solidarity with all oppressed groups, including Palestinians. This could be a valid and noble position that emphasizes the universality of human rights were it not for the fact that Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and other organizations rooted in terror and evil have been torturing innocent Israeli Jews for decades. Furthermore, it seems to overlook the dire implications for LGBTQ Palestinians under Hamas rule, where neither rights nor protections are afforded to them.

This oversight might stem from a broader tendency within certain advocacy groups to focus on anti-Israel and antisemitic false narratives, viewing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a lens that primarily sees fault in Israeli policies. While criticism of Israel’s government and certain policies is legitimate and necessary for meaningful dialogues and peace efforts, supporting a Hamas regime that fundamentally oppresses LGBTQ individuals and rapes and kills innocent women and babies appears incongruous.

The plight of LGBTQ Arabs is real and dire, warranting a nuanced approach that supports their fight for dignity and equality without endorsing their oppressors. International LGBTQ advocacy groups have a critical role in spotlighting these issues, supporting grassroots movements within Arab countries that work towards improving human rights for all, including LGBTQ individuals.

“Queers for Palestine” is a stark reminder that in the fight for universal human rights, activists must carefully navigate the intricacies of regional politics and cultural norms to avoid undermining the very cause they seek to champion.

Such groups need to undertake a delicate balancing act: supporting the fight against oppression in all its forms while avoiding endorsing oppressive regimes.

True advocacy should strive to uplift all oppressed voices, especially those that would otherwise be silenced under regimes that fundamentally oppose their existence. This is the often-challenging path towards true solidarity and change. But it ensures that no one is left behind in our quest for equality and justice—and that includes Israel and the Jews.

Don’t let antisemitism allow you to align yourself with those who would kill you at the first opportunity.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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