Rachel Silverman

Gay Palestinian Arabs deserve compassion

Gay Palestinian Arabs are in danger for their lives. Palestinian Arab society is a conservative Muslim environment in which homosexuality is unofficially prohibited by rigid social customs. This report by Tel Aviv University lawyers indicates that at least two gay Palestinian Arabs in Gaza were murdered by their families. The haunting story of Ibrahim is as follows,” In 1992 or 1993, a young man named Ibrahim was killed by his father for sleeping with another man. The father poured acid over Ibrahim’s entire body.”

In addition, gay Palestinians in the West Bank have been severely beaten by their families and societies. A gay man in Ramallah said one of his former partners was caught by a gang, who set him on fire. Gay Palestinians describe living in a state of constant fear: fear of being caught and then beaten or murdered by their families. In a climate of such fear, they are forced to pursue their relationships furtively to avoid beatings, torture, and murders.

In addition, a survey of 10 gay Palestinian Arabs living in Israel found that at least three were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a consequence of a long history of trauma and is suffered by victims and survivors of rape, domestic violence, child abuse, and combat. In the case of these men, the PTSD was the result of beatings and cigarette burnings suffered at the hands of their families because of their gay identity.

Many gay Palestinians have fled to Israel in search of freedom. Unfortunately, Israel has failed to treat them with the compassionate support that they deserve. Palestinian Arabs are not allowed to stay in Israel regardless of their reasons for moving there. The underlying problem is that they are treated automatically as members of an enemy society and hence prohibited from remaining in Israel under nearly all circumstances. Israeli law doesn’t distinguish between the potential suicide bomber who may murder Jewish children and the political refugee who is fleeing his murderous father.

C described how he was treated unjustly in Israel. In February, 2004, his lawyer requested a temporary permit which would allow him to remain in Israel until he could find a third country for permanent residence. But the permit was never granted, and in March, 2005, he was arrested for illegal residence in Israel. Israeli officials attempted to deport him back to the West Bank even though such deportation deliberately endangered his life. After fleeing back into Israel, he was again arrested in April, 2005, for illegal stay in Israel. This time he was allowed to stay under house arrest for four months with a friend until a third European country could be found to take him.

Yariv Mozer’s new documentary Invisible Men tells the story of gay Palestinian Arab men who are living illegally in Israel. The film tells the story of three men who live in the shadows. One lives with a scar from his father’s attempt to murder him. One man, Louie, wants to remain in Israel. Ultimately all three men gain asylum in Europe.

At a minimum, Israel should immediately cease arresting and deporting gay Palestinian Arabs who are living in Israel for illegal stay in Israel. Israel has every right to arrest and deport a Palestinian who represents a security threat to Israel and the Jews. But Israel should understand that gay Palestinians in Israel are effectively political refugees who fear for their lives if they should be forcibly returned to the West Bank. For this reason, Israel should offer them compassionate support rather than arrests, deportation, and abusive and degrading treatment while they are on Israeli soil. If Israel is not willing to allow gay Palestinians to remain permanently in the country, they should at least refrain from arresting and deporting them.

In addition, Israel should consider allowing gay Palestinians to remain permanently in Israel under certain conditions. First, the Israelis can conduct a background check on gay Palestinians living in Israel to ensure that they are not involved in any terrorist group. The background check should also indicate whether their family members are involved in terrorist activity.

Given the strong nature of family ties in Palestinian Arab society, in most cases candidates for permanent residence should be rejected if their relatives have terrorist ties. But gay Palestinians face murderous threats from their own families. And thus gay Palestinians should not be persecuted or denied permanent residence in Israel based on their families’ involvement in terrorist activity. Once the background check is conducted, Israel should offer permanent residence to those who pass it. Such a measure would allow gay Palestinian Arabs to remain freely in Israel without undermining the Jewish character of the State.

About the Author
Rachel's educational background includes a B.A. in international relations from Brown University; she has been an independent scholar, analyst, and researcher about Middle Eastern affairs for 12 years; Her focus has been on Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Egypt.
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