A Pride Month note to Queers for Palestine

June is here – and you know what that means. “Pride Month” is upon us, a now-obligatory (almost mandatory) public celebration of the LGBTQ community. 

Given the laughably large number of transgender flags and the panoply of sexual orientations seen at pro-Hamas protests in recent months, it’s all but certain a new contingent will be joining in Pride Parades this year from coast to coast: Queers for Palestine.

But before the enby activists and “Dykes for Divestment” throngs line up behind the QfP banner, there are a few things these self-styled “liberators” should be aware of before they get to marching:

Have you noticed how on June 1 global corporations give their logos a rainbow makeover in order to show their support for the LGBTQ community? It’s become such a ritual that it’s spawned its own series of memes (“Corporations on June 1”). 

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But have you also noticed that those same corporations leave the logos of their Middle East affiliates untouched? Did you ever realize it’s because almost everything LGBTQ is banned in those cultures and countries? And that the Palestinian territories are one of the most oppressive of the bunch?

Nonetheless, a common refrain has emerged among Queers for Palestine activists when confronted with the Gaza status quo: It’s just as bad for queer people in the United States as it is over there.

No, it’s not.

The Palestinian territories are the eighth-worst place in the world for LGBTQ rights, ranking 190 out of 197 on the Equaldex list of most LGBT-friendly countries in the world.

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Never mind the fact that Palestinians don’t recognize same-sex marriage, nondiscrimination in employment, and refuse to investigate hate crimes against gay and transgender people – in the territories, gay sexual activity carries a sentence of 10 years in prison.

It can also cost you your life. In 2022, Ahmad Abu Murkhiyeh, a gay Palestinian who had been receiving death threats because of his sexual orientation, was found beheaded. In the Palestinian territories, no LGBTQ person is safe – not even at the highest levels of the military. 

In 2016, commander Mahmoud Ishtiwi, whose family was considered “Hamas royalty” for harboring Palestinian leaders wanted by Israel, was done in by men in his own battalion. The crime that earned him three bullets in the chest? “Moral turpitude” (Hamas legalese for “homosexuality”).

The U.S. State Department’s “West Bank and Gaza Strip 2022 Human Rights Report” found that “human rights organizations in Gaza did not monitor and refused to address LGBTQ+ issues” and noted that in Gaza “there was no visible LGBTQI+ community.” There isn’t a living LGBTQI+ community there, either.

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Sadly, when it comes to engaging with Queers for Palestine members, “facts don’t care about your feelings” is unlikely to resonate. Indeed, when it comes to QfP, their feelings don’t care about facts. 

It’s the only way to explain the creation of a new 2024 edition of the now-annually revised LGBTQ Pride Flag that places the Palestinian colors front-and-center. Unfortunately for the designers, pro-LGBTQ banners billowing in the breeze are not always welcome at pro-Palestinian protests – at an October rally in London, an LGBTQ flag was violently torn down by demonstrators.

A newsflash for the Queers for Palestine crew: you are not wanted there. In 2019, the Palestinian Authority (PA) Police banned LGBTQ public events, stating that such activities are “harmful to the higher values and ideals of Palestinian society.”

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In a video produced for The Ask Project on YouTube, everyday Palestinians were asked what they thought of Queers for Palestine. Responses were decidedly unenthusiastic, ranging from “against the Palestinian cause” to “unacceptable” and being “against that totally.” 

Of the lot, only one supporter of LGBTQ people was willing to go on camera. Her advice? “Don’t stay in Palestine.”

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