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“We’re Palestinian, We’re Here, We’re Queer”

From the film -'Oriented'

By Tim Marshall.

The attack on Jerusalem’s annual Gay Pride March comes as no surprise and stands in contrast to the welcoming atmosphere the much larger Pride march receives in most parts of Tel Aviv.

Six people were stabbed in Jerusalem. A local man, described as an ultra orthodox Jew has been arrested.  The march rarely passes off without incident or controversy and alwys requires the presence of hundreds of police officers.  Ahead of the gathering this year, the leader of a far right group (Lehava) opposing the celebration, Mier David said “Robbing a bank and being homosexual is the same.”  The Jerusalem attack is confirmation that prejudice crosses colour, religious, and gender bounds

Timed for the march, and the row,  but before the violence in Jerusalem, the Associated Press bureau in Israel has just run a compelling story about a film documentary featuring three gay Israeli Arabs, who identify as Palestinians, but know they can only live openly as gay men in the liberal Jewish majority city of Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv is considered a gay refuge in the Middle East, a region in which gay people are persecuted and where in several countries homosexuality is punishable by death.

From the documentary film -'Oriented'.

From the documentary film -‘Oriented’.

The film called ‘Oriented’ is by British director Jake Witzenfeld and will be shown in London in early September. It is thought to be the first documentary to focus on gay Palestinians. Distribution for it to be shown in the Middle East has not yet been arranged.

It features Khadar Abu Seif, Fadi Daeem, and Naeem Jiryes all of whom are in their mid 20s.

From the AP description the film appears a fascinating study in the complexities of being gay, Palestinian, and Israeli. In Tel Aviv their sexuality is barely an issue, but as Abu Seif told the AP, when he goes through Tel Aviv airport his Jewish friends are in the duty free shop while he is still being security checked – “So I’m for sure not an Israeli gay man. I’m gay something. So I’m gay Palestinian.”

But that brings its own problems. Some Israeli Jews are uneasy about Israeli citizens identifying as Palestinian, and within the Arab community homosexuality remains taboo. Some members of the men’s families have ostracized them. The parents of Mr Jiryes say he is ‘sick ‘and needs to see a psychiatrist.

There is a underground gay scene in the West Bank, centered on Ramallah, but homosexuals in Palestine are constantly under threat of being outed and suffering physical violence.

Persecution of homosexuals is a familiar topic, as are the struggles of the Palestinians and Israelis, but the film ‘Oriented’ appears to offer a unique perspective by bringing the three together. Inevitably there is a confrontation of identity and a connection to politics, as Mr Daeem tells AP – “This is my basic right to define myself as a Palestinian, because if I didn’t do it, my people will be forgotten, but, he continues, if he didn’t do it, his people (Palestinian) would not to face the fact that he exists as a gay man.

As one of the men says in the film -“We’re Palestinian, We’re Here, We’re Queer”.

Photographs from the film ‘Oriented’ here.a


6 Comments on "“We’re Palestinian, We’re Here, We’re Queer”"

  1. Stacey McGill | 31st July 2015 at 5:19 am | Reply


    As a liberal democrat I am happy these three men can live openly as gay men without fear of persecution (the attack on the “Gay Pride” march in Jerusalem sickens me for the same reason).

    But as an Israeli it churns my stomach to read that these three men self-identify as Palestinians.

    These three men would never relinquish the advantages Israeli citezenship gives them – social security, health benefits, freedom of movement within Israel and yes, being free to live openly as gay.

    This is a case of “biting the hand that feeds you”. These men are the worst kind of hypocrites. If they don’t like being Israeli. they should go and live with their Palestinian brethren in Ramallah – or even better, the Gaza Strip. THere they would soon experience the “quick way down” from multi-story bulildings.

    Can you imagine the reaction if people self-identified as Germans in the UK during WW2 or as Argentinians during the Falklands crisis?

    These men should be happy they live in a democratic state and if they can’t find happiness in Israel, STFU or leave!

    • Stacy, you leave no room for the nuance of history.

      • Mahatmacoatmabag | 31st July 2015 at 3:36 pm | Reply

        The nuance of history? They don’t exist the PLO itself has said so:
        “The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism.”
        Zahir Muhsein, PLO executive

        • Of course they exist. Quoting one middle ranking official from 40 years ago, when his organization had a more Pan Arab Socialist bent, hardly negates the fact of the sense of Palestinian nationhood now. If I quote some Neturie Karta bloke saying ‘the so called state of Israel doesn’t exist’ it doesn’t make it go away.

    • As someone with a shred of human dignity it makes me violently sick to see you self identify as an israeli and supporter of the rightwing supremacist ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinian people.

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