United for Palestine on 14 October in London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Supporters of Israel want to use LGBT+ rights as a way to fracture support for the Palestinians. Philadelphia Gay News published an article on 11 October stating, “Hamas Hates You as Well”. It argued, “If an LGBTQ+ family moved into Gaza, Hamas would kill them.”

In Britain, the Daily Express ran a similar article, criticising a placard that read “LGBT stands with Palestine”.

In fact, the situation in Palestine is far more complicated. Stating that Palestinians are inherently homophobic plays into Islamophobic ideas that Muslims, Arabs and the people of the Middle East oppose LGBT+ people.

Such fearmongering is hypocritical and ironic coming from the West, where LGBT+ people are increasingly under attack from their states and the same media that demonise Muslims.

Laws about LGBT+ people vary within Palestinian territories. In the West Bank, same-sex acts have been decriminalized since 1951. This is different in Gaza under the jurisdiction of Hamas, which since 2007 has criminalized sex between men with up to ten years imprisonment.

But there is a history of LGBT+ resistance in Palestine. The first modern groups struggling for LGBT+ rights formed in the early 2000s during the Second Intifada.

These groups continue today in Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa and the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority has at times suppressed these groups, but is often forced to backtrack.

LGBT+ Palestinians exist and continue to struggle for rights and liberation even under Israeli apartheid. Same-gender marriage is not legal in Israel, neither is inter-faith marriage. In 2008, more than half of Israelis viewed homosexuality as a disease. Since 2016, there have been calls to ban conversion therapy that have been rejected in the Knesset.

The Israeli military even blackmails LGBT+ Palestinians, forcing them to be informants in fear of outing. Many LGBT+ activists have described Israel’s performative LGBT+ policy as “Pinkwashing”. For example, the fact that the IDF parades its LGBT+ personnel neglects how even the LGBT+ soldiers are members of an unlawful occupying force.

This does not mean there is automatic unity between the oppressed. It is something we must actively struggle for. And it involves arguing against a hierarchy of the oppressed or combating one type of oppression and not another.

LGBT+ Palestinians would be better able to fight for their own liberation without bombs overhead, without their homes taken from them, and without imperialist intervention.

To say “LGBT+ People for a Free Palestine” is not hypocrisy, but instead essential in a fight against oppression, imperialism, and capitalism.

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