Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Trials and Tribulations of Gay Palestine

Israeli write and sex worker Liad Kantorowicz recently wrote this article for Ha-Aretz, which was then translated for MRZine. It's an amazing piece of work, especially because it addresses the difference in gay identity between East and West.
Sexual behavior in the Arab world is not connected to a person's identity. The notion of "sexual identity," which is widespread in Western thought, is an unknown concept in the Arabic Islamic world. In their world, people are supposed to be straight and lead a straight lifestyle, and there is no connection between their straightness and their sexual desires. Thus, most men and women who desire to sleep with their own sex can do so discretely and continue to lead otherwise normal lives. Their concealed desires do not constitute a fault line in their lives. Tahar (a pseudonym), a friend of Hussein, exemplifies this: he is a man, who is attracted to men and finds it difficult to admit this; he will most likely marry a woman. He calls himself "straight" because it is easier to present himself as such.
This article says so much about gay life in Palestine, especially in regards to the dfference between treatment of gays in Palestine and Israel. It's more complicated than "Israel likes gay people and Palestine doesn't". Israeli gays may like gay Palestinian gays, but Israelis don't. Also, Israel uses its comparatively pro-gay stance against Palestinians:
If Palestinian gays did not have enough troubles of their own, an additional security danger is the Israeli Occupation. The Israel Security Service (Shabak) cynically uses Palestinian homophobia and coerces gays to choose between recruitment in its ranks and forceful outing. Most Palestinian gays choose the first option in order to save their lives. As such, every gay is considered a potential collaborator. Hussein and Samar have yet to be recruited and it also seems that it will happen soon, given the high status of their families. But two years ago Hussein was kidnapped from his home, most likely by Fatah men, who wanted to "shake" him up and check whether he is a collaborator. "They kidnapped me because I had long hair," he relates. "They took me to a large empty area, where they beat me up and dragged me on the ground. They interrogated me with regard to sex with men. I told them that I was not gay. Had I admitted to them that I was gay, it would have meant that I am a collaborator. They beat me with sticks and stones. Every time I said 'no' they hit me. I said that I love Palestine and I would never in my life work for Israel. Finally at 12:30 after midnight they put me in a car and dropped me off near the house." The Palestinian security service has also not overlooked Hussein and Samar and invites them for "visits." Hussein says, "They write down all that I say, but they have no proof; they have not caught me. Sometimes I think that they would like to catch me."
I wish could find one of the secret parties mentioned in the article. I think it would be a real eye-opener.


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