BEFORE YOU WRITE
Wait a second, before you write, though you are so passionate to write about us... We think it would be helpful for you and our cause, to take few minutes, have a cup of coffee, and read BEFORE YOU WRITE...
Palestinians are a diverse group of people who live in virtually every country. Furthermore, Palestinians in Israel-Palestine come from different places with different social, legal, and economic circumstances.
Unfortunately, most Western representations of Palestinian in general—and LGBTQ Palestinians in particular—tend to ignore the incredible diversity of the Palestinian people. The total worldwide population of Palestinians is estimated at somewhere between 10 and 12 million people, with around 2.5 million in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 1.5 million in the Gaza Strip, 1.25 million in Israel, and most of the remainder in surrounding Arab countries, the Americas, and Europe. Although the vast majority identifies as Palestinians and shares the historical experience of the Palestinian people, this geographical diversity brings with it a wide variety of social and economic realities that make it impossible generalize about “Palestinians” in simplistic terms.
Palestinians in Israel, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank are subject to different legal systems that afford them different rights and responsibilities.
In Israel-Palestine, the first and most obvious source of differences among Palestinians is that of citizenship and legal rights. Although the 1.25 million Palestinian citizens of Israel regularly face well-documented denials of civil and human rights, because they are Israeli citizens, they have access to certain legal rights that are not available to West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians, who are not Israeli citizens (or citizens of any country) and, among other things, cannot legally live, study, or work in Israel. To further complicate the matter, Jerusalem Palestinians are considered “permanent residents” of Israel, an intermediate status between “citizen” and “non-citizen” that entitles them to certain rights but not the full set of rights guaranteed to citizens. These differences have enormous consequences for LGBTQ Palestinians, who, depending on their legal status, live under different sets of laws and have available to them different sets of rights (including, for example, the right to travel to or live in a different place)
In Israel-Palestine, social circumstances and economic opportunities differ widely, depending on where one lives and where one comes from
In addition to the different legal statuses of various populations throughout Israel-Palestine, Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and Israel face different social and economic circumstances that, needless to say, enormously affect their life experiences. For example, although Palestinian citizens of Israel face higher unemployment and poverty rates and fewer educational opportunities than the Israeli Jewish population, as well as discrimination in housing and employment and various other forms of inequality, their social and economic opportunities are generally greater than Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians are religiously and culturally diverse.
Beyond social, economic, legal, and geographical differences, Palestinians are diverse in many of the same ways as other groups of people. Like all societies, Palestinian society is economically stratified, with individuals coming from a range of circumstances, from elite, highly-educated families to poorer families with fewer educational or economic opportunities. Moreover, religious diversity is an important reality in Palestinian society: although the majority of Palestinians are Muslim, a significant number are Christian or Druze. Additionally, some families and communities are more or less secular, some more or less religious.
We challenge journalists to try to understand the common struggles and experiences of LGBTQ Palestinians in ways that do not ignore our diversity or represent us in simplistic terms.
All of our differences—geographical, social, economic, legal, religious, etc.—make it impossible to talk about one LGBTQ Palestinian experience. In fact, there are many. To be sure, as Palestinians, we have much in common. We face many of the same obstacles and share a common cultural framework and sense of history that shape our experiences. But our particular experiences as LGBTQ people vary widely—and in sometimes unpredictable ways. The point, in other words, is that, while there is much to criticize about Palestinian society, we do not find it helpful to our cause—of making our society more open to gender and sexual diversity—to represent Palestinians in simplistic, reductive terms that ignore the actual diversity of our experiences.
A note on “homosexuality” and “gay and lesbian rights.”
For a long time, writers and theorists in the West have been deconstructing “homosexuality” and assumptions about “gay rights” and what it means to be “lesbian” or “gay.” Many LGBTQ Palestinians identify as “lesbian,” “gay,” “queer,” or “trans,” and many feel a sense of camaraderie on that basis with other LGBTQs around the world. But just as there is no single, universally accepted definition of these identities in the West, as LGBTQ Palestinians, many of us experience and understand our sexual and gender identities differently. For example, “coming out of the closet” and being visible in our communities is important to many LGBTQ Palestinians, but many others have different goals and aspirations. And so we urge journalists who are interested in representing our stories and experiences to the world not impose some pre-determined standard, but to consider our own, equally valid ideas about “freedom” and “liberation” and what it means to be an LGBTQ person.