A gay rights activist group says that while Israel may have embraced LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bi Transgender Queer) rights, it cannot be a truly democratic state unless it does the same for Palestinians.
Speakers from different organizations joined last night at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre for ‘Coming Out Against Israeli Apartheid’, a discussion held by Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to raise awareness of the perceived Israeli occupation, among both the LGBTQ and Arab/Muslim communities.
Some of the speakers, such as Rafeef Ziadah, a third generation Palestinian and member of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, feel that Israel is an apartheid state because Israeli and Palestinian citizens are treated differently. According to her, residents of the Palestinian territories are not allowed to join the Israeli army, which has additional benefits, and Arab-Israelis have to also frequently cross checkpoints and show their identification.
“There are two sets of rules for two different types of people living in the same area,” Ziadah said. “If that’s not apartheid then I don’t know what is.”
She said that for this reason, Israel is not a democracy.
“Israel wants to be a singular, Jewish state, but also claims to be a democracy,” she said. “It needs to make up its mind, because those two things are contradictory.”
Other speakers, such as May, who did not want to give her full name, agreed with Ziadah. May is a Palestinian who identifies as queer, and she thinks Israel is being hypocritical by granting only certain demographics full human rights.
“If we’re to build a queer movement based on the concept of justice, it shouldn’t be that it’s OK to be queer but it’s not OK to be other things,” she said.
But some audience members spoke out against the discussion, saying the forum was one-sided.
“Why focus on Israel, why not Saudi Arabia or Iran?” asked Daniel F., a third generation Jewish Canadian who chose not to disclose his last name.
“They’re attacking Israel disproportionately; Israel gives homosexuals more human rights than any other surrounding Arab country.”
Daniel also said he thought the attack on Israel was really just a way of “furthering their anti-Semitism through the disguise of human rights.”
El-Farouk Khaki, co-founder of Salaam: Queer Muslim Community, countered by saying that many of the activists in attendance have criticised other Middle Eastern countries for their human rights violations in the past.
He said at the last Salaam monthly meeting, the group explored treatment of queers in Iran and Iraq, and looked at ways to help those who are in danger.
“Where were you?” Khaki asked. “You were not there. Instead you come here and try to silence us, by saying, ‘You shouldn’t be talking about this because you’re not talking about the other stuff.’ Well we are, you’re just not listening.”
Rafeef Ziadah said that aim of the presentation was not to point fingers at Israel for being homophobic, but to bring attention to the idea that equality is not given evenly to all citizens of Israel.
She said that although there are homophobia problems in surrounding countries, it is not an excuse to ignore human rights issues in Israel.
“If you fight for justice and equality, you fight for it everyday, everywhere.”