Leil-Zahra Mortada

making noise, and more noise

Israel Kills People Like Me, Israel Exploits Queers Like Me

* In response to a full-page ad running this week in The New York Times funded by Rabbi Shmuley, Stand with Us, and This World (Shmuley’s own); featuring political campaigner Rennick Remely.

My name is Leil-Zahra Mortada. I’m an Arab Queer person. And I support justice.

If I lived in Gaza or “Israel’s neighboring states”, I would be thrown in jail, mutilated or killed. I have a higher chance of getting mutilated or killed by an Israeli war than getting jailed for my homosexuality by an Arab or Islamist regime. Even the chances of me being arrested by Israel based on my ethnicity is by far higher than the chances of me being arrested by Hamas for my homosexuality. Though one injustice doesn’t undermine the other, I am against using my sexual identity to pinkwash one over the other.

Click on image to make it bigger

Click on image to make it bigger

I am not Jewish, yet I do take the fight against antisemitism quite seriously. In the end you do not have to be black to believe that Black Lives Matter. You do not have to be Jewish to fight antisemitism just like you do not have to be Palestinian to see that the occupation is wrong. The occupation is a killing machine that doesn’t differentiate between Gay and homophobic. I do not equate Zionism with Judaism, and throughout my existence Israel is probably the longest-standing threat to my life.

I’ve never visited Israel! Israel (violently) “doesn’t welcome” people who carry passports like mine. Moreover, I wouldn’t visit a country whose military-imposed government discriminates against a large section of the land’s natives going back to their homes, or even staying in them – unless of course I manage to get in to join the inspirational popular resistance. I was vehemently against thousands of people from around the globe marching in Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade. I am against celebrating Gay on the expense of the Palestinian people, the African asylum seekers, Asian migrant workers, the people of Lebanon..etc. I was and am against using my rights to cover-up, and legitimize in the name of my sexuality, state terrorism and occupation. I feel at home where freedom and justice are preached and fought for. The repression I live as a queer person brings me closer to the Palestinian people facing repression based on who they are.

That’s why I’m appalled that so many in the Western world – including the media, Hollywood and some Gay activists – fail to hold terrorist states like Israel accountable for its crimes against humanity. I’m appalled that some LGBTIQ individuals team up with right-wing groups and use our rights to legitimize and justify occupation and Apartheid. And even if Israel was fighting for my rights – which is not the case – I refuse to attain my freedom through war, occupation and Apartheid.

The regime in Iran doesn’t speak for me, it speaks and acts against me; just like Israel. Though one death is enough to outrage, the numbers of LGBTIQ people murdered by Iran remain shy compared to the soaring numbers of people murdered by Israel. But let’s assume (wrongly) that LGBTIQ lives are worth more than “normal” lives. Let’s pretend that us LGBTIQ people are completely detached from our families, loved ones, cities and lands. When Israel bombs Gaza, their bombs do not have a “gaydar” that avoids LGBTIQ people (surprise surprise). We starve under the blockade, we die at checkpoints, we wither under occupation. We pay the price equally like our fellow non-LGBTIQs.

Dead people cannot be Gay!

If Palestinian LGBTIQ people were to become free to live their sexualities and identities through Israeli war; they’d still need safety from military and structural violence, equality in the face of Apartheid, the protection of their environment against systematic destruction that is meant to destroy their livelihood. They’d still need access to their lands, to their homes. They’d still need freedom of movement, right to their culture against appropriation and theft, the right to exist in their entirety as humans. Them being alive and well is crucial and a prerequisite to them existing as LGBTIQ! They’d still want their families and loved ones alive and living with dignity. The children in their communities, both queer and not, protected from administrative detentions, terrorization, torture and mass murders. LGBTIQ people suffer the impacts of the occupation and Apartheid directly just like everyone else; because they are not just LGBTIQ, they are Palestinian LGBTIQs.

Have you no decency?

There is not doubt that Hamas doesn’t think highly of homosexuality, but it is time the Zionist lobby start giving factual data to all accusations against Hamas killing homosexuals. How many and when? It is a serious accusation not to be taken lightly; and they owe the world evidence. Israel calls Palestinians subhman, accusing them of a “filthy existence” that is punishable by death. Islamists do spread homo/trans phobias just like many religious fanatics and right-wing groups and politicians in the State of Israel. While most of the pinkwashing is focused on Tel Aviv, LGBTIQ people in the State of Israel still suffer a great deal of violent hate-speech, bullying and discrimination. In this video (in hebrew, by Danny Zack) a collection of Israeli religious leaders and politicians speak tons of the rooted homophobia. To fall in the trap of pinkwashing painting Israel as a whole as a gay-friendly environment is also undermining the local struggles of Israeli LGBTIQ people against the homo/trans phobias in their society.

In a channel 10 talk show interview that aired Friday the recently reelected ultra-Orthodox mayor of Beit Shemesh, Moshe Abutbul, said when asked if the city has gay residents: “We have no such thing. If you mean what I think you mean – then no. Thank God, this city is holy and pure.” When asked how the city handles the gay community he said, “There’s the Health Ministry, let them handle it. The Health Ministry, the police.” YNet News

It’s not an empty threat. Gay Palestinians have been tortured and killed, as Palestinians. Due to the great deal of homophobia and transphobia they face, falling preys to the Israeli PR machine, and frequently out of desperation; many gay Palestinian men risk their lives to cross the border and seek refuge in Israel. There they face violent discrimination, suffer the supremacist policies of the Israeli government, and are confronted by outrageous social and economical racism. Some are forced to work as informants for the occupation against there own people having massive impact on their psychology and safety. Many have to flee the territory to escape homophobia on one side and exploitation and discrimination on the other. Israeli reservists spoke up against how sexual orientation and practice are a tool in surveilling and blackmailing Palestinians to make them informants. LGBTIQ Palestinians end up in house arrests since they, by birth, are considered a security threat. They live as “illegal” refugees; with the constant risk of jail and deportation back, repeatedly. The Israeli PR machine fails to tell us the full story.

To those who scapegoat justice while pretending to care about gay rights yet remain silent about the oppression and violence Israel inflicts on the Palestinian community:

Shame on you. You are letting them murder us, literally.

Your misguided actions do not only pinkwash the crimes of Israel against the Palestinians in general, but also towards the Palestinian LGBTIQs. Covering up how they continue to live in hiding under constant threat in State of Israel is a double crime towards the Palestinian LGBTIQs; and to the rest of us. Segregating their homosexuality & gender identities from who they are as people, as Palestinians, is outrageously manipulative and murderous. It is like discussing the violent transphobia Trans people of color in the USA face while ignoring the structural racism they suffer. We, LGBTIQs worldwide, are being manipulated into supporting Apartheid. Facts are twisted, information is hidden or manipulated, photos are misused and misplaced, lives undermined, and blood is being splashed on our hands. This is not just an insult to us as human beings, but also as LGBTIQ people. Our struggles and the violence we face cannot be tokens for murderous governments.

Not to forget that to lump ISIS, Hamas and Iran in the same sack shows nothing but ignorance towards the power structures in the Middle East; it is peculiar that the names of Hamas and Iran keep coming up when the pinkwashing Hasbara machine speaks, but not Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or even the Zionist Jewish fundamentalists. What about Israel’s beloved friend, the Egyptian regime that is way more consistent in its crackdown on LGBTIQs than Iran, Hamas and ISIS all together? What about the stabbings during the ever-so-celebrated pride on the hands of ultra-orthodox Jews? There are countless examples that Rabbi Shmuley intentionally hides from the general picture behind a misplaced image of arrested dissident Iranian students being loaded on buses.

It’s time to hold *all* oppressive dictators and religious fanatics accountable for their homophobia and violence against LGBT communities. As much as it is important to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against humanity, and crimes against the Palestinian LGBTIQs exploiting them and discriminating against them.

We are fighting for our LGBTIQ rights in our own ways; and there might be a lesson or two for you to learn there. But most importantly our pride will not be built on massacres, torture, and  prisons. Your blood-drenched rainbow doesn’t represent me, Rennick Remley.

My queer rights and existence are essential, but my rights do not come before the rights of others,

Because I know what oppression means,

Because I know the taste of injustice and discrimination,

Because me being queer brings me closer to the oppressed and to those fighting injustices,

I stand with and for Palestine.

IN JUSTICE I’M FREE

 

                                                       * Thanks due to Moshe Robes for his help with the research for this response. 

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