Sunday, March 11, 2007

Arab Gay Rights Meeting in Israel

Jerusalem may host a rare meeting of Arab gay rights activists.
Headlined "Home and Exile," the March 28 meeting is meant to spark discussion of homosexuality among Israel's 1 million Arab citizens, said Roula Deeb, a prominent Arab feminist and one of the scheduled speakers.

The conference is being organized by Aswat, an Arab lesbian group based in Haifa, a coastal city home to both Jews and Arabs.

Around 100 to 150 people are expected to show up, Deeb said. With homosexuality a taboo topic in much of the Arab world, the meeting is important simply because it is taking place.

Israel is generally tolerant of homosexuality, and the country's secular metropolis, Tel Aviv, is home to a thriving gay community. But Israel's Arabs, who make up 20 percent of the population, live mostly in separate communities and homosexuality is still considered out of bounds.

Any guesses why the meeting is happening in Israel?

I don't mean to be too triumphant. There is plenty of anti-gay sentiment in Israel and in the Jewish community (the article notes opposition coming from leaders of Jerusalem's ultra-orthodox community). And again, the most important thing is that the meeting is happening, and one hopes that it is fruitful and productive. But let's remember--in all the Middle East, Israel is probably the only country this meeting could happen publicly without the participants being beaten and/or stoned.


Anonymous said...

Very brave, It must many times harder in these countries to admit to being gay.


Anonymous said...

Israel is, far and away, the most advanced nation in the Middle East when it comes to gay rights. But Jordan and Turkey could certainly allow this type of thing, and there is precedent for pulic debate and discussion on gay issues in Lebanon, even though homosexuality is still illegal there. Unless you're just implying that, whatever the state policy, the public in Israel is less likely to respond violently. I'm not sure what kind of data would be needed to verify that claim, but I seem to recall a huge securitization effort for Pride when Orthodox jews and muslims alike were threatening violence. In any event, kudos where its due to Israel, but dont get so caught up in your cheerleading that you forget those fact things.

Oh and re: The Arab World tag, the organization hosting this is a Palestinian women's lesbian organization, and the Islamic Movement's stance against the meeting was harshly critiqued in an Arabic newspaper out of Hadash. So this is hardly an "Arab World" issue... really the phrase "arab world" is one of the bloggerisms that I'd like to see die off anyway.

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