PODCAST: Being Palestinian during Israeli Pride Week

For many queer Palestinians in Israel, celebrating their gender identities while standing up for Palestinian rights is a balancing act — especially during Pride Week.

Israelis take part in the annual pride parade in Tel Aviv, June 12, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Israelis take part in the annual pride parade in Tel Aviv, June 12, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Every year, tens of thousands of tourists descend on Tel Aviv in mid-June for the annual Pride Week festivities, which celebrate Israel’s LGTBQ community with all-night parties, concerts, and a giant march across the city center.

For LGBTQ Palestinians living in Israel, however, Pride Week is far more complicated. For many, participating in Pride means actively taking part in Israel’s “pinkwashing” attempts by portraying itself to the world as a pluralistic safe haven for queer people to cover up its human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel likes to celebrate how liberal it is while violating the basic human rights of Palestinians, says journalist Zizo Abul Hawa, a gay Palestinian living in Tel Aviv. “You cannot just go around showing off your human rights while taking basic human rights from millions of people just half an hour from Tel Aviv.”

Caught in between wanting to celebrate their sexual and gender identities on the one hand and the Palestinian struggle on the other, Pride Week brings into focus the balancing act that queer Palestinians often face.

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“My LGBT identity is a very big part of my identity, but right now for the Palestinian people… basic human rights is more important than getting married, or equality, or surrogacy for gay couples,” says Abul Hawa.

Zizo Abul Hawa.
Zizo Abul Hawa.

“I know a lot of gay Palestinians who wait for pride like a child waits for Christmas,” says Abul Hawa, “and I can understand that, I can understand putting your political agenda aside just to enjoy life a little bit.” He adds: “It can be a little bit hypocritical, taking part of it, but things are complicated, and you get, sometimes, to be hypocritical.”

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