Aswat- Palestinian Gay Women was recently invited to attend a reception hosted by the US Embassy in honor of the LGBTQI community in Israel, planned for Thursday 16th May. Enquiring about speakers at the event, Aswat learned that no Palestinian LGBTQI activists had been approached to speak, and that only Jewish Israeli campaigners were invited to speak. Despite requests on our part to be included in the list of speakers, the Embassy repeatedly made the excuse that arrangements had been finalized and that there had not been room to include us in the list of speakers.
Regrettably, this is not the only time the US Embassy has chosen to exclude the Palestinian LGBTQI community: in awarding a grant allocated to campaigns promoting Arab LGBTQ rights in Israel, the Embassy snubbed grassroots Palestinian organizations and instead decided that a Jewish Israeli group would be better suited to reaching out to the Palestinian LGBTQI community.
Whilst Aswat welcomes cooperation and mutual support between all organizations campaigning for the rights of LGBTQI people, we ask the US Embassy to recognize that our situation is distinct from that of the Jewish LGBTQI community. Our struggle for respect for our sexual identities is inextricably linked to our struggle for justice as Palestinians. Although many LGBTQI groups in Israel are happy to accept and welcome us as fellow LGBTQI, they refuse to recognize our Palestinian identity. Until this change occurs, Jewish Israeli groups attempting to work with our community will fail to grasp our needs and aspirations, and ultimately risk doing more harm than good.
Aswat is led by Palestinian gay women who are keenly aware of the challenges facing their community and the opportunities which lie ahead. We have over a decade’s experience of campaigning, outreach and education, whose success is tangible in the improvements that Palestinian LBTQI women have seen in their rights and freedoms over the past decade. In ignoring our expertise and our deep connection to the constituencies we work with, the US Embassy has done the Palestinian LGBTQI community a great disservice.
Long-lasting social change will only ever come from within, and while we appreciate any support which the international community and our fellow Israeli campaigners can provide, such support cannot come at the expense of our right to self-determination. Regrettably, the Embassy in Tel Aviv has chosen to silence the Palestinian LGBTQI community, both at their reception and in their wider campaign for LGBTQI rights in Israel.
In order to advance the rights of Palestinian LGBTQI persons in Israel the US Embassy must recognize that our rights can neither be divided nor prioritized, and that our struggle for sexual rights and freedoms is not merely connected, but rather dependent on our civil liberties as Palestinian citizens. They must be inclusive of LGBTQI organizations and use platforms such as this reception to promote discussion and cooperation between all groups committed to advancing the rights of LGBTQI people in all communities—including those who are particularly marginalized and disempowered.
"Injustice somewhere is injustice everywhere" Martin Luther King Jr.
For more information, please contact Aswat at- firstname.lastname@example.org