The youth had run away from home after a cousin discovered him having sex with another man. With sadistic and self-righteous Muslim glee, the cousin told the families with predictable results: he was beaten by his mother and attacked by a brother wielding a knife who managed a few gashes before the terrified youth ran away from home in the impoverished West Bank to the hated ‘occupier’ Israel, into ‘enemy’ hands. As a gay person the young man was at least aware, as he ran to find an opening in the separation wall, that Israel has gay rights and where homophobic behavior is illegal.
This sad tale is what this commentary is about: the division of minds. The division of families and the planet into obsessively possessed territories obsessively clinging to religious beliefs with obsessive wild anger aimed at homosexuals. Love and hate begin at home.
This stew of hostility happened to brew in my mind at that moment around that table. I listened to the layers of toxic fury aimed at this young Palestinian queer. At home his family felt they had sufficient reason to hate him as a dishonored being and pariah.
Fortunately not all individuals feel this way but even kind-hearted people are conditioned by forces beyond their control. For the Israelis, could this Palestinian, whose friends and others have killed and injured many Israelis, be trusted? Was he really gay or just pretending in order to get out of Palestine and do further harm in Israel? And could the young man trust these enemy strangers who claimed to be friendly? The energy at the table was tenuous, uncertain, tight but the conversation went ahead as the Canadians asked ‘Ali’ about his life.
To which he described his family’s hostile rejection and violence, his cousin’s knife attack, his hiding and terror of being caught, his hunger, his poverty… His Aguda guardian translated from English to Arabic. After his daunting tale the Canadians bought his lunch and spontaneously gave him some cash. Soon after he was escorted back to his hiding place. He couldn’t stay out in public too long. Israeli police might see him and send him home. I don’t know what happened to him.
Photo below is the title image for the 2013 film ‘The Invisible Men’ that tells the untold story of persecuted gay Palestinian who have run away from their families and are now hiding illegally in Tel Aviv. Their stories are told through the film’s heroes: Louie, 32 years old, a gay Palestinian who has been hiding in Tel Aviv for the past 8 years; Abdu, 24 years old, who was exposed as gay in Ramallah and then accused of espionage and tortured by Palestinian security forces; Faris, 23 years old, who escaped to Tel Aviv from the West Bank after his family tried to kill him. Their only chance for survival — to seek asylum outside Israel and Palestine and leave their homelands forever behind.