Due to the influx of gay tourists who arrived in Tel Aviv for Pride Week, we can say with some certainty that more Belgians and Danes marched in the Gay Pride Parade than Palestinian citizens of Israel. That’s not just because of the understandable need for the gay Arab population to maintain a low profile. Gay Palestinian organizations boycott pride events because they consider them examples of “pinkwashing” – presenting Israel as enlightened due to its treatment of homosexuals, while denying the human rights of others.
Al Qaws (The Rainbow), familiar to the gay community in Israel mainly because of the queer Palestinian parties it holds in Tel Aviv, was among the organizations that did not encourage its members to march in the parade. But Al Qaws did not ignore Pride Week – it provided an alternative. On the Thursday prior to the parade, Al Qaws members met at Cafe Dina in Jaffa, with people from the Qadita website, for an event called “Reading Queer Texts in Arabic.”
Qadita is a site founded by Alaa Khlakhal and is dedicated to culture and criticism in Arabic. It offers its readers a rare and permanent column of often artistically ambitious queer writing, edited by Raji Bathish. “The Israeli LGBT culture is fully interwoven with Israeli militarist culture,” says Bathish. “It tries to emulate the Israeli mainstream, in the central Tel Avivian, hetero-normative sense, with its army and gyms. The queer movement needs to change the system and social structure from the base, rather than reaffirm them, and the LGBT movement here only deepens the system of oppression.”
The name of Bathish’s column, hosting diverse works of literature and commentary, was recently changed from “Gays and Texts” to “The Queer Text Corner,” in an attempt to separate it from the Arabic-language gay blog culture prevalent in the Middle East, to stress queerness as a principle, and to create a clear reference to literature. The event celebrating it, attended by about 40 men and women, was a break from the mainstream pride events not only in its use of the Arabic language, but also in its focus on challenging content.
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