[News] AP finds new ways to smear Palestinians over same-sex rights

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jul 31 12:26:15 EDT 2015


  AP finds new ways to smear Palestinians over same-sex rights

Ali Abunimah <https://electronicintifada.net/people/ali-abunimah> Media 
Watch <https://electronicintifada.net/blog/media-watch> 30 July 2015

Earlier this month, after being contacted by The Electronic Intifada, 
the Associated Press retracted the false claim 
that same-sex sexual relations are illegal under Palestinian law.

No longer able to disseminate this fabrication, AP has seemingly come up 
with new tactics to smear Palestinians and put a positive gloss on Israel.

In a story 
today on a documentary profiling a Palestinian citizen of Israel who 
lives in Tel Aviv as a gay man, AP states:

    The liberal Israeli city is considered a gay refuge in an otherwise
    largely intolerant Middle East, where in some places, gays are
    persecuted and sometimes killed. Same-sex relations are punishable
    by death in Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. Some
    gay Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have fled their
    conservative homes to come out in Tel Aviv. Even in Jerusalem, the
    same gay friendly climate does not always thrive.

This paragraph from a news story does an immense amount of propaganda 
work on behalf of Israeli pinkwashing 

Pinkwashing, as I explained in a 2013 lecture (watch video 
is a public relations strategy that deploys Israel’s supposed 
enlightenment toward LGBTQ issues 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/lgbt> to deflect criticism from its 
human rights abuses and war crimes against Palestinians and to seek to 
build up support for Israel among Western liberals and progressives.

    No refuge

First, there is the claim that Tel Aviv is a “liberal Israeli city” that 
provides a “refuge” to gay Palestinians. As I’ve noted 
this claim, often based on unverifiable anecdotes, is a staple of 
Israeli pinkwashing.

But a 2008 Tel Aviv University study of the handful of known cases – 
“Nowhere to Run: Gay Palestinian Asylum-Seekers in Israel 
– found that Israel subjects Palestinians to particularly atrocious 
treatment, expelling them precisely because they are Palestinian. There 
is no legal framework that allows any Palestinian from the occupied West 
Bank or Gaza Strip to seek asylum in present-day Israel.

Israel’s foundational laws and policies are designed precisely to keep 
Palestinians out, as they are considered a “demographic threat 

The man profiled in the AP story, Khader Abu Seif, can live in Tel Aviv 
because he is one of the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/palestinians-israel> who, though 
citizens, face multiple forms of systemic discrimination and violence. 
But he is not there because of any Israeli policies offering “refuge.”

The AP story is sure to note that Abu Seif “is critical of Israel, his 
country of citizenship, over its policies toward Palestinians but also 
criticizes the Palestinian society, where homosexuality remains taboo 
and where there is little tolerance for gays.”

Everything has to be “balanced” – but why does the report not note that 
large segments of Israeli Jewish society – pretty much everywhere 
outside “liberal” Tel Aviv – consider homosexuality taboo and offer 
little tolerance for gays?

    Killings and stabbings

Six people were stabbed 
<http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33726634> at a gay pride 
march in Jerusalem today, leaving two in serious condition. The 
attacker, who was arrested unharmed, has been identified 
as Yishai Schlissel, a resident of Modiin Illit, an Israeli settlement 
in the occupied West Bank.

Schlissel had published a pamphlet last week stating that it was a 
religious duty for Jews to stop the “parade of sins” at all costs.

He carried out a similar attack on the 2005 march when he wounded three 
people. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison but Israel’s high court 
reduced the sentence <http://www.haaretz.com/beta/.premium-1.668832>.

Tel Aviv – which is built over the mass graves of ethnically cleansed 
<http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/06/20136104317486359.html> – 
is, moreover, the only city in the region where an LGBTQ center was the 
target of an anti-gay terrorist attack 
that killed two people and injured 10 in 2009. Other regional cities, 
including Amman and Beirut, have establishments identified with gays and 
lesbians, but none, thankfully, has ever been subjected to such horror.

Tel Aviv is not only hostile territory for the vast majority of 
Palestinians, whether they engage in same-sex relations or not. It has 
been the site of the most violent and racist demonstrations, pogroms and 
against refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers from countries in Africa 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/africans-israel> especially, Sudan 
and Eritrea, as journalist David Sheen 
<https://electronicintifada.net/people/david-sheen> has long documented.

    What’s Iran got to do with it?

Then there is this tricky sentence:

    Same-sex relations are punishable by death in Iran, Mauritania,
    Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. Some gay Palestinians in the West
    Bank and Gaza Strip have fled their conservative homes to come out
    in Tel Aviv. Even in Jerusalem, the same gay friendly climate does
    not always thrive.

Instead of using the report as an opportunity to dispel the myth that AP 
and others have spread for years that same-sex sexual relations are 
illegal for Palestinians, the AP report remains silent on that.

But it gratuitously adds sweeping claims about countries as far away as 
Iran and Mauritania.

Yet there is no explanation whatsoever of why Iran or Saudi Arabia are 
relevant to a story on a Palestinian in Tel Aviv. Was Abu Seif 
considering moving to Tehran or Riyadh?

One should wonder what sort of arbitrary definition of the “Middle East” 
AP now employs: Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott is more than 4,500 miles 
from Tel Aviv and hundreds of miles /west/ of London.

The only link appears to be that the inhabitants of the countries 
mentioned are predominantly Arab or Muslim or both – broad labels that 
do not do credit to the vast differences among them.

This again reflects a key Israeli pinkwashing strategy which is to 
subsume Palestinians into a mass of presumably indistinguishable Arabs 
and Muslims as if there are not vast differences in histories, practices 
and legal regimes in each of these places.

    Israeli “liberalism”

But if the situation in Iran or Mauritania is supposedly relevant in a 
story about Palestinians, then why doesn’t AP mention the repressive 
situation in Israel in counterpoint to the claims of tolerance?

Israel does not have same-sex marriage – the new standard for measuring 
the “liberalism” of countries around the world.

But the AP report makes no mention of the fact that Israel does not even 
have any form of civil marriage and does not allow interfaith marriages 
<http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2010_5/168266.htm>. Even Jews can 
only marry each other according to a strict government-sanctioned 
version of their religion.

In other words, the propaganda image of Tel Aviv in particular, and 
Israel in general, as welcoming and “liberal” is never tested in this 
kind of propagandistic reporting against lived reality.

And if the assertion that “gays are persecuted and sometimes killed” in 
Iran, Mauritania or Sudan is relevant to a story on Palestine, then why 
shouldn’t AP mention sexual repression and even abuse in Jewish Hasidic 
communities, whether in Israel or elsewhere 
<http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/1.640659>, as a 
counterpoint to Israeli “liberalism”?

I am not arguing for making such associations or generalizations. I am 
making a point about AP’s double standard.

Israel, after all, purports to be the “Jewish State.” Therefore if 
anything “Muslim” – even as far away as Iran or Mauritania – can be 
invoked to reflect on the experiences of Palestinians, then surely 
anything and everything that is “Jewish” and “repressive” should be 
mentioned in any story on Tel Aviv!

The AP would of course never adopt such a strategy when it comes to 
Israel. And if it did, it might rightly be accused of bigotry or even 

But such considerations do not apply when it comes to Palestinians, 
where AP’s agenda has always been to endorse and serve Israeli 
propaganda by all means.

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