Ilhan Omar tweets in support of Palestinian LGBT group

Ilhan Omar tweets in support of Palestinian LGBT group
US congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted in support of the banned Palestinian LGBTQ organisation but added it should not be equated with the occupation.
3 min read
21 August, 2019
Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar tweeted her support for a Palestinian LGBTQ organisation [Getty]

Democratic representative Ilhan Omar tweeted her support Tuesday for the Palestinian LGBTQ organisation barred from organising events in the West Bank.

"LGBTQ rights are human rights, and we should condemn any effort to infringe upon them," the congresswoman said. "But we should also condemn any effort to equate this with the occupation or use this as a distraction."

The Palestinian Authority on Saturday announced the decision against the Al-Qaws foundation, which campaigns for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Palestinians. 

Omar also retweeted Al-Qaws, sharing a thread of "five ways to support Palestinian queers".

Methods of action listen by the group include centering Palestinian LGBTQ voices and steering clear of pinkwashing - the practice of obscuring human rights abuses behind a positive LGBT rights record.

Ilhan Omar made headlines last week after Israel barred her and fellow Democratic congresswomen Rashida Tliab from entering the country on the grounds that they support a boycott of Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.

The Palestine Brief: How Israel shot itself in the foot by banning Omar and Tlaib

The move by Palestinian police to "stop all activities" of Al-Qaws also sparked criticism Wednesday from rights groups, which said the move has led to threats.

Palestinian Authority police spokesman Louay Arzeikat claimed Saturday that events held by Al-Qaws "go against and infringe upon the higher principles and values of Palestinian society", accusing the group of attempting to "sow discord and undermine Palestinian society's peaceful state of affairs".

The PA statement banning al-Qaws events triggered a wave of hate messages which "pose a serious threat to the Palestinian LGBTQ community and to the Al-Qaws community," the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council said Wednesday.

The social media messages included "incitement to violence reaching the level of incitement to killings" according to a statement from the Council, signed by 11 Palestinian NGOs.

"The PHROC calls on the Palestinian Authority to provide protection to Palestinians without discrimination," it said.

Police subsequently rescinded their original statement, according to the Council. But legal rights group Al-Haq, one of the 11 NGO signatories, said that did not go far enough.

A police spokesman told AFP on Tuesday that Al-Qaws had failed to comply with a legal requirement to notify the authorities in advance of a gathering.

Last month Al-Qaws announced plans to hold a camp for "young men and women, aged 18 to 24", with different sexual orientations.

The event would explore various aspects of their sexuality and "their relationship with society", according to the group which did not detail where or when it would take place.

The association reported receiving numerous hate messages after the invitation was published, several of which were seen by AFP.

Omar al-Khatib, a member of Al-Qaws, told AFP late Tuesday that the campaign against the group had intensified after the police threat.

"The police bear a great responsibility if something happens to us," he said.

Al-Qaws is based in Haifa, Israel, and works in Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah, among others.

While the Palestinian Authority does not explicity ban homosexuality, members of the LGBTQ+ community general keep their sexual or gender identities secret due to societal and religious taboos surrounding the community.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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