US Embassy in Israel bans gay Palestinian speakers

Not a single Palestinian was invited to speak at a reception held by the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel in honor of IDAHO

US Embassy in Israel bans gay Palestinian speakers
16 May 2013

The US Embassy in Tel-Aviv, Israel has reportedly excluded Palestinians from speaking at reception in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO).

Although Aswat, a Palestinian organization for Gay Women, was invited to attend, their representative was not allowed to make a speech at the Ambassador’s Tel-Aviv residence tonight (16 May).

Enquiring about speakers at the event, Aswat reported that not a single Palestinian LGBT activist was invited to speak.

Aswat then requested to be included in the list of speakers but the US Embassy turned the request down, saying that event’s arrangements had been finalized with no room to spare.

Aswat noted the US Embassy had previously given a grant to campaigns promoting Arab LGBT rights in Israel, but seemed to prefer Israeli over Palestinian organizations, which were said to have been snubbed.

The organization said that whilst it ‘welcomes cooperation and mutual support between all organizations campaigning for the rights of LGBT people, we ask that the US Embassy to recognize that our situation is distinct from that of the Jewish LGBT community.

‘Our struggle for respect for our sexual identities is inextricably linked to our struggle for justice as Palestinians.’

Aswat said it has ‘over a decade’s experience’ of campaigns, outreach work and education, which resulted in positive changes for LBT Palestinian women.

‘In ignoring our expertise and our deep connection to the constituencies we work with, the US Embassy has done the Palestinian LGBT community a great disservice.

‘In order to advance the rights of Palestinian LGBT persons in Israel the US Embassy must recognize that our rights can neither be divided nor prioritized…

‘They must be inclusive of LGBT organizations and use platforms such as this reception to promote discussion and cooperation between all groups committed to advancing the rights of LGBT people in all communities—including those who are particularly marginalized and disempowered.’

Ahmed, a 25 year-old psychology student from East Jerusalem told Gay Star News: ‘This is very disappointing to say the least, we are part of the Israeli society as well and it’s beyond outrageous to exclude non-Jews from speaking at the reception, especially when it comes from a country that claims democracy.

‘The LGBT community in Palestine is facing enough challenges on daily basis so that denying us the chance to represent and speak for ourselves is hypocritical and unacceptable.’

‘Is the discrimination and racism we face in Israel now replicated by the US Embassy?’

Shai Doitsh, the chair of the Aguda, Israel’s main LGBT organizatio, told Gay Star News: ‘We were shocked to find out the news while at the reception and this deeply objectionable.’

‘The Aguda will launch an investigation in colloaboration with the US Embassy to find out exactly how this could happen.

‘We to invite Aswat to join and work with us together to help LGBT Palestinians who are important members of the country’s community.’

Eran Dey, of the Israeli LGBT community Facebook page told Gay Star News: ‘We are shocked that Asawt, which is an important part of the LGBT community in Israel has been excluded from sending a speaker.

‘Their unique voice is important as any other LGBT organization and we are genuinely baffled by the stance of the Obama administration which is supposed to be a friend of diversity and tolerance.

‘I would like to believe that this does not reflect US policy, and is a mistake that will be somehow rectified.’

The Aguda, Israel’s main LGBT organization could not be contacted, as their representatives were busy attending the reception.

GSN did not receive any reply from the Tel-Aviv US Embassy up to the publication of the article.

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