Queers for Palestine: Stockholm Syndrome by proxy

QUIT banner, San Francisco (courtesy ZombieTime)

QUIT banner, San Francisco (courtesy ZombieTime)

Some of the strangest phenomena in the admittedly strange landscape of the Left are “Queers for Palestine” (or QUIT — Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism), “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid” (QuAIA), etc.

Many commentators have pointed out the irony in the fact that gays and lesbians cannot live openly in either the Hamas or Fatah dominated areas of ‘Palestine’, where homosexuality is — officially or unofficially — punishable by torture, prison or death, and that many gay Palestinian Arabs have fled to Israel.

These groups respond that they identify with the Palestinians because gays and Palestinians are both persecuted. And, absurdly, that Israeli security measures are bad for gay Arabs because they make it hard for them to escape Palestinian homophobia!

Just take for example the fact that there is no place on earth, not one square foot where a queer Palestinian citizen of Israel, a queer from Gaza, the West Bank, and a queer Palestinian refugee could meet. Gazans are under siege and cannot leave, people in the West Bank need permits to travel, Palestinian citizens of Israel cannot go to Gaza or the West Bank and many refugees cannot go anywhere. So before we criticize Palestinian homophobia, we need to look at the challenges facing activists there, and remember that there are activists there. We need to ask how can we best support queer Palestinian social movements? The answer to us is clearly that we fight Israeli apartheid.  — QuAIA FAQ

Not only that, but Palestinian mistreatment of gays is Israel’s fault in the first place:

There can’t be freedom of gender and sexuality without freedom from daily violence and the right to love who you choose, live where you choose, and attend groups, meetings and political activities without persecution.  Road blocks, military checkpoints, house demolitions, curfews and the apartheid wall are all part of the daily reality for all Palestinians, regardless of their orientation.

And it can’t be fixed until Israel is out of the picture:

Queer struggles against homophobia in Palestine will never flourish as long as Palestinians live under the intolerable conditions of occupation, violence, and Israeli state terror that disrupt and regulate their daily existence.

These groups marshal all of the usual (specious) reasons to hate Israel, but they never explain why it’s important to express their opinion as gays and lesbians. A gay person can be as pro-Palestinian as anyone, but why specifically in terms of sexual identity — especially in the face of overwhelming evidence that the object of support would as soon murder them as talk to them?

I’ll take a stab at an explanation.

The simplest one is that the members of these groups are honestly convinced that Palestinian Arabs are victims of racism and oppression, etc. Social acceptance of homosexuals in the US and Canada is a relatively new and somewhat spotty thing (the murder of Matthew Shepard took place in 1998). Most have personal stories, some horrifying. So they could be expected to identify with a supposedly persecuted minority.

But this doesn’t explain why there isn’t, for example, a “Queers for Darfur,” or any number of oppressed peoples. I think there’s another psychological reason: I think that the sheer brutality of the treatment of gays in Arab society is too much for some people to deal with. By supporting the Palestinian cause they don’t have to think about how some Arabs suffer because they are gay — just like they are. Rather, they think of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is comfortably far away.

This is similar to the Stockholm syndrome, in which a victimized person gains comfort by identifying with the victimizer. In this case, Palestinians are victimizing people with whom the subject feels kinship. Indeed, but for the accident of geography, it could very well be the subject who is beaten to death for the crime of being gay. We can call it “Stockholm Syndrome by proxy.”

Indeed, I think a lot of Jewish anti-Zionism could be explained the same way.

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One Response to “Queers for Palestine: Stockholm Syndrome by proxy”

  1. Grandma says:

    Vic, wonder if any of these gays were Muslim?