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Love with borders

Palestinian queers left out of WorldPride

As WorldPride 2006 in Jerusalem draws near, the International Gay And Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has joined the ranks of queer organizations that have announced they will not be participating in the InterPride event.

“While IGLHRC will not be participating in World Pride 2006,” read the official statement, “we support the work of LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersexed] and human rights organizations which embrace the indivisibility of human rights…. IGLHRC encourages all human rights organizations and individuals who choose to participate in WorldPride 2006 to engage in active discussion about the denial of human rights of all people in the region as well as LGBTI communities in Israel and the occupied territories.”

The position echoes that of Toronto’s queer Muslim group, Salaam, which simultaneously finds the choice of location for the international celebration problematic, while it supports the work of its local host, Jerusalem Open House (JOH).

“We’re not having a definite position to attack or boycott it,” says Salaam’s Suhail Abualsameed, “especially when it’s connected to JOH when we do recognize and appreciate all the good work that they do. We recognize the good work they do being supportive of Palestinian queer people and open to them. But we will not go and attend an event that is being used by Israel to support its agenda.”

Both IGLHRC and Salaam cite Israel’s travel restriction, particularly concerning those who live in the occupied territories or who are of Palestinian origin, as the main reason for nonparticipation. The restrictions were put in place by the Israeli government as an attempt to deter terrorist attacks.

“IGLHRC recognizes that many LGBTI people in the region who wish to attend WorldPride 2006, named ‘Love Without Borders,’ will be unable to do so due to travel restrictions and conditions that limit mobility and participation,” stated IGLHRC.

“WorldPride doesn’t really work when you hold it in a place where not everyone in the world can attend. If I as a Palestinian or Syrian or Jordanian cannot attend, to call it WorldPride doesn’t make sense,” says Abualsameed.

He compares the situation to the international AIDS con-ference, which avoids holding events in the US because of its policy restricting the admittance of HIV-positive people.

“The decision of the conference was never to have it in the States as long as this policy exists,” says Abualsameed. “So why are we supporting a conference that is being restricted to people that Israel as a state will approve of having?”

Originally scheduled for Aug 18 to 28, 2005, the second WorldPride was rescheduled to Sun, Aug 6 to 12, 2006 when it became clear that the relocation of Jewish settlers from Gaza would coincide with the celebrations. The decision was made amid concerns that Israeli police would not be able to simultaneously oversee the withdrawal and protect the WorldPride revellers.

No one from WorldPride responded to a request for an interview, nor did local organizers raising money for the event. An early event brochure stated that one of the reasons for the decision to hold WorldPride in the holy city was to confront religious intolerance.

“WorldPride 2005 will bring thousands of us to Jerusalem to confront preconception with reality, prejudice with an opportunity for understanding, in a way that will capture the attention of the world. Together we will proclaim that in this ancient religious city — and in this region — we, too, belong.”

Conservative and orthodox factions of all the major religions in the region — Judaism, Islam and Catholicism — have united in opposing the event.