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Ilhan Omar throws support behind LGBTQ Palestinian group

Following Palestinian police threats against a local LGBTQ group, Rep. Ilhan Omar threw her support behind the group by sharing their tweet with five ways to support Palestinian queers.

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

Her tweet linked to a Twitter thread by alQaws, the Palestinian LGBTQ group that was the subject of the threats.

Listen up! Five ways to support Palestinian queers.


— alQaws (@alQaws) August 19, 2019

Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, was responding to a report that the Palestinian police in the West Bank, which is occupied by Israel but whose police are controlled by the Palestinian Authority, issued a statement ordering alQaws to halt its planned LGBTQ event programming in Nablus, a town in the northern West Bank. AlQaws held an event in Nablus this month and planned another before the police intervened, the group said.

“The police claimed it goes against ‘traditional Palestinian values’ accusing us as ‘foreign agents,'” alQaws wrote on Facebook. “The statement went further, calling on citizens to complain about any ‘suspicious’ activities and for the persecution of alQaws staff and activists.”

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The Twitter thread that Omar shared advised supporters to center on Palestinian LGBTQ experiences; to recognize the link between colonialism, patriarchy and homophobia; and to avoid “pink washing.”

“Pink washing” is a play on the term “whitewashing” and refers to the practice of corporations or nation states trumpeting their stance on LGBTQ acceptance in order to distract from broader issues. Critics of Israel say that country advertises its LGBTQ-friendly environment to “pink wash” and distract from the oppression faced by Palestinians who live in the occupied West Bank, or under the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

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The threat issued by Palestinian police echoes a recent threat made in nearby Lebanon. Like the West Bank, Lebanon is relatively socially liberal and has a small but lively LGBTQ community. In 2017, Lebanon hosted a week-long LGBTQ pride celebration that also faced threats. The following year, the pride event was canceled after local authorities detained an organizer and forced him to sign a pledge to cancel the event.

On Monday night both Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, shared the Twitter thread that listed five ways to support Palestinian queers. The two Democrats were in the news recently after Israel’s government banned them from entry into the country; Tlaib said Israel was “silencing me” and “treating me like a criminal.” Israel later said Tlaib could visit the West Bank to see her elderly grandmother; Tlaib rejected the offer, saying it would break her grandmother’s heart for her to visit “under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me.”

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