Metras, Palestinian queers espousing love aren't the issue
A recent editorial by Metras, attacking Palestinian queers for supposedly detracting from the national struggle, and seeking to impose their ideology and political agenda on Palestinian society, reveals an extremely counterproductive development in Palestinian social circles--one towards intolerance and hatred, rather than greater inclusivity.
The editorial presents a sharp departure from Metras’ longstanding politics, which had made the website a trustworthy alternative source of news and analysis with a left-leaning angle. It was denounced by some of the writers who had previously contributed to the website, and who issued a letter stating this editorial does not reflect their own political views.
It was also denounced by Tal’at, the feminist network against femicide and sexual violence in Palestine, and other progressive Palestinian groups, both in the homeland and the diaspora.
''In the midst of real crises such as catastrophic climate change, a relentless pandemic, total economic collapse from Sri Lanka to Lebanon, ongoing wars and displacement, to name but a few of the critical issues requiring urgent attention, we are witnessing a right-wing shift that targets the most life-affirming members of society, the resilient survivors of structural violence, who espouse love over hatred.''
In its disappointing departure from the pluralism it once promoted, the recent Metras editorial also promotes Islam as the moral compass to get society out of the morass queer organisers would drag us into, thus potentially alienating other faith-based Palestinians, as well as secularists and atheists.
Should anyone immediately jump to Islamophobic pseudo-analysis and think this intolerance is exclusively Muslim, they can look at the “Soldiers of God,” a Maronite Christian group in Lebanon which articulates a very similar homophobia, with their “don’t push your agenda on us” attitude. In a rant published on 5 July the Soldiers of God denounce homosexuality, with a picture of a man shielding his children from a giant rainbow with one arm, as he embraces them with the other arm while they read a book. The caption reads: “Protect your children from sexual deviance.” “Imagine your child sees a giant rainbow billboard and starts asking questions. How will you then explain gay marriage? It's unnatural," the group’s founder, Joseph Mansour, told a reporter.
In that same 5 July post, the Soldiers of God also denounce abortion, with the statement “you say thou shalt not kill, yet you kill by legislating abortion.”
The Soldiers of God’s posts reveal a frightening degree of deeply patriarchal values defining clear roles for men and women, and echo the White Supremacist replacement theory that has spread across the US. On 19 July, for example, they quote Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir as saying “we founded this country, and will not become strangers in it.” Specifically, the “Soldiers of God” wish to rid Lebanon of Palestinian and Syrian refugees.
Interestingly, both the “soldiers of God” and Metras claim that the “gay agenda” is a Western imposition that threatens Lebanon and Palestine, respectively.
I am not going to go through the content of #Metras that spread hate against the queer Palestinian community. But genuinely, accusing the Palestinian queer community of being an extension of western imperialism while you are funded by @EEDemocracy it is just a joke! pic.twitter.com/pykt6Kjgyp— Hasan Kilani حسن الكيلاني (@HasanAmman) July 6, 2022
The politicisation of queer rights is indeed a real phenomenon, as we see with Israel’s pinkwashing, but queer rights, as human rights, should not have to suffer from that. It is myopic of those in influential positions to scapegoat queer people, as this scapegoating can and does have fatal consequences.
Meanwhile, Israel has also seen a rise in homophobic attacks, with a sharp increase reported since the pandemic, as the lockdown trapped queer people at home with abusive family members. This comes as no surprise to anyone who can see beyond Israel’s claim to be a gay-friendly country, as gender violence and overall intolerance are intrinsic to settler colonialism and apartheid, as many queers and feminists have long argued.
Looking beyond the Arab World, we see manifestations of state-sanctioned gender violence everywhere. Many African countries have anti-gay laws, themselves the legacy of European colonialism. England did not decriminalise male homosexuality, which had been explicitly banned in the kingdom since the early sixteenth century, until 1967, at the height of the permissive Sixties era. Interestingly, female homosexuality had never been similarly restricted in England—not out of tolerance, but rather invisibility.
In this global context of threats to, and outright attacks on gender rights, we can interpret the US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe as stemming from the same impulse that motivates various laws that regulate bodily sovereignty and the right to love freely, namely religious fundamentalism at the service of a racist misogynist state.
And despite some feeble suggestion on the part of some justices that they will not abrogate more rights—a suggestion we cannot trust, considering the Trump nominees had also implied they would not overturn Roe – the Supreme Court of the USA is also looking at overturning gay intimacy, and gay marriage. Thus Justice Clarence Thomas, in his opinion in favour of the vote to overturn Roe, wrote that “in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.” Griswold (1965) guarantees the right to marital privacy, including the use of contraceptives, Lawrence (2003) established the right for consenting adults to engage in same-sex intimacy, and Obergefell (2015) legalised gay marriage.
In the midst of real crises such as catastrophic climate change, a relentless pandemic, total economic collapse from Sri Lanka to Lebanon, ongoing wars and displacement, to name but a few of the critical issues requiring urgent attention, we are witnessing a right-wing shift that targets the most life-affirming members of society, the resilient survivors of structural violence, who espouse love over hatred.
For those of us who identify with, or simply support the disenfranchised, it is paramount to understand that fragmentation will not serve us, and that attacking the most marginalised is the worst kind of scapegoating.
Misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia are global ills, impacting the most vulnerable members of society, and inciting violence against them. They are what needs to be denounced, not a woman’s right to bodily autonomy, nor any consenting adults’ right to love freely and openly.
Nada Elia is a Diaspora Palestinian scholar, writer, public speaker and a member of the Palestinian Feminist Collective.
Follow her on Twitter: @nadaelia48
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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.