not safe anywhere

It is not necessary to have illusions about the liberality of the Palestinian Authority, or Palestinian society as a whole in order to oppose what is being done to the Palestinian people by Israel, a government and a society fundamentally so much more liberal. Still, some people are clearly impacted far more than others by the violence of a society--any society.

The agony of gay Palestinians is a part of the current horror in the middle east, but it did not begin in 1948, nor even with the Occupation or the Intifada, and it won't end when the fighting ends.

With bombs once again exploding all over Israel, and the Palestinian territories under seemingly permanent curfew, the woes of Palestinian homosexuals haven't exactly grabbed international attention. But after spending two days with gay Palestinian refugees in Israel, I began to wonder why the liberal world has never taken interest in their plight.

Perhaps it's because that might mean acknowledging that the pathology of the nascent Palestinian polity extends well beyond Yasir Arafat and won't be uprooted by one free election. Indeed, the torment of gays is very nearly official Palestinian policy. "The persecution of gays in the Palestinian Authority [P.A.] doesn't just come from the families or the Islamic groups but from the P.A. itself," says Shaul Ganon of the Tel Aviv-based Agudah-Association of Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgender in Israel. "The P.A.'s usual excuse for persecuting gays is to label them collaborators--though I know of two cases in the last three years where people were tried explicitly for being homosexuals." Since the intifada, Ganon tells me, Palestinian police have increasingly enforced Islamic law: "It's now impossible to be an open gay in the P.A."

[Descriptions of what should be unspeakable tortures follow in the text.]

Life is only marginally better as a refugee in Israel, subsisting on the margins.
[In Tel Aviv, a group of teenage prostitutes,] refugees from the West Bank, live in an abandoned building. They tell me that sometimes a client will offer them a meal and a shower instead of payment; sometimes a client will simply refuse to pay in any form, taunting them to complain to police. And sometimes police will beat them before releasing them back to the streets.

A 17-year-old refugee from Nablus named Salah (a pseudonym), who spent months in a P.A. prison where interrogators cut him with glass and poured toilet cleaner into his wounds, tells Ganon that he has been stopped by Israeli police no fewer than four times that day. He recites the names of the different police units who stopped him by their acronyms. "Try not to do anything stupid," Ganon says.

"I've tried to kill myself six times already," says Salah. "Each time the ambulance came too quickly. But now I think I know how to do it. Next time, with God's help, it will work before the ambulance comes."