For 11 excruciating days now, I have been in tears and terrified for the safety of my blind mother, paralyzed father and two siblings in the Gaza Strip.
For 11 days, I have been watching horrific Israeli violence defying humanity while being fully supported by the U.S. — liberals and conservatives alike — with the stated intent of destroying the lives of more than two million people, including my family and loved ones. This intent and the magnitude of the destruction and loss of life make a textbook example of genocide, defined as:
Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
On top of the horror of it all, I have watched dehumanizing misinformation about people in the Gaza Strip being spread like wildfire, only to be debunked and proven false. This includes misinformation spread on social media by several LGBTQIA+ individuals in my social circles here in the District — I thought we were friends, until I saw their Instagram posts cheering on Israel’s violence and the threat it poses to my family.
How could they be so quick to judge? How could they be so quick to throw their progressive values out the window and embrace mass murder of women, men and babies — civilians from all walks of life? What goes through their mind when they consciously choose to propagate the wicked and indiscriminate murder of people so casually?
These and a million other questions have been racing through my mind.
Unlike those morally bankrupt people who are using the tragedy unfolding in the region for fleeting validation and personal gain on social media, those of us most impacted by what’s happening are not playing political football and “gotcha” with the lives of our loved ones. We know and recognize that no one in their right mind would relish this violence. In fact, besides the tragic loss of human life, the other tragedy is that this entire situation was preventable, easily and peacefully preventable. Anyone who has been paying attention to the reality of Israel’s brutal military occupation of Palestine — specifically its years-long siege of the Gaza Strip — knows this.
Yet, here we are, at a bloody juncture because of choices made over the course of decades, including the choices of successive administrations here in the U.S. to support and turn a blind eye to Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights and the apartheid regime it imposes on Palestine.
Sadly, though perhaps unsurprisingly, this context is absent from the content dehumanizing Palestinians that many LGBTQIA+ individuals are thoughtlessly sharing on social media.
Worse yet, is the knee-jerk reaction of some LGTBQIA+ people to grossly generalize and reduce the tragedy we are witnessing to plainly stupid points such as: Israel has Tel Aviv Pride. Hamas hates gays. I, therefore, stand with Israel. Points like this makes no sense.
Homophobia in the Gaza Strip, and Palestine generally, is a problem, just like it is a problem in many parts of the U.S. and many countries around the world. It is not a Hamas problem. Meanwhile, the cause of how and why we got to this horrific violence is squarely an Israeli problem: The brutal military occupation and apartheid regime. Just because Israel hosts an annual Pride parade, it does not mean Israel is a haven for LGBTQIA+ people — certainly not for LGBTQIA+ Palestinians, and certainly not when the Israeli government’s own laws regarding LGBTQIA+ matters is mixed at best. After all, Pride parades are not a measure of a country’s human rights record, which in the case of Israel is abysmal when considering its actions toward Palestine.
LGBTQIA+ posts standing with Israel based on believing in freedom, equality and dignity miss the mark and fail to make any sense when the same freedom, equality, and dignity are not consistently applied and extended to human beings everywhere, including Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The only way such posts could make sense is by completely removing the humanity of Palestinians — a hateful and repugnant offense.
Freedom, equality and dignity are indivisible human rights — they cannot be upheld and protected willy-nilly, unless the intent is to discriminate and dehumanize. One is either for them or against them — there is no middle ground or cherry picking.
So, if you are reading this and have shared content supporting Israel and stripping Palestinians of their humanity over the past 11 days, which can very well harm my family, I ask that you stop and remember, at the end of the day, as LGBTQIA+ people, we know what it’s like to feel unsafe in our own skin, to be stripped of our humanity for no other reason than existing as we are. That’s what Palestinians like me and my family are experiencing now and have been enduring for years and years.
It is, therefore, incumbent on all of us to make sure that humanity — the same humanity we fight for in the advocacy for our rights and safety as LGBTQIA+ people — prevails so that we can see better days ahead.
Anything less would be a betrayal of our humanity and a blatant display of hypocrisy and warmongering.
If you cannot find it in your heart to simply stop and think before blindly signing up for genocide with an “I stand with Israel” post, your hatred, ignorance and unwillingness are part of the problem that got us to this horrific violence to begin with.
Dorgham Abusalim is a writer and communications professional based in D.C.