It’s Time for a Pride Parade in Nazareth

LGBTQ people in the Arab sector are exposed to manifestations of violence, humiliation, ostracism, threats, and isolation. A pride parade in Nazareth can be a significant step in alleviating the distress from which Arab LGBT people suffer. Attorney Eran Rosenzweig believes that a parade that will create dialogue rather than antagonism, can remove the curtain of silence in the matter and break the closet doors in Arab society

Following the establishment of pride parades in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Be’er Sheva and Jerusalem, there’s a particular importance for an LGBTQ pride parade in Nazareth. A parade in the Arab sector could bring about change. A change that will make it easier for Arab youth to grow confidently with their families, a change that will enable LGBTQ Arabs who don’t have the economic opportunity to live in Tel Aviv or Haifa, to live in dignity and security in the society in which they grew up. A Pride Parade in Nazareth can bring, even if slowly and gradually, a change in the perception of Arabs toward LGBTQ people, and finally, perhaps, can even inspire identification, understanding, and solidarity.

In order to moderate the opposition to such a parade, it’s important to involve the political leadership in supporting it. Then, when a parent sees the neighbor’s gay son walking with a rainbow flag and who is out of the closet, and next to him his straight friend, the hostility toward the lesbian daughter coming out will just diminish. Maybe the parade will even trigger parents to ask their son whether the partner with whom he’s living in Tel Aviv for years is actually his partner?

The need for a pride parade in Nazareth results from the great distress that LGBTQ Arabs suffer from. Manifestations of violence, humiliation, ostracism, threats and isolation towards LGBTQ people are worse in the Arab sector. Revealing one’s sexual identity or gender variability often endangers the ability to live confidently with the family and the surrounding culture, and in many cases LGBT youth may become victims of severe physical violence and humiliation on the part of their families and society. Violence that in many cases drives them out of their family-cultural-social space, to Tel Aviv, for example, where they are even more exposed to isolation and alienation, drug addictions, sexual exploitation and even suicidal attempts.

Alongside the manifestations of violence, winds of change in the Arab sector are blowing. The most prominent among them is Muhammad Zoabi, a Muslim Arab, publicly gay with over 40,000 Facebook followers, who is a prominent spokesman against homophobia. Talleen Abu Hana, the transgender Arab from Nazareth, broke into Israeli discourse following her win in the Miss Trans Israel Competition in 2016. She entered the hit reality show “Big Brother” and bravely told that her family saw her gender differences as a mental illness. Talleen shared that she had suffered humiliation and physical violence from her father, from a hostile family environment that pushed her out of her home to Tel Aviv.

In Tel Aviv and Haifa, an Arab community is formed with strong and supportive connections, and in the gay pride parades in Haifa and Tel Aviv there’s already visibility of Arab participants. Attempts to organize communal activities in Haifa and Nazareth are sometimes accompanied by threats and violence, but a change in preperception is slowly felt. Organization Aswaat, for example, holds meetings for lesbian Arab women. In the past the organization was constantly attacked with threats mainly linked to the United Arab List-Ta’al party, affiliated with the southern Islamic movement, as well as threats from activists of the northern Islamic movement. Former Arab MK Abas Zakhur criticized the Aswat’s meeting in Haifa, claiming that the meeting of lesbian Arabs was “shameful for Arab society.” Zakur added: “We recruit clerics to hold a protest rally against their conference and to warn the girls about its existence.”

Organization Adallah for human rights has expressed their aversion to incitement against LGBT members in the sector. MK Aida Toma Suleiman (the Joint List) this year held a session on female same-sex parenting in the Committee for the Advancement of Women in the Knesset. The Hadash party’s platform states that the Arab party opposes the discrimination against LGBT students and that the party has proposed legislation to prohibit discrimination of LGBTQ in employment offices. Therefore, “climate” change enables harnessing the Arab leadership to hold the parade. With the support of the Arab leadership, Arab LGBT activists will be able to proudly carry rainbow flags and lead the desired change so that they can live not only in Tel Aviv, but also alongside their families as equals in Arab society.