We were shocked to learn last week of the tragic murder of Israa Ghrayeb, a 21-year old Palestinian woman from Beit Sahour in the West Bank. Israa was murdered by members of her family after she posted a selfie video of an outing with her fiancé. The crime is being called an “honor” killing, but this is misleading and false. There is no honor in murder.
Israa’s murder has given rise to demonstrations throughout Palestine including Ramallah, Bethlehem and Gaza, with protestors demanding stronger laws to protect women from violence. Due to the protests and extensive social media exposure, the Palestinian Authority appears to be investigating Israa’s killing and has made several arrests to question people who may know the truth of how she died.
Israa’s story is an extreme example of how patriarchy impacts women. Every Palestinian woman we know has been reeling from the details of Israa’s torture and death. This incident has sparked a robust conversation that names our oppression at the hands of men and demands an end to patriarchy and misogyny.
Unfortunately, conversations about these harmful attitudes among Palestinians have been muted. There is a long history of Western powers painting the Middle East and Islam as exceptionally barbaric cultures and using the trope of “saving” Middle Eastern women to justify colonization or pointing to Israel’s supposed acceptance of queer people to “pinkwash” its occupation of Palestine. For this reason, Palestinians have hesitated to engage in public discourse around violence against women and LGBTQ people fearing that the conversations would be used to further entrench and justify Israeli oppression.
Everywhere patriarchy and misogyny rely on coercion, fear and, many times, violence to maintain men’s control over women and any individual who threatens their supremacy. In the same way, homophobia, transphobia and violence against LGBTQ people are driven by a narrow definition of what it means to be a “real man.”
Violence against the Palestinian LBGTQ community was thrown into the spotlight earlier this summer. On July 26, a Palestinian teen from the northern village of Tamra (in 48’ Palestine) was severely stabbed by his brother over the youth’s suspected gender and sexual identity. The incident took place near an LGBT youth shelter in Tel Aviv. Thankfully, the teenager survived.
Following the attack on the transgender teen, a historic protest took place in Haifa to demand an end to violence against the LGBTQ community. The demonstration was led by the Palestinian queer community with the support of Palestinian human rights organizations, including Adalah Legal Center. The demonstration marked the first time that an intersectional frame was adopted in Palestine to link the queer struggle with the struggle against Israeli occupation.
However, there seems to be an opening now in the wake of tragedy to push forward serious conversation and critique. As one of the signs at the Haifa protest earlier this month read, “Silence kills. It’s time we raise our voices.”
Al-Qaws, the Association for Sexual and Gender Pluralism in Palestinian Society, issued excellent pointers on how to support Palestinian queers. The same principles can be applied to supporting Palestinians calling for an end to patriarchy and violence against women.
We affirm that all systems of control and violence must be eradicated to bring about true liberation. As Palestinians living outside our homeland, we stand with women and LGBTQ people in Palestine and around the world against misogyny and violence. Freedom means freedom for all.
Sandra and Izzy