A Palestinian artist cried intolerance after angry Palestinians whitewashed his drawing of a rainbow flag, the symbol of gay rights, saying it was “shameful.”
Palestinian protesters whitewashed a rainbow flag, the symbol of gay rights, that was painted by a Palestinian artist on six slabs of the separation barrier with Israel.
The artist, Khaled Jarrar, sparked the controversy at a time when gay rights are in the news after the US legalized same-sex marriages.
Palestinian protesters perceived the painting as support for homosexuality, a taboo subject in Palestinian society, where gays are not tolerated.
The artwork ignited angry responses among Palestinians, and activists whitewashed the flag on Monday night, just a few hours after it was painted on the best known section of Israel’s graffiti-covered barrier, next to a portrait of arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat, founder of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and other Palestinian leaders.
Jarrar, 39, who has exhibited in Europe and the United States, told AP that the destruction “reflects the absence of tolerance and freedoms in Palestinian society.”
“People don’t accept different thinking in our society,” he said, adding that he drew the rainbow flag on the barrier to put a spotlight on Palestinian issues.
Mohammed, who only gave his first name for fear of repercussions, said he helped whitewash the flag because “we cannot promote gay rights.”
Mohammed al-Amleh, a 46-year-old lawyer, also approved of the whitewashing, saying that “it would be shameful to have the flag of gays in our refugee camp.”
Gay Palestinians Seek Refuge in Israel
Gay Palestinians tend to be secretive about their social lives, and some have crossed into Israel to live safely.
A 1951 Jordanian law banning homosexual acts remains in effect in the Palestinian Authority (PA), as does a ban in Gaza passed by British authorities in 1936.
Israel, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the world’s most gay-friendly travel destinations recently, in sharp contrast to most of the rest of the Middle East, where gay culture is not tolerated and gays are persecuted and even killed. Earlier this month, over 100,000 people attended a gay pride parade in Tel Aviv.
In Israel, gays serve openly in Israel’s military and parliament, and many popular artists and entertainers are gay.
Across most of the rest of the Middle East, however, gay and lesbian relationships are taboo. The pervasiveness of religion in everyday life, along with strict cultural norms, plays a major factor in that.
Same-sex relations are punishable by death in Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.
Rainbow Mural Sparks Rare Debate
Jarrar says his work sparked a rare debate among Palestinians about gay rights.
Speaking Wednesday, he said that he received hundreds of Facebook messages — some threatening, but others supportive or curious.
The artist says he told his critics that “we can only demand equality if we give it.”
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