“Colonialism is not about bad people being mean to others (“bad” Israelis don’t steal queer Palestinians’ lunch money),” queer Palestinian activist Ghaith Hilal writes. “Being super ‘good’ doesn’t magically dissolve systems of oppression.” Ghaith’s words, which come from the must-read article “Eight Things Palestinian Queers Are Tired of Hearing,” articulate my own view as I come to reflect on student organizing around Palestine and broader issues of justice and liberation.
Two weeks ago, Stanford Israel Alliance co-hosted a screening of “Out in the Dark” with the Queer Straight Alliance. Having watched the film and its portrayal of a star-crossed relationship between a gay Palestinian resident of the West Bank and a gay Jewish Israeli and having spent a month in the West Bank primarily with queer Palestinians, the film felt both compelling (I’m a sucker for most love stories) and violent. What was compelling was the simple human desire to love and be loved, and watching a couple attempt to fight the structural barriers conspiring against them — the violence, moreover, laid in the overlying and underlying messages that come across during these moments of vulnerability and emotional attachment to the film.
“Out in the Dark” portrays Roy, a well-off, Jewish Israeli lawyer as a savior to Nimr, a queer Palestinian student who apparently must flee from his repressive, homophobic society across the apartheid wall in Ramallah. While the film does show parts of the oppressive nature of the Israeli Occupation Force, it casts every Arab male character besides Nimr as homophobic and violent or effeminate and non-threatening, playing into stereotypes about Palestinian/Arab men and gay men without delving into the complexity of resisting colonization and occupation or of finding balance around being Palestinian, religious and gay. Glimmers of statements against the occupation highlight a corrupt Israeli security apparatus without challenging the underlying problem (settler colonialism and its effects on the indigenous population). Roy’s parents’ aversion to his sexual orientation and his Palestinian boyfriend do not cast Israeli society as homophobic or racist, but as relatively reasonable responses within a complex society.
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