NGOs slam Palestinian police move to block LGBTQ group

Jerusalem (AFP) –


A move by Palestinian police to "stop all activities" of an LGBTQ association sparked criticism Wednesday from rights groups, which said it had led to threats.

Police on Saturday announced the decision against the Al-Qaws Foundation, which campaigns for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Palestinians.

The Foundation's work was "a violation of the ideals and values of Palestinian society," police said.

The statement triggered a wave of hate messages which "pose a serious threat to the Palestinian LGBTQ community and to the Al-Qaws community," the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council said Wednesday.

The social media messages included "incitement to violence reaching the level of incitement to killings" according to a statement from the Council, signed by 11 Palestinian NGOs.

"The PHROC calls on the Palestinian Authority to provide protection to Palestinians without discrimination," it said.

Police subsequently rescinded their original statement, according to the Council. But legal rights group Al-Haq, one of the 11 NGO signatories, said that did not go far enough.

A police spokesman told AFP on Tuesday that Al-Qaws had failed to comply with a legal requirement to notify the authorities in advance of a gathering.

Last month Al-Qaws announced plans to hold a camp for "young men and women, aged 18 to 24", with different sexual orientations.

The event would explore various aspects of their sexuality and "their relationship with society", according to the group which did not detail where or when it would take place.

The association reported receiving numerous hate messages after the invitation was published, several of which were seen by AFP.

Omar al-Khatib, a member of Al-Qaws, told AFP late Tuesday that the campaign against the group had intensified after the police threat.

"The police bear a great responsibility if something happens to us," he said.

Al-Qaws is based in Haifa, Israel, and works in Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah, among others.

Homosexuality is a taboo subject in Palestinian society, but is not illegal in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority is based.

In the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, however, it is a crime which can be punished with up to 10 years in prison.