Israeli court rules in favour of LGBTQ+ Palestinian asylum seekers

Judge approves gay Palestinian man’s appeal due to sexual persecution in West Bank


An Israeli border guard stands guard as people draped in rainbow flags march during the 21st annual Jerusalem Pride Parade in Jerusalem in 2023. A new court ruling will allow LGBTQ+ Palestinians to request asylum in Israel on the basis of escaping sexual persecution. (Photo by Menahem KAHANA / AFP) (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

LGBTQ+ Palestinians who are in danger due to their sexuality can now request asylum in Israel, the Tel Aviv Court for Administrative Affairs ruled on Sunday.

According to a report by Kan News, the ruling came after a 29-year-old Palestinian man from the West Bank appealed his rejection by the Population and Immigration Authority for extended residency in Israel on grounds of his sexual orientation.

Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen approved the man’s appeal despite the Population Authority’s view that not all Palestinians are subject to the UN Refugee Convention, which has historically meant Israel is not required to grant asylum to Palestinians.

Judge Agmon-Gonen rejected the Population Authority’s perspective on Palestinian refugees, ruling that Palestinians from the West Bank are entitled to request asylum if they are at risk of sexual and political persecution.

According to the Palestinian man, who moved to Israel in 2015, he faced violent discrimination after telling his parents about his sexual orientation when he refused to marry the woman they had chosen for him. He claimed that his father attacked him and called on other relatives to attack him as well, at which point the man fled from his home in the West Bank and arrived in Israel.

After hiding in Israel for a period, the man contacted the Civil Authority through an organisation that assists LGBTQ+ Arabs in acquiring a residency permit. Though his initial request was rejected, the man received a temporary permit after further proceedings.

Hen Mazzig, writer and founder of the Tel Aviv of Institute, called the ruling “a very welcome step” which sets a precedent that could ensure more LGBTQ+ Palestinians are granted asylum in Israel.

“While Israel is not perfect, it’s still a safe country for LGBTQ+ people,” said Mazzig. “It's not like the Israeli government gave us those rights, we had to fight for them, and while we still can’t get married inside Israel – you can’t have a civil union in Israel – there was legislation passed last year that allows surrogacy for same-sex couples, that allows for adoption, and LGBTQ+ people have been protected by law for decades. The way to achieve full equality is by promoting those sorts of achievements.”

Posting in celebration of the verdict on social media, Mazzig was disturbed to find that numerous anti-Israel activists decried the ruling as further evidence of Israeli “pinkwashing.”

“The notion of pink washing, which means that anything positive that Israel does towards LGBTQ+ people must be a sinister attempt to divert public opinion, is rooted in antisemitism,” said Mazzig. “What they’re basically saying is that there is nothing positive Israel can do, and we can’t speak about any positive achievements or progress that Israel is making for the LGBTQ+ community.”

But the verdict has not been universally welcomed in Israel either. After the ruling was published on Sunday Interior Minister Moshe Arbel, a member of the strictly-Orthodox Shas party, announced that he would file an appeal against Agmon-Gonen's recent court decision.

The Aguda, the Association for LGBTQ+ Equality in Israel, responded to the Interior Minister’s decision to appeal the progressive verdict on X, writing that it “contradicts the State of Israel's duty as a democratic state to stand by those who are persecuted because of their identity.”

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