Anwen Bailey reports
A contingent of people from the lesbian and gay rights groups OutRage! and the Queer Youth Alliance joined a demostration for Palestinian rights on 14 May. The demonstration was organised by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee. The contingent were there in solidarity with Palesitnians, but were also urging the Palestinian Authority to halt the arrest, torture and murder of homosexuals.
They marched with placards reading: "Israel: stop persecuting Palestine! Palestine: stop persecuting queers!"
According to the group, as soon as they arrived in Trafalgar Square to join the demonstration, they were surrounded by an angry, screaming mob - an unlikely mix of Islamic fundamentalists, Anglican clergymen, members of the Socialist Workers Party, the Stop the War Coalition, and officials from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).
The activists were called "racists", "Zionists", "CIA and MI5 agents", "supporters of the Sharon government" and were accused of "dividing the Free Palestine movement".
PSC organisers asked the activists to "stand at the back of the demonstration", and when they refused blocked their placards with their own banners and shouted down the gay campaigners as they tried to speak to journalists and other protesters.
Yet, most people at the Palestine protest expressed no hostility towards OutRage! and the Queer Youth Alliance. Some expressed positive support.
What were the activists trying to say?
"Gay Palestinians live in fear of arrest, detention without trial, torture and execution at the hands of Palestinian police and security services. They also risk abduction and so-called honour killing by vengeful family members and vigilante mobs, as well as punishment beatings and murder by Palestinian political groups such as Hamas and Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.
"These revelations come from the independent human rights watchdog, B'Tselem, and from the Israeli gay rights groups Aguda and Open House, which help gay Palestinian refugees".
"Both Islamophobia and homophobia are intolerable. Upholding the principle of universal human rights, we support the human rights of the people of Palestine. We call on the Palestinians to recognise the human rights of gay Palestinians".
Absolutely right. For the left no isssue of human rights should be divisible or expendable. Sadly on the issue of lesbian and gay rights in the recent past for the SWP that has not been so.
Jamaican activist murdered
Jamaican gay rights leader, Brian Williamson, was hacked to death in his Kingston home at the beginning of June. As Williamson's body was removed from his house, a crowd gathered to laugh and jeer.
Brian Williamson was a founding member and leading public spokesperson for J-Flag, the Jamaican gay rights group.
Lesbian and gay people in Jamaica have a very hard time - under Jamaican law gay sex can be punished with 10 years hard labour. Gay men are murdered in jail.
Now the Jamaican police are dismissing Brian Williamson's murder as a robbery gone wrong, on the grounds that some of Brian's possessions were stolen.
More than 30 gay men have been murdered in Jamaica in recent years: variously clubbed with sticks, shot, matcheted, stoned, burned with petrol, stabbed, and chased into the sea and left to drown.
The police are themselves accused of beating up lesbians and gay men.