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Social Media Campaign Marks New Milestone in Palestinian Queer Organizing

(This article was originally published in Arabic on Arab48)

Over the last decade, a queer organizing movement has been emerging in Palestinian civil society, aiming to highlight the sexual and gender diversity in Palestinian society. The movement began to gain momentum with the founding of alQaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society over ten years ago. Started as a small group of Palestinian queer activists living mainly in Jerusalem and Ramallah, the group is now one of the largest and most influential Palestinian organizations in this field.

Respecting Diversity

Last year saw a huge milestone in alQaws’ work and in the mainstream discussion of sexual and gender diversity issues in Palestine. This shift came when the organization partnered up with “7amleh: Arab Center for Social Media Advancement” to launch its social media campaign “Difference Never Justifies Violence” (Makhtalafnash in Arabic).

Gaining a large audience of over half a million viewers on Facebook, the campaign highlighted the violence faced by LGBTQ individuals in Palestinian society. The message of rejecting violence and respecting diversity resonated more than ever before with this unprecedented reach.

One of the campaign videos had over 700 Facebook shares, garnering over 300,000 views and 600 comments. The campaign’s geographic reach saw impressive diversity between the north and center of Palestine, including Jerusalem, with comparatively less reach in the south.

Implicit Violence

Through its three videos and additional graphics, the campaign brought to the forefront the daily violece faced by LGBTQ individuals. It also expanded the notion of violence, focusing on “implicit” violence, which takes the form of microaggressions, including societal exclusion, marginalization, and denial, all of which are built on widespread myths and stereotypes.


One of the unique aspects of the campaign was the fact that it was based on real lived experiences, situations, and stories collected through multiple queer focus groups conducted in several Palestinian areas.

Amany Khalifa, who conducted the focus groups, commented that it wasn’t easy for group participants to recognize daily acts of violence (or their emotional effects), as some of them had internalized and normalized this form of implicit violence. The same response could be seen from the campaign’s audience, as many of them had expected to see more explicit and physical forms of violence, having overlooked the implicit violence discussed in the campaign. Some audience members rejected the value of focusing on everyday, implicit forms of violence. “It’s possible that the campaign put up a mirror to the audience showing the violence they might be complicit in, causing this defensive response,” adds Khalifa.

Tipping Point

There’s no doubt that these stories gained emotional and political momentum as they were told to the audience by queer people who have lived some of these experiences. One of the people appearing in the videos says that visibility has become inevitable after years of working with Palestinian society. The public sharing of queer experiences, despite its limitations, could create a paradigm shift in the dominant narrative online.


(One of the graphics posted alongside the videos)

 This step toward increased visibility didn’t come suddenly or haphazardly from alQaws. It was the culmination of working directly with society and organizing for years, focusing on building a strong queer activist base. The campaign simply brought this work to a more public and visible platform, creating a real tipping point in the discussion within Palestinian society.


7amleh director, Nadim Nashif, agrees that it’s necessary to use the massive reach of social media to bring these discussions to a larger audience, and that it’s critical for Palestinian organizations to invest in these campaigns.

Despite the campaign’s unprecedented reach and success in opening discussions about these topics, Nashif is well aware of the challenges. For example, Palestinian media outlets didn’t provide enough coverage for the campaign—an obstacle that alQaws has often faced. Additionally, Palestinian civil society organizations “didn’t interact with the campaign, with very few of them sharing the videos due to the fear of backlash,” says Nashif.


On a more technical level, the campaign used multimedia productions, including an animated video and two live-action videos, as well as posters and stickers, in addition to a campaign website with sections offering frequently asked questions and short personal anecdotes.

Abed Tamesh, a creative consultant for the campaign, says that it’s very rare for a locally produced social change campaign to reach this high level of professionalism in Palestine. The long and calculated teamwork put into on this campaign resulted in an impressive achievement  on a technical level.

Future Work

Despite the highly accessible nature of the campaign, the visibility it offered was somewhat narrow, highlighting only a few of the many and varied experiences of gender and sexuality in the posters and other visual material. As more individuals are ready to be so publicly visible, it will be possible to address more diverse experiences and connect to more people..


(One of the graphics posted alongside the videos)

 The campaign marks a growing visibility of queer organizing in Palestine, sparking a new level of influence and discussion in Palestinian society. This challenges alQaws and other Palestinian organizations to take more responsibility in continuing the conversation through future campaigns and other ways of amplifying influence and affecting change.