Adonis Diaries

Archive for July 8th, 2015

Ending Greece’s Bleeding

Paul Krugman posted this article this July 5, 2015

Europe dodged a bullet on Sunday. Confounding many predictions, Greek voters strongly supported their government’s rejection of creditor demands.

And even the most ardent supporters of European union should be breathing a sigh of relief.

Of course, that’s not the way the creditors would have you see it.

Their story, echoed by many in the business press, is that the failure of their attempt to bully Greece into acquiescence was a triumph of irrationality and irresponsibility over sound technocratic advice.

But the campaign of bullying — the attempt to terrify Greeks by cutting off bank financing and threatening general chaos, all with the almost open goal of pushing the current leftist government out of office — was a shameful moment in a Europe that claims to believe in democratic principles.

It would have set a terrible precedent if that campaign had succeeded, even if the creditors were making sense.

What’s more, the creditors weren’t.

The truth is that Europe’s self-styled technocrats are like medieval doctors who insisted on bleeding their patients — and when their treatment made the patients sicker, demanded even more bleeding.

A “yes” vote in Greece would have condemned the country to years more of suffering under policies that haven’t worked and in fact, given the arithmetic, can’t work: austerity probably shrinks the economy faster than it reduces debt, so that all the suffering serves no purpose.

The landslide victory of the “No” side offers at least a chance for an escape from this trap.

But how can such an escape be managed? Is there any way for Greece to remain in the euro? And is this desirable in any case?

The most immediate question involves Greek banks.

In advance of the referendum, the European Central Bank cut off their access to additional funds, helping to precipitate panic and force the government to impose a bank holiday and capital controls.

The  EU central bank now faces an awkward choice: if it resumes normal financing it will as much as admit that the previous freeze was political, but if it doesn’t it will effectively force Greece into introducing a new currency.

Specifically, if the money doesn’t start flowing from Frankfurt (the headquarters of the central bank), Greece will have no choice but to start paying wages and pensions with i.o.u.s, which will de facto be a parallel currency — and which might soon turn into the new drachma.

Suppose, on the other hand, that the central bank does resume normal lending, and the banking crisis eases. That still leaves the question of how to restore economic growth.

In the failed negotiations that led up to Sunday’s referendum, the central sticking point was Greece’s demand for permanent debt relief, to remove the cloud hanging over its economy.

The troika — the institutions representing creditor interests — refused, even though we now know that one member of the troika, the International Monetary Fund, had concluded independently that Greece’s debt cannot be paid.

But will they reconsider now that the attempt to drive the governing leftist coalition from office has failed?

I have no idea — and in any case there is now a strong argument that Greek exit from the euro is the best of bad options.

Imagine, for a moment, that Greece had never adopted the euro, that it had merely fixed the value of the drachma in terms of euros.

What would basic economic analysis say it should do now?

The answer, overwhelmingly, would be that it should devalue — let the drachma’s value drop, both to encourage exports and to break out of the cycle of deflation.

Of course, Greece no longer has its own currency, and many analysts used to claim that adopting the euro was an irreversible move — after all, any hint of euro exit would set off devastating bank runs and a financial crisis.

But at this point that financial crisis has already happened, so that the biggest costs of euro exit have been paid. Why, then, not go for the benefits?

Would Greek exit from the euro work as well as Iceland’s highly successful devaluation in 2008-09, or Argentina’s abandonment of its one-peso-one-dollar policy in 2001-02?

Maybe not — but consider the alternatives.

Unless Greece receives really major debt relief, and possibly even then, leaving the euro offers the only plausible escape route from its endless economic nightmare.

And let’s be clear: if Greece ends up leaving the euro, it won’t mean that the Greeks are bad Europeans.

Greece’s debt problem reflected irresponsible lending as well as irresponsible borrowing, and in any case the Greeks have paid for their government’s sins many times over.

If they can’t make a go of Europe’s common currency, it’s because that common currency offers no respite for countries in trouble.

The important thing now is to do whatever it takes to end the bleeding.

Note: “Podemos movement (We Can)” in Spain has gained a lot of ground, emulating Greece resistance to the dicta of the EU troika and IMF. Whatever deal is reached with Greece will have repercussion in Spain.

 

Are we able to see Reality as is?

I love a great mystery, and I’m fascinated by the greatest unsolved mystery in science, perhaps because it’s personal.

It’s about who we are, and I can’t help but be curious.

The mystery is this: What is the relationship between your brain and your conscious experiences, such as your experience of the taste of chocolate or the feeling of velvet?

This mystery is not new. In 1868, Thomas Huxley wrote,

“How it is that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as the result of irritating nervous tissue is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the genie when Aladdin rubbed his lamp.”

Now, Huxley knew that brain activity and conscious experiences are correlated, but he didn’t know why.

To the science of his day, it was a mystery. In the years since Huxley, science has learned a lot about brain activity, but the relationship between brain activity and conscious experiences is still a mystery. Why?

Why have we made so little progress?

Well, some experts think that we can’t solve this problem because we lack the necessary concepts and intelligence.

We don’t expect monkeys to solve problems in quantum mechanics, and as it happens, we can’t expect our species to solve this problem either.

Well, I disagree. I’m more optimistic. I think we’ve simply made a false assumption.

Once we fix it, we just might solve this problem. Today, I’d like tell you what that assumption is, why it’s false, and how to fix it.

1:58 Let’s begin with a question: Do we see reality as it is?

I open my eyes and I have an experience that I describe as a red tomato a meter away. As a result, I come to believe that in reality, there’s a red tomato a meter away.

I then close my eyes, and my experience changes to a gray field, but is it still the case that in reality, there’s a red tomato a meter away? I think so, but could I be wrong? Could I be misinterpreting the nature of my perceptions?

We have misinterpreted our perceptions before. We used to think the Earth is flat, because it looks that way. Pythagorus discovered that we were wrong.

Then we thought that the Earth is the unmoving center of the Universe, again because it looks that way. Copernicus and Galileo discovered, again, that we were wrong.

3:00 Galileo then wondered if we might be misinterpreting our experiences in other ways. He wrote: “I think that tastes, odors, colors, and so on reside in consciousness. Hence if the living creature were removed, all these qualities would be annihilated.”

That’s a stunning claim. Could Galileo be right? Could we really be misinterpreting our experiences that badly? What does modern science have to say about this?

Neuroscientists tell us that about a third of the brain’s cortex is engaged in vision. When you simply open your eyes and look about this room, billions of neurons and trillions of synapses are engaged.

This is a bit surprising, because to the extent that we think about vision at all, we think of it as like a camera.

It just takes a picture of objective reality as it is. Now, there is a part of vision that’s like a camera: the eye has a lens that focuses an image on the back of the eye where there are 130 million photoreceptors, so the eye is like a 130-megapixel camera.

But that doesn’t explain the billions of neurons and trillions of synapses that are engaged in vision. What are these neurons up to?

Neuroscientists tell us that they are creating, in real time, all the shapes, objects, colors, and motions that we see. It feels like we’re just taking a snapshot of this room the way it is, but in fact, we’re constructing everything that we see. We don’t construct the whole world at once. We construct what we need in the moment.

Now, there are many demonstrations that are quite compelling that we construct what we see. I’ll just show you two.

In this example, you see some red discs with bits cut out of them, but if I just rotate the disks a little bit, suddenly, you see a 3D cube pop out of the screen. Now, the screen of course is flat, so the three-dimensional cube that you’re experiencing must be your construction.

In this next example, you see glowing blue bars with pretty sharp edges moving across a field of dots. In fact, no dots move. All I’m doing from frame to frame is changing the colors of dots from blue to black or black to blue. But when I do this quickly, your visual system creates the glowing blue bars with the sharp edges and the motion. There are many more examples, but these are just two that you construct what you see.

 But neuroscientists go further. They say that we reconstruct reality. So, when I have an experience that I describe as a red tomato, that experience is actually an accurate reconstruction of the properties of a real red tomato that would exist even if I weren’t looking.

6:12 Now, why would neuroscientists say that we don’t just construct, we reconstruct?

Well, the standard argument given is usually an evolutionary one. Those of our ancestors who saw more accurately had a competitive advantage compared to those who saw less accurately, and therefore they were more likely to pass on their genes.

We are the offspring of those who saw more accurately, and so we can be confident that, in the normal case, our perceptions are accurate. You see this in the standard textbooks. One textbook says, for example, “Evolutionarily speaking, vision is useful precisely because it is so accurate.” So the idea is that accurate perceptions are fitter perceptions. They give you a survival advantage.

Now, is this correct? Is this the right interpretation of evolutionary theory? Well, let’s first look at a couple of examples in nature.

The Australian jewel beetle is dimpled, glossy and brown. The female is flightless. The male flies, looking for a hot female. When he finds one, he alights and mates.

There’s another species in the outback, Homo sapiens. The male of this species has a massive brain that he uses to hunt for cold beer. (Laughter) And when he finds one, he drains it, and sometimes throws the bottle into the outback.

Now, as it happens, these bottles are dimpled, glossy, and just the right shade of brown to tickle the fancy of these beetles. The males swarm all over the bottles trying to mate. They lose all interest in the real females.

Classic case of the male leaving the female for the bottle. (Laughter)  The species almost went extinct.

Australia had to change its bottles to save its beetles. (Laughter)

Now, the males had successfully found females for thousands, perhaps millions of years. It looked like they saw reality as it is, but apparently not. Evolution had given them a hack.

A female is anything dimpled, glossy and brown, the bigger the better. (Laughter) Even when crawling all over the bottle, the male couldn’t discover his mistake.

Now, you might say, beetles, sure, they’re very simple creatures, but surely not mammals. Mammals don’t rely on tricks. Well, I won’t dwell on this, but you get the idea. (Laughter)

So this raises an important technical question: Does natural selection really favor seeing reality as it is?

Fortunately, we don’t have to wave our hands and guess; evolution is a mathematically precise theory. We can use the equations of evolution to check this out. We can have various organisms in artificial worlds compete and see which survive and which thrive, which sensory systems are more fit.

9:32 A key notion in those equations is fitness.

Consider this steak: What does this steak do for the fitness of an animal? Well, for a hungry lion looking to eat, it enhances fitness. For a well-fed lion looking to mate, it doesn’t enhance fitness.

And for a rabbit in any state, it doesn’t enhance fitness, so fitness does depend on reality as it is, yes, but also on the organism, its state and its action.

Fitness is not the same thing as reality as it is. And it’s fitness, and not reality as it is, that figures centrally in the equations of evolution.

10:20 So, in my lab, we have run hundreds of thousands of evolutionary game simulations with lots of different randomly chosen worlds and organisms that compete for resources in those worlds.

Some of the organisms see all of the reality, others see just part of the reality, and some see none of the reality, only fitness. Who wins?

10:47 Well, I hate to break it to you, but perception of reality goes extinct.

In almost every simulation, organisms that see none of reality but are just tuned to fitness drive to extinction all the organisms that perceive reality as it is. So the bottom line is, evolution does not favor vertical, or accurate perceptions. Those perceptions of reality go extinct.

This is a bit stunning. How can it be that not seeing the world accurately gives us a survival advantage?

That is a bit counterintuitive. But remember the jewel beetle. The jewel beetle survived for thousands, perhaps millions of years, using simple tricks and hacks.

What the equations of evolution are telling us is that all organisms, including us, are in the same boat as the jewel beetle. We do not see reality as it is. We’re shaped with tricks and hacks that keep us alive.

11:47 Still, we need some help with our intuitions.

How can not perceiving reality as it is be useful? Well, fortunately, we have a very helpful metaphor: the desktop interface on your computer.

Consider that blue icon for a TED Talk that you’re writing. Now, the icon is blue and rectangular and in the lower right corner of the desktop. Does that mean that the text file itself in the computer is blue, rectangular, and in the lower right-hand corner of the computer? Of course not.

Anyone who thought that misinterprets the purpose of the interface. It’s not there to show you the reality of the computer. In fact, it’s there to hide that reality.

You don’t want to know about the diodes and resistors and all the megabytes of software. If you had to deal with that, you could never write your text file or edit your photo.

So the idea is that evolution has given us an interface that hides reality and guides adaptive behavior. Space and time, as you perceive them right now, are your desktop. Physical objects are simply icons in that desktop.

There’s an obvious objection.

Hoffman, if you think that train coming down the track at 200 MPH is just an icon of your desktop, why don’t you step in front of it?

And after you’re gone, and your theory with you, we’ll know that there’s more to that train than just an icon.

Well, I wouldn’t step in front of that train for the same reason that I wouldn’t carelessly drag that icon to the trash can: not because I take the icon literally — the file is not literally blue or rectangular — but I do take it seriously.

I could lose weeks of work. Similarly, evolution has shaped us with perceptual symbols that are designed to keep us alive. We’d better take them seriously.

If you see a snake, don’t pick it up. If you see a cliff, don’t jump off. They’re designed to keep us safe, and we should take them seriously. That does not mean that we should take them literally. That’s a logical error.

Another objection: There’s nothing really new here. Physicists have told us for a long time that the metal of that train looks solid but really it’s mostly empty space with microscopic particles zipping around.

There’s nothing new here. Well, not exactly. It’s like saying, I know that that blue icon on the desktop is not the reality of the computer, but if I pull out my trusty magnifying glass and look really closely, I see little pixels, and that’s the reality of the computer. Well, not really — you’re still on the desktop, and that’s the point.

Those microscopic particles are still in space and time: they’re still in the user interface. So I’m saying something far more radical than those physicists.

Finally, you might object, look, we all see the train, therefore none of us constructs the train.

But remember this example. In this example, we all see a cube, but the screen is flat, so the cube that you see is the cube that you construct. We all see a cube because we all, each one of us, constructs the cube that we see.

The same is true of the train. We all see a train because we each see the train that we construct, and the same is true of all physical objects.

15:23 We’re inclined to think that perception is like a window on reality as it is. The theory of evolution is telling us that this is an incorrect interpretation of our perceptions.

Instead, reality is more like a 3D desktop that’s designed to hide the complexity of the real world and guide adaptive behavior. Space as you perceive it is your desktop. Physical objects are just the icons in that desktop.

15:52 We used to think that the Earth is flat because it looks that way. Then we thought that the Earth is the unmoving center of reality because it looks that way. We were wrong. We had misinterpreted our perceptions.

Now we believe that spacetime and objects are the nature of reality as it is. The theory of evolution is telling us that once again, we’re wrong.

We’re misinterpreting the content of our perceptual experiences. There’s something that exists when you don’t look, but it’s not spacetime and physical objects.

It’s as hard for us to let go of spacetime and objects as it is for the jewel beetle to let go of its bottle. Why?

Because we’re blind to our own blindnesses. But we have an advantage over the jewel beetle: our science and technology.

By peering through the lens of a telescope we discovered that the Earth is not the unmoving center of reality, and by peering through the lens of the theory of evolution we discovered that spacetime and objects are not the nature of reality.

When I have a perceptual experience that I describe as a red tomato, I am interacting with reality, but that reality is not a red tomato and is nothing like a red tomato.

Similarly, when I have an experience that I describe as a lion or a steak, I’m interacting with reality, but that reality is not a lion or a steak.

And here’s the kicker: When I have a perceptual experience that I describe as a brain, or neurons, I am interacting with reality, but that reality is not a brain or neurons and is nothing like a brain or neurons.

And that reality, whatever it is, is the real source of cause and effect in the world — not brains, not neurons. Brains and neurons have no causal powers. They cause none of our perceptual experiences, and none of our behavior. Brains and neurons are a species-specific set of symbols, a hack.

18:01 What does this mean for the mystery of consciousness? Well, it opens up new possibilities.

For instance, perhaps reality is some vast machine that causes our conscious experiences. I doubt this, but it’s worth exploring.

Perhaps reality is some vast, interacting network of conscious agents, simple and complex, that cause each other’s conscious experiences. Actually, this isn’t as crazy an idea as it seems, and I’m currently exploring it.

But here’s the point: Once we let go of our massively intuitive but massively false assumption about the nature of reality, it opens up new ways to think about life’s greatest mystery.

I bet that reality will end up turning out to be more fascinating and unexpected than we’ve ever imagined.

19:00 The theory of evolution presents us with the ultimate dare: Dare to recognize that perception is not about seeing truth, it’s about having kids. And by the way, even this TED is just in your head.

19:31 Chris Anderson: If that’s really you there, thank you. So there’s so much from this. I mean, first of all, some people may just be profoundly depressed at the thought that, if evolution does not favor reality, I mean, doesn’t that to some extent undermine all our endeavors here, all our ability to think that we can think the truth, possibly even including your own theory, if you go there?

19:56 Donald Hoffman: Well, this does not stop us from a successful science. What we have is one theory that turned out to be false, that perception is like reality and reality is like our perceptions. That theory turns out to be false.

Okay, throw that theory away. That doesn’t stop us from now postulating all sorts of other theories about the nature of reality, so it’s actually progress to recognize that one of our theories was false. So science continues as normal. There’s no problem here.

20:22 CA: This is cool, but what you’re saying I think is it’s possible that evolution can still get you to reason.

20:31 DH: Yes. Now that’s a very, very good point. The evolutionary game simulations that I showed were specifically about perception, and they do show that our perceptions have been shaped not to show us reality as it is, but that does not mean the same thing about our logic or mathematics.

We haven’t done these simulations, but my bet is that we’ll find that there are some selection pressures for our logic and our mathematics to be at least in the direction of truth. I mean, if you’re like me, math and logic is not easy.

We don’t get it all right, but at least the selection pressures are not uniformly away from true math and logic. So I think that we’ll find that we have to look at each cognitive faculty one at a time and see what evolution does to it.

What’s true about perception may not be true about math and logic.

21:14 CA: I mean, really what you’re proposing is a kind of modern-day Bishop Berkeley interpretation of the world: consciousness causes matter, not the other way around.

21:23 DH: Well, it’s slightly different than Berkeley. Berkeley thought that, he was a deist, and he thought that the ultimate nature of reality is God and so forth, and I don’t need to go where Berkeley’s going, so it’s quite a bit different from Berkeley. I call this conscious realism. It’s actually a very different approach.

21:42 CA: Don, I could literally talk with you for hours, and I hope to do that.

Donald Hoffman on March 2015

Note: The way I comprehended this awesome speech is:

1. There are only 2 realities:  The survival process of the species and Death

2. If mankind tampers with the survival process we are doomed (as we already decimated countless other species)

3. We don’t love Death. We don’t love making babies: we just deal with this survival reality as best we can.

4. Love is not within the realm of making babies: we just fall in love.

5. Keep mathematics and logic out of the survival process and do not allow them to give us new ideas on that topic

Whitewash rainbow flag from West Bank barrier: Palestinian protesters

Palestinian protesters have whitewashed a rainbow flag painted on six slabs of the West Bank separation barrier.

Khaled Jarrar, the Palestinian painter of the piece, said his art was meant as a reminder of Israeli occupation, at a time when gay rights are in the news after the US allowed same-sex marriage.

But protesters perceived the painting as support for homosexuality, a taboo subject in Palestinian society where gay people are not tolerated. (That should be the least of their worries and indignities)

It ignited angry responses and activists whitewashed the flag on Monday night, just a few hours after it was painted on the best-known section of Israel’s graffiti-covered barrier, next to a portrait of Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian figures.

Jarrar, 39, who has exhibited his work in Europe and the US, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the destruction “reflects the absence of tolerance and freedoms in the Palestinian society”.

“People don’t accept different thinking in our society,” he said, adding he painted the rainbow flag on the barrier to put a spotlight on Palestinian issues.

Israel, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the world’s most gay-friendly travel destinations, in sharp contrast to the rest of the Middle East where gay people are often persecuted and even killed. Earlier this month, more than 100,000 people attended a gay pride parade in Tel Aviv.

Officially there is still no same-sex marriage in Israel, primarily because there is no civil marriage of any kind – all Jewish weddings must be conducted through the rabbinate, which considers homosexuality a sin and a violation of Jewish law. But the state recognises same-sex couples who marry abroad. (Same for Lebanon of a civil marriage)

Same-sex relations are punishable by death in Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.

Palestinians who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) face a unique, complex, and often dire set of struggles on multiple fronts.

Palestinian society is in many ways deeply conservative and traditional, so those who identify as LGBTQ often face harsh reactions from their families and communities, ranging from social ostracism to physical violence.

At the same time, LGBTQ Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories regularly face discrimination, denials of civil and human rights, and other forms of violence and inequality as a result of their Palestinian identity.

LGBTQ Palestinians are often urged to choose between being Palestinian and being queer, but these problems are not separable: as LGBTQ Palestinians, our sexual/gender identities and our national/cultural identities are inextricably linked – both in how we understand and identify ourselves and in the struggles we face as individuals and as a community.

Troubled by the absence of an organisation that caters to the specific needs of our community, we – a group of LGBTQ Palestinians who live in Israel and the occupied territories – founded al-Qaws (Arabic for “rainbow”), which became the first legally recognised, autonomous Palestinian LGBTQ organisation in November last year.

Motivated by a vision of a non-hierarchical society that recognises – and values – the diversity of sexual and gender identities, al-Qaws aspires to play a pioneering role in helping to build a just Palestinian society based on tolerance, equality, and openness. We believe that such a society will serve as a source of freedom and creativity and will enrich the lives, not only of LGBTQ Palestinians, but Palestinians in general.

Founded as an autonomous project within the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH) in 2001, al-Qaws obtained non-profit status and became an independent legal entity at the culmination of an intense process of organisational and group work among our leadership group that began in September 2006.

Our desire to form an independent organisation was based on our conviction that this was the only way we could adequately address our specific and growing needs as Palestinian LGBTQs and provide a forum for internal dialogue about our multiple identities and our relationship with Palestinian society at large.

The particular social context in which we live and work provided the original catalyst for al-Qaws, but it also shapes our overall mission and our daily work. In contrast to many western societies, where queer communities and movements have matured over the past several decades, the queer Palestinian community is still nascent, at best.

Besides that, the dominant western constructs of queer identity do not have the same relevance for many Palestinians, who are left without a culturally meaningful set of narratives around which to organise a movement and understand their identities and desires. The result is that most LGBTQ Palestinians face two equally unsatisfactory options. One is to conform with local cultural norms and live outwardly “heterosexual” lives. The other is to risk persecution by adopting an identity that many Palestinians associate with the west. Al-Qaws is therefore determined, not simply to mimic an existing model of queer identity/community, but to provide a social space for LGBTQ Palestinians to independently engage in a dialogue about our own visions and ideals for a community.

More broadly, we aim to promote transformation and change in Palestinian society by, on one hand, challenging social attitudes and religious taboos about sexuality and gender and, on the other hand, advancing the social engagement and contributions of LGBTQ Palestinians through empowerment, education, and the development of leadership skills.

At the same time, however, we emphasise that LGBTQ Palestinians face pressures, not just from Palestinian society, but from the wider context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. LGBTQ Palestinians’ struggles are a complex result of problems internal to Palestinian society and the harsh realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Al-Qaws aims to serve the needs of LGBTQ Palestinians with an eye to both sides of this equation, and although we are hopeful and determined, we are also recognise the limits the political situation places on our ability to bring change.

For example, while Palestinians in Israel, Jerusalem, and the occupied territories of the West Bank and the Gaza constitute one community, our different legal statuses and the different realities of each of these locations – including, for example, restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza – severely constrain our ability to meet as a community.

Despite these obstacles, al-Qaws is actively engaged in promoting the development and growth of the Palestinian LGBTQ community in Israel and the Palestinian National Authority. Because this process is inherently linked with the wider struggle to build an equal, diverse, tolerant and open society, al-Qaws is an enthusiastic partner with those who share our vision of a vibrant Palestinian civil society that honours the human and civil rights of all individuals, including those who do not conform to cultural or religious norms of gender and sexuality.

Al-Qaws is currently engaged, for example, in the preparatory stages of a joint research project with local human rights organisations in the West Bank.

This innovative project will examine, for the first time ever, attitudes of social justice activists, human rights activists, and LGBTQs in the West Bank toward the taboo topic of sexual diversity/orientation.

This research will draw attention to the problem of LGBTQ civil and human rights in Palestinian society, inform the scope of our future awareness-raising programmes and educational outreach, and ultimately, we hope, initiate public debates among human rights, women’s, and social justice organisations on frequently ignored issues of gender and sexual identity

Another upcoming research project of al-Qaws will investigate alternatives to the western model of homosexuality/sexual diversity, informed by our own cultures, values, and histories.

The western model, in which “visibility” and “coming out of the closet” are central motifs, is not practical or meaningful for many LGBTQ Palestinians. In order to deal effectively with the actual experiences and needs of LGBTQ Palestinians, a new and more relevant model that responds to our unique historical and cultural context is urgently needed.

In addition to these long-term research projects, al-Qaws is engaged in regular projects that have immediate impacts on the lives of LGBTQ Palestinians in Jerusalem, Yaffa-Tel Aviv, the northern region of Israel, and the West Bank (as often as possible given the political limitations).

For example, we have organised workshops to develop activist and leadership skills among LGBTQ Palestinians, as well as meetings to discuss issues of sexuality and gender more generally.

Additionally, because one of our goals is to provide a safe space for members of the community, we regularly organise social events where LGBTQ Palestinians can feel free to meet and socialise.

And al-Qaws’s LGBTQ Arabic website, one of few such websites, has been a particularly valuable tool, both for networking and educational purposes. More than 1,000 people from Israel-Palestine and beyond have participated in Arabic discussion forums on issues of gender and sexuality since we developed the site.

These are only a few of the many projects in which al-Qaws is engaged, and we are constantly searching for new and innovative ways to respond to the diverse needs of LGBTQ Palestinians. To be sure, ours is not an easy job.

We are fully aware of the complexities of this moment and the challenges that lie ahead. But our move towards independence is an exciting change, and we believe that it will open new opportunities for LGBTQ Palestinians – and also, if less directly, for all Israelis and Palestinians – to imagine, and create, a future based on equality and respect for our differences, rather than the petty prejudices and injustices that characterise so many of our lives

Andrew Bossone  and  Carol Mansour shared and commented on this link.

Not impressed with the shaping of this narrative. Very simplistic. And what the hell does the “Israel, meanwhile…” have to do with this piece?

Israel, meanwhile has giant gay parades, so it is the epitome of tolerance….right.

Never mind the occupation, look at our rainbow feather boas….

Obnoxious. And this is why the move was silly for those who painted over it.

I knew it was inevitable such a fluff piece would come out. Tanya Habjouqa

Khaled Jarrar, a Palestinian artist, said he had meant to call attention to Israeli occupation at a time when gay rights are in news, but flag was labelled ‘shameful’
theguardian.com

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