"(Bashar) Murad, 26 and openly gay, grew up in the neighborhoods of Dahiat al Barid and Beit Hanina in Jerusalem. He has a blue ID card, like all the Palestinians in greater Jerusalem who are not Israeli citizens. He now lives in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Several years ago he studied for one year at the Rimon School of Music in Ramat Hasharon, and says that he was the first Palestinian living under the occupation to study there.

“I think there is a change happening, because there are people like me who are daring to speak up, and daring to be themselves. … What I’m doing I think it’s not just for me, either. As a kid, I struggled to look at Arab pop culture and media and find someone who I could relate to. I didn’t have an idol in the Arab world, someone who was telling me it’s okay to be myself. There was no Lady Gaga or Madonna for Arabs. And it was hard as a kid, because I thought maybe there’s something wrong with me.” He hopes he can be a role model for kids who feel different growing up.

“I understand how we got here, but there are lots of things I don’t understand. Like settlements, like violence against Palestinians is rationalized. People say, ‘The Palestinians, they treat their women like garbage, they hate gay people.’ It’s not completely true. Like any place, homophobia is everywhere, but nothing condones violence.

“I wouldn’t say the Palestinians are more violent. Look at the military of Israel. There is no military for Palestine, it’s just people going out in the street. That doesn’t represent all Palestinians. [In Israel,] everyone has to go to the military and everyone becomes militarized. It creates this tension automatically. Of course I’m against the stabbings [of Israelis], but the people who go throw rocks at the military, and those who throw rocks where you have the seige of Gaza, they have nothing else. They’re being treated like animals, so they start to act like animals. I think any of us, if we’re treated like this, would eventually start acting like this. But we don’t know, because we’re priviledged – I’m priviledged.”

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