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Flagging prideFlagging pride

Gay Arab activist wraps himself in the flags

Khader Abu-Seif poses with the symbols of the two ‘states have screwed me for 28 years of my life’

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Khader Abu-Seif draped in opposing flags for part of the Celebration series by photographer Xavier Klaine (Courtesy Xavier Klaine)
Khader Abu-Seif draped in opposing flags for part of the Celebration series by photographer Xavier Klaine (Courtesy Xavier Klaine)

Khader Abu-Seif is used to putting himself on display. The gay Arab activist was one of the three young men profiled in Jake Witzenfeld’s recent documentary, “Oriented.”

Now he’s “Celebration #109,” featured in photographer Xavier Klaine’s series of people photographed while draped in bunting of Israeli and Palestinian flags.

“He takes pictures of people, mostly Jews, in these necklaces of flags,” said Abu-Seif. “It’s about looking at the two flags, and not necessarily the politicization of it.”

Not that Abu-Seif, a gay Arab from a prominent Muslim mafia family in Jaffa, has any problem with politics, activism or identity.

“I know this picture will wake up a lot of people in Israel,” he said. “They’ll want to know why I put the Palestinian flag on me, and the same for Palestinians. I say that both states have screwed me for 28 years of my life, let’s be honest, and that can refer to both of the flags.”

The non-naked version of 'Celebration #109" (Courtesy Xavier Klaine)
The non-naked version of ‘Celebration #109″ (Courtesy Xavier Klaine)

Abu-Seif, who works as a copywriter and writes for Time Out Tel Aviv, is about to travel to the US to meet with Palestinian and Jewish activists for screenings of “Oriented” in several American cities. The trip is being sponsored by Conch Studios, which produced the film.

The film, which featured Abu-Seif with his now-ex Jewish-Israeli boyfriend, received positive reviews and will be released in US theaters in June. For Abu-Seif, the documentary represents an opportunity to help people understand the particular plight of the gay Arab man in Israel.

Abu-Seif likes to say that he lives in a world in which Israelis don’t want to think of him as Palestinian, and Arabs have difficulty with his gender definition.

The topless version of 'Celebration #109,' Abu-Seif's personal protest against both establishments in his life (Courtesy Xavier Klaine)
The topless version of ‘Celebration #109,’ Abu-Seif’s personal protest against both establishments in his life (Courtesy Xavier Klaine)

The goal, he said, is to help people understand that the LGBT community of Israel isn’t what it appears in the media.

“It’s not all kabbalah and gay pride,” said Abu-Seif in his perfect Hebrew. “There’s racism and discrimination that people don’t know about. Arab activists are not part of the LGBT community; we don’t have a voice in the Knesset. But I was born here and deserve rights just like the rest of you.”

The flag photo, said Abu-Seif, is part of his effort to make people understand that battle.

“There’s such a dissonance, but walla, it’s the reality I live in and it’s a reality I very much want to change,” he said. “Sometimes we have to take complicated situations and put humor on it and if only our nations could have done that.”

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