Growing LGBTQ solidarity with Palestine as struggles erupt
Over the last few years, as the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel (BDS) has gathered steam in the U.S. and throughout the world, the apartheid state of Israel has turned to various tactics in an attempt to counter the growing solidarity with the Palestinian people. One such strategy is to portray Israel as the only place in the Middle East that is friendly to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people.
The tactic, dubbed “pinkwashing” by progressive pro-Palestinian LGBTQ forces, relies on a broad-brushed slander of the entire Arab and Muslim world, which is presented as “backward.” It is further based on the egregious lie that the Israeli settler state treats LGBTQ Palestinians equally to LGBTQ Israelis. Pinkwashing not only serves to legitimize the Israeli state but also reinforces U.S. imperialist propaganda, which claims that the U.S. wages war in an effort to “liberate” LGBTQ peoples and women in the Middle East and throughout the world — even as LGBTQ peoples face police brutality, added economic hardship and denial of social services here in the U.S.
A big and growing pushback of LGBTQ forces in solidarity with Palestine is challenging the pinkwashing effort on several fronts. In Palestine, three groups — alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, Aswat-Palestinian Gay Women and Palestinian Queers for BDS — issued a call to action in early June demanding that the International LGBTQ Youth and Student Organization rescind its plans to hold its general assembly in Tel Aviv in December.
In the call, these Palestinian LGBTQ activists pointed out: “Israeli policies and occupation do not distinguish between queer and straight. All Palestinians — queer and straight — must deal with the effects of the apartheid wall, checkpoints, and illegal settlements and settlers violence, not to mention living under Israeli military law that strip them of their rights as civilians. All Gazans, including queers, live under medieval and illegal siege in the de-facto open-air prison that is the Gaza strip. And like all Palestinian citizens of Israel, queers are subject to institutionalized discrimination in laws, education, and throughout their public and private lives.” (http://www.bdsmovement.net)
As the realities, described by these activists, draw more and more people into solidarity with Palestine, pro-Zionist forces have increasingly attempted to silence the voices of LGBTQ forces that raise awareness of the Palestinian struggle. In Canada in 2009, an attempt to ban the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from marching in that city’s Pride parade was defeated by the group and its allies. Some 200 people marched in QuAIA’s contingent that year.
This year, struggles have erupted on both U.S. coasts to demand BDS and the visibility of Palestinian solidarity. Palestinian Queers for BDS has called for a boycott of the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, taking place June 16-26. Frameline, the festival’s presenter, has accepted funding for the festival from the Israeli Consulate for the second year in a row. A highly organized campaign by a broad coalition of queer organizations, including Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism, has called on Frameline to reject the money as a part of the BDS campaign.
Stonewall means ‘fight back,’ solidarity with oppressed
Members of New York City’s LGBTQ communities are continuing a struggle for inclusion at the city’s LGBT community center. After intense pressure from a small, highly organized cohort of racist Zionists, the Center’s board of directors in March cancelled an event organized by the group Siege Busters in conjunction with the annual Israeli Apartheid Week. Pushing back, Siege Busters held a spirited, well-attended protest in front of the LGBT Center. (See workers.org, March 10) Days later, an already-scheduled event on LGBTQ support for BDS, held at Judson Community Church, drew several hundred people mobilized largely by outrage at the Center’s actions.
An open letter to the Center was released by New-York-based groups FIERCE, a struggle organization of LGBTQ youth of color; the Audre Lorde Project, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit, trans and gender non-conforming people of color center for community organizing; Queers for Economic Justice; and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. The letter stated in part, “By canceling the IAW event, you risk alienating many members who frequent your Center by sending a strong message to our communities and allies that the issues with which we struggle such as racial justice, anti-imperialism, immigration, economic justice, disability justice and militarization are not genuinely welcome to be discussed at the NYC LGBT Community Center.” (http://alp.org/)
After several maneuvers back and forth on the issue, the Center has announced that no group relating to the so-called “Israel/Palestine issue” will be allowed to meet there. Despite the thin veneer of language suggesting that both sides are being treated equally, many LGBTQ activists see the Center’s caving in to Zionist forces as a racist attack on Palestinian LGBTQ people and a political attack on the growing support for BDS and Palestine solidarity.
A group called Queers for an Open LGBT Center has formed and has organized a protest of the Garden Party, the Center’s annual fundraising party, on June 20. Meanwhile, New York Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, another group that has been expelled by the Center’s new guidelines, marched in the Pride celebrations in the boroughs of Queens on June 5 and Brooklyn on June 11, and plans to march in Manhattan Pride on June 26.