“We believe that, as Queer communities, we must pay close attention to any grave human rights violations on our way to support the LGBTQ struggle, especially in a context where the country in question oppresses, discriminates, and implements an apartheid system. We should question the ethics and the values of Queer organizations or groups that voice fervent support for and participate in an apartheid state’s institutions. Human rights should not be compartmentalized, and the human rights of a certain group should not be more important than others’. We, as Palestinian queers, cannot ignore the struggle and the rights of the Palestinian people. To us, the two struggles go side by side.” -Palestinian Queers for BDS
For 65 years, the Israeli occupation and apartheid system has denied the Palestinian people basic human rights. Palestinians in the West Bank live under brutal military occupation with illegal Israeli settlements, checkpoints, and a system of walls, barriers and roads accessible solely to Israeli settlers. Palestinians living inside Israel face discriminatory policies, including over 25 laws which target them as non-Jewish and reduce them to second class citizens. 1.7 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip live under siege in an open air prison described by international experts as “slow genocide.” Palestinians in the Diaspora are denied the UN-sanctioned right to return to their lands. Israeli oppression, racism, and discrimination do not distinguish between queer and straight Palestinians.
In response to growing criticism, the Israeli government has a massive PR campaign called ‘Brand Israel.’ The campaign portrays Israel as gay-friendly and thus a progressive, inclusionary democracy. This aims to divert attention away from violations of Palestinian human rights, the occupation of Palestinian land, and the apartheid system. Known as pinkwashing, these advertising strategies include: promoting gay tourism to Israel, cultural and social promotion of Israel as the only country in the region with gay rights, and cultural activities that depict Israe as progressive on LGBT issues while disregarding conditions for Palestinians, including queer Palestinians.
Pinkwashing panders to anti-Arab, Islamophobic biases by painting Palestinian society as homophobic, while claiming that Israel is a gay haven in the Middle East. Israel is no gay haven – it has no marriage equality, and even this year, the Pride parade in one city was cancelled due to homophobia. Israel claims to be the only place Palestinian queers feel safe, but the opposite is true.
While homophobia exists in every community and society, Israeli secret police fuel homophobia in Palestinian society when they coerce Palestinian gays to work as collaborators. This is part and parcel of Israel’s policy to maintain control over Palestinian territory. Israel hurts queer Palestinians, and makes it harder for them to organize for their own liberation.
The Israeli government has close ties with virulently homophobic pro-Israeli Christian Zionist fundamentalists, whose hate speech against gays fuels homophobia and anti-queer violence in our own communities. These fundamentalists include such men as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who have both received awards for their work on behalf of Israel.
Israel is often compared to apartheid South Africa, which it supplied with economic and military support including nuclear weapons secrets. White gays and lesbians there enjoyed a “western” gay lifestyle, and this was used as evidence of white apartheid South Africa’s European superiority. Don’t fall for the same lies to defend another apartheid state!
There is a vibrant, organized community of Palestinian queers working to create a just, democratic Palestinian society that respects the dignity of every person.
Civil rights for LGBT people in one place does not excuse oppression or war crimes in another. We join with the queer Palestinians who are working hard for their own liberation and stand up and shout: Not in our name!
GROUPS IN PALESTINE: