QAIA & the pinkwashing of the NYC Council trip to apartheid Israel
speech at New York City Hall
22 January 2015
I’m a member of New York City Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (NYC QAIA) and I’m hear to talk briefly about the pernicious influence of the ‘pinkwashing‘ of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. ‘Pinkwashing’ is the attempt to use Israel’s supposedly superior record on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues to attempt to justify the illegal occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip since 1967. In fact, Israel is far less of a gay paradise than the picture painted by Zionist apologists for its apartheid regime.
One would get a very different impression speaking primarily or exclusively with wealthy gay Jewish Israeli men in North Tel Aviv than if one spoke with LGBT Israelis from more marginalized communities, including lesbians and bisexuals, who often feel marginalized by gay men in Tel Aviv and elsewhere in Israel, or transgendered women, who face police harassment and brutality in Tel Aviv and other cities in Israel just as they do in New York and other U.S. cities.
Nor do queer Palestinians have any ability to seek refuge in Israel, as Zionist apologists for Israeli occupation suggest; they have no right to remain in Israel, because the state of Israel does not recognize non-Jewish economic refugees or those fleeing political persecution — regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. So Israel’s record on LGBT issues is far more mixed than Zionist apologists for Israeli apartheid suggest, but even if it were a perfect one, it’s impossible to see how such a record could possibly justify the denial of basic human rights to millions of Palestinians in the occupied territories, some of whom are in fact LGBT and are subjected to the same brutal repression and daily humiliations as their non-LGBT Palestinian brothers and sisters living under occupation.
I participated in the first U.S. LGBTQ delegation to Palestine in January 2012 and I saw for myself the abysmal conditions to which Palestinians are subjected there. We met with many Palestinians — both LGBT and non-LGBT — throughout the West Bank, from Nablus in the north to Hebron in the south and Ramallah in between. Staying two nights with a Palestinian family in Dheishe in Bethelem, one of the largest refugee camps in the West Bank, I had the opportunity to speak at length with Palestinians about conditions in the occupied territories. We also met with members of alQaws and Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (PQBDS) in Ramallah and Aswat (the organization for queer Palestinian women) in Haifa, and if members of the US LGBT community really want to help queer Palestinians, they should be working with LGBT Palestinian groups rather than helping to pinkwash the occupation.
One last important note: for those who think that the Israeli occupation and the apartheid regime constructed to enforce it is a purely foreign policy issue, they need only look to Roosevelt Island, where Technion University — which is deeply implicated in the occupation — is collaborating with Cornell University. And members of the LGBT community here in New York who think that the pinkwashing of Israeli occupation and apartheid have nothing to do with their lives should consider the two-year-long ban on all Palestine solidarity organizing — including the Siege Busters Working Group and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid — at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan, which was in place from February 2011-February 2013.
The ‘pinkwashing’ of the Israeli occupation has implications for the ability of LGBT people of conscience to speak out and organize here in this country and in this city, which is why we must all become invested in challenging both pinkwashing as a discourse and the apartheid regime that such discourse would defend. Corey Johnson, Ritchie Torress and Jimmy Van Bramer are members of the LGBT Caucus who are going on this junket, but they cannot claim to be representing the LGBT community in expressing their support for apartheid Israel. Thank you.
Pauline Park is a co-founding member of New York City Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, founded in 2011. She was a member of the first U.S. LGBTQ delegation to Palestine in January 2012.