With false accusations of anti-Semitism facing Palestine solidarity activists, Pauline Park refutes “notion that Zionist trolls could bully me into submission and silence”
By LOUIS FLORES
Pauline Park, a trailblazing advocate for LGBT civil rights in the United States, with an accomplished record of achievement, has begun to travel the world to advocate for LGBT equality and human rights. She visited Palestine in 2012 as part of the first openly LGBT delegation to tour the occupied territories, joining others in calling for an end of the Israeli occupation. She addressed an audience of tens of thousands at the Korea Queer Festival in 2015, an event that was noted in a documentary about her travel to South Korea. This year, Ms. Park traveled to Europe to address audiences to offer her experience on LGBT equality and her analysis on the worrisome political circumstances facing the United States under President Donald Trump (R). From time to time since its inception, Progress Queens has provided its readers the astute political analysis offered by Ms. Park to give context to reports about political campaigns, civil rights, and human rights. Recently, the publisher of Progress Queens interviewed Ms. Park about her recent work to promote the boycott, sanctions, and divestment (BDS) campaign against the State of Israel over its record of human rights abuses in the occupied territories of Palestine. The interview took place in the wake of a recent online smear campaign that was launched by defenders of Israel’s human rights violations against Ms. Park in apparent retaliation over Ms. Park’s support of the BDS campaign. Following is the transcript of the interview, edited for clarity.
Louis Flores : O.K., Pauline, I’d like to speak with you about the recent article in Gay Star News, but before we get to that, I want to backtrack to one of the articles cited in that piece, which is a 2014 piece, a Huffington Post article by Dana Beyer. Who is Dana Beyer ?
Pauline Park : Dana Beyer is a prominent transgender activist, who lives in Maryland. I’ve known Dana for several years now, probably over 10. I can’t remember exactly when I met her, but I know it was well over 10 years ago. I also met Rafaella Gunz once, last October. I’ve never met Ariel Lipson.
LF : Dana Beyer in that 2014 piece used some loaded language at the same time she was accusing you of using trigger words. Some of the loaded language Dana Beyer was using was she compared critics of the Israeli occupation as useful tools of left-wing totalitarians. At the same time, Dana was critical of your use of trigger words, such as genocide, apartheid, and she was later critical of the use of homo-nationalism and pink-washing to describe terms that critics of the Israeli occupation used. How could it be logical, on one hand, for Dana to be using loaded language, and, on the other hand, to be accusing you of doing the same thing. How do you rationalise what her arguments are ?
PP : Well, Dana’s arguments aren’t particularly rational. It’s basically a Zionist hit piece. So, let’s talk about terminology. “Occupation,” “apartheid,” and “genocide” are all definied in international law. They are all defined legal terms. Israel is maintaining an illegal, foreign military occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Every single international organisation and institution agrees on that point. There is no international organisation — there’s no member state in the United Nations — that recognises Israel’s claim to the West Bank or East Jersualem or the Gaza Strip. “Apartheid” is a term that is defined in the international convention on apartheid, which, by the way, contrary to the deliberatly misleading statements that Zionists make, is not based solely or even primarily on a direct comparison between Israel and South Africa — the old, apartheid regime in South Africa.
“Genocide” is also a term that is defined in the international convention on genocide. These are all legally-defined terms. So, to call them buzzwords is just to show a gross ignorance of international law — or else to deliberately attempt to mislead people by labeling them as buzzwords, which they are not. They are legally-defined terms.
Now, “pink-washing” and “homo-nationalism” are terms that have come into vogue recently to describe two interrelated phenomena. Pink-washing refers to the white-washing of Israeli apartheid — the attempts by Zionists to justify the illegal occupation of Palestine with reference to Israel’s supposedly superior record on LGBT rights. Of course, it’s a complete non sequitur. It doesn’t matter how good Israel’s record on LGBT rights is, that record cannot possibly justify the military occupation.
LF : Right.
PP : Homo-nationalism is a term that a number of academics have used recently, and the term refers to an attempt to justify problematic regimes with reference to their relatively good records on LGBT issues. And the Zionist defense of Israel is actually a perfect case in point of homo-nationalism from the notion that a superior record on LGBT issues overrides all else. And, conversely, that a bad record on LGBT rights means that one has to disregard everything else in states’ human rights record in every other regard. So, these are extremely useful terms. They are in broad circulation — homo-nationalism, certainly, and pink-washing even more so, are widely-accepted as describing Israel and Zionists’ discourses around Israel.
LF : O.K., one of the things that I found problematic with Dana Beyer’s piece, which goes back to 2014, is she cites as authority former New York City mayor Ed Koch, and she does so in a manner that implies that former Mayor Koch claimed that he would have been persecuted for being gay in a nation that would be hostile to him. It turned out that the nation in question was the Ukraine, which is not Palestine, and Dana Beyer’s argument here ignores the fact that former Mayor Koch was never openly gay. It might have been his intention to have implied that he would have been persecuted for having been Jewish, but it appeared that Dana Beyer was making a poor attempt at historical revisionism to describe any statements ever made by former Mayor Koch as ever having admitted his sexual orientation. How could it be that Dana Beyer would come to rely on former Mayor Koch as any authority related to LGBT persecution, because we all know from our history here in New York City that former Mayor Koch had a poor record when it came to defending gay men when under his administration he possibly allowed thousands of gay men to die from AIDS before he did anything about it, because it appeared that he was fearful that if he showed any sympathy to gay men, he was fearful that he would be identified as a gay man. How could it be that someone, such as Dana Beyer, who is supposedly writing a piece that she wants to be respected for her legal reasoning, how can she rely on former Mayor Koch on any kind of authority on LGBT persecution ? Also, could it be said that there was some form of hate-baiting by Dana to invoke claims by former Mayor Koch that he would have been persecuted, if, not for being gay, then, for his religion ?
PP : [chuckles] I know, it’s laughable. Well, Dana Beyer is a Jewish trans woman, and she’s probably citing Ed Koch as an authority, because he was a gay Jewish man. Well, as you mentioned, Ed Koch was a closet queen. He never came out as gay, even though people basically knew. In fact, Andrew Cuomo, in Mario Cuomo‘s campaign race against Ed Koch, it was Andrew Cuomo, who reportedly put up all the signs on lawns in Queens, “Vote for Cuomo, not the Homo,” when Ed Koch was running against Mario Cuomo for governor. Ed Koch did as little as he possibly could on HIV/AIDS to the detriment of so many gay men, many of whom died as a result of his inaction. And, as you say, that’s because he didn’t want to lift a finger to help gay men dying of AIDS, because he didn’t want people to think he was gay, even though people knew he was. And so, it was both reprehensible and futile. Ed Koch, like many New York politicians, was not unusual in making Islamaphobic statements. So, the whole idea that Muslims are a unique and present threat to LGBT people is in fact just that : it is an Islamophic prejudice. Yeah, Dana Beyer’s attack piece is shot through with Islamophobia, with bizarre, illogical statements grounded in nothing but her own prejudices.
LF : How can it be that Gay Star News would rely on the Huffington Post piece, because I read the piece in Gay Star News, and Rafaella Gunz, who wrote that piece, relies on Dana Beyer and cites a passage from that Huffington Post column, and it seems you have one very poorly-written, poorly-sourced article relying upon another poorly-written, poorly-sourced column. And these are passing off as analyses of the movement for human rights in Palestine and also this is trading off as trash-talk, attacking you, who are an important leader in the LGBT community, not only in New York, but for the United States and growingly — and increasingly, around the world, given all of your travels and speaking engagements in Asia and in Europe, where you are speaking as an authority figure on LGBT equality and LGBT liberation — how can it be that there are publications that are validating this kind of trash-talk ?
PP : Well, so I don’t know whether Rafaella knows Dana Beyer. I suspect that she just found that Zionist hit piece doing a Google search on my name. That’s my guess. I think that Rafaella quoting Dana’s 2014 hit piece only further discredits Rafaella’s own Zionist hit piece, because Dana’s Zionist hit piece has nothing of substance, makes wild accusations. She calls me a collaborator with terrorism, which is just laughable. And she makes bizarre statements about my supporting left-wing totalitarian regimes. I have no idea what she’s talking about. If she’s referring to the Palestinian Authority, I’ve been relentlessly critical of the Palestinian Authority. So, I have no idea what she’s talking about. But Rafaella was clearly looking for some sort of validation or authority figure, which is — and it is strange that she turned to Dana. I think that Dana’s denunciation of me is the only public denunciation of me as a Palestine solidarity activist. So, it is not surprising that Rafaella found that by doing a search. She might have interacted with Dana online ; I have no idea. I don’t think that they know each personally, but, you know, birds of a Zionist’s feather flock together.
I mean, Rafaella’s piece is just a tissue of lies and misleading statements and bizarre, illogical assertions that have absolutely no basis in fact in my record as an activist or in our exchanges on Facebook, which is where this whole thing started.
LF : Tell me about those exchanges you had on Facebook ?
PP : A few weeks ago, I was in Norway. I remember I was in Bergen, and I was posting somewhat sporadically on Facebook. And I usually post at least once or twice a day about Israeli apartheid. So, I posted a link to an article — an op-ed, I suppose, you can call it — talking about the false accusations of anti-Semitism hurled at the Chicago Dyke March collective, and I added in my own post — my own commentary — that this was clearly an example of false allegations of anti-Semitism that we should be challenging. Rafaella immediately posted a comment in response to that post, on my Facebook page, arguing with me about that, and basically insisting that it was not my right to talk about false allegations of anti-Semitism, because I wasn’t Jewish. Now, I eventually wrote up a response to this, but what happened after that was basically my Facebook page was swarmed by a mob of Zionists, including this young trans man named Ariel Lipson, who lives in Seattle, who I’ve never met before. I’ve never heard of him. The comments from Rafaella and from Ariel were — I think anybody who reads them — could characterise them as vicious, as personal attacks, really, frankly, as a form of cyber-bullying. And it was really disappointing to me that Rafaella would engage in that activity. It’s particularly hypocritical of her, because, on her own Web site, she talks about how combating harassment is part of her activism. Well, when you actually engage in harassment, how can you say that you’re combating it — and with any credibility ?
LF : Have you ever met Rafaella Gunz ?
PP : I had met Rafaella just once in person last October at the premier of “Words,” which is a documentary by A.J. Mattioli, who is a trans man here in New York. And I met Rafaella briefly. We had a brief and friendly chat, and then we friended each other on Facebook. And until a few weeks ago, we had extremely limited interaction. She might have maybe liked one or two posts of mine, or maybe briefly commented on them, but those, I think, were photographs from that screening back from October. But other than that, I’ve had no interaction with Rafaella. So, it’s really rather astonishing to me that she would engage in personal vitriol on my Facebook page and make wild charges of anti-Semitism. I mean, as I said to both her and to A.J. Mattioli — and to Ariel Lipson — their comments on my Facebook page confirmed the truth of what I was saying about false allegations of anti-Semitism and, frankly, reïnforced the wisdom of my posting about it in the first place.
LF : I’m ambivalent about even raising the subject of Ariel Lipson. However, Rafaella relied — besides relying upon the Huffington Post piece, which I believe is discredited — Rafaella relied upon substantial opinions from Ariel Lipson to support the article in Gay Star News. And Ariel Lipson was described as a 20-year-old trans man. I find it very difficult to believe that someone of such an age could appreciate how he is living in a life that was created, in part, by the advocacy you have helped lead, not only in New York, but how it has reverberated across the country. Ariel Lipson is living a life that is being given to him by the changes you have brought about to fight for equality, and Ariel is now turning around and criticising you — he’s — in his comments, he said that you are not an activist. And it seems like I don’t know how he could make that kind of a sweeping generalisation but for perphaps he has not completed his education about LGBT history. How do we even respond to someone, with what would appear to be of limited education, who makes those kinds of sweeping generalisations about a leader in the community ?
PP : Well, Ariel is apparently 20. I’ve been doing LGBT activism for 23 years, since before he was even born. Now, I don’t expect people to kowtow to me for that reason. However, it would seem to me that if you actually go onto someone’s Facebook page and introduce yourself to someone — a complete stranger — by engaging in personal attacks against that person, that is an extremely odd thing to do. It would not even occur to me to do that. All he needed to do was to do a Web search on my name, look at my Web site, see my profile page on my Web site, PaulinePark.com, and he’d know my history of activism. To say I’m not an activist is just a bizarre and idiotic statement that no one would give any credence to.
LF : Did Ariel Lipson ever make an honest attempt at having a conversation with you, or was his exchange just basically an attack ?
PP : From the very beginning, Ariel made no attempt to actually engage me in any constructive way. It was clearly on his part just an exercise in hurling epithets — spewing hate speech, essentially — against me, and trying to denigrate me, basically, for criticising Israeli occupation and apartheid. I find it interesting that both Ariel Lipson and Rafaella Gunz repeatedly denied that they were Zionists, but, in fact, that is what they do. What they did is exactly what Zionists do : Which is to try to discredit Palestine solidarity activists with false allegations of anti-Semitism.
LF : Hypothetically, is there any real logic to the arguments behind these obvious attacks ?
PP : To go into the substance, to the extent that there is any substance, and there is no substantive argument that they make, but to the extent that one bends over backwards to try to see some sort of substantive argument, the argument that they make is only Jews get to decide what anti-Semitism is. If you actually think that through, you’ll realise how bizarre and ludicrous that statement is. Think about it this way — and this is an argument that I am sad to say A.J. Mattioli supported, which is the notion that only people in an affected group get to talk about that prejudice — if you think about that, that means that no non-African American can actually say that slavery was a racist institution, right ? Because they are not part of the group that was enslaved. That is a bizarre statement to make.
… To be able to say that the internment of Japanese Americans was an act of racial discrimination does not require you to be Japanese American or even Asian American. To the extent that there is any substance to their argument, which is a non-argument and a complete non sequitur, as soon as you look at it, it falls apart.
LF : So, we return to where we started out, which is that these are just attacks without any basis in logic or reasoning, right ?
PP : False allegations of anti-Semitism are lodged against Palestine solidarity activists, Jewish and non-Jewish, all the time. It is, in fact, impossible to do Palestine solidarity work without encountering and challenging false allegations of anti-Semitism. And, by the way, the weird implication that talking about false allegations of anti-Semitism means that you don’t believe that there is such a thing as anti-Semitism, it’s bizarre. Using the phrase “false allegations of anti-Semitism” implies by necessity that there are true allegations of anti-Semitism. In fact, the argument — using the phrase “false allegations of anti-Semitism” is anti-Semitic — is exactly wrong. Arguing or asserting that the expression “false accusations or charges or allegations of anti-Semitism” is anti-Semtic is actually itself anti-Semitic, because it trivialises real anti-Semitism.
LF : I want to raise the issue in the piece that you wrote in response that what Zionists find false with critics of the Israeli occupation — part of the fallacy here — is that there’s a conflation between Judiasm and Zionism. Can you go into that ?
PP : Right. Well, in fact, the odd thing that’s quite bizarre is that Rafaella and Ariel repeatedly — in our Facebook exchange — repeatedly accused me of conflating Judiasm and Zionism. They were the ones, who were conflating them.
LF : Correct.
PP : I pointed out that, in this country, a majority of Zionists are, in fact, non-Jewish. Most Christian fundamentalists are Zionists, and they far outnumber Jewish Americans. Zionism is an ideology. Judaism is a religious affiliation and/or ethnicity, or both. … There are many non-Zionists or anti-Zionist Jews, who believe that Zionism is a betrayal of Judiasm. Rabbi Michael Lerner is just one of many. So, challenging Zionism is what many progressive Jewish Americans and Israeli Jews do on a daily basis. Does it make them anti-Semitic to challenge Zionist ideology ? Hardly. Zionism is a modern ideology that really begins with a group of 19th Century activists — I guess for a lack of a better term, activists and writers — around Theodor Herzl. It’s a late 19th Century phenomenon emerging out of a White European nationalist discourse. Zionism, to that extent, is actually quite opposed to the broad sweep of Jewish history.
LF : Tell me what else do you see being misunderstood about Zionism in the course of arguing for Palestinian human rights ?
PP : Keep in mind that Zionism is mischaracterised by Zionists themselves as being about a homeland for the Jewish people. That’s not what Zionism is about. Zionism is about establishing a state — a political regime — in Palestine based on the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people of Palestine. The Nakba was the basis for the foundation for the State of Israel, and the Nakba involved the elimination of three-quarters of a million Palestinians from Palestine in the last year or two of the British mandate, before the establishment of the State of Palestine in 1948. There is a continuing, on-going Nakba that has never stopped. In fact, it’s accelerated since 1967. You see it in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. You see ethnic cleansing in over-drive in East Jerusalem. You see incremental genocide in the Gaza Strip. That’s a term that Ilan Pappé, who is Israel’s most distinguished historian, uses. He’s a professor of history at the University of Exeter.
LF : Tell me about how critics of Palestinian solidarity activists conveniently overlook the human rights abuses being committed by Israel ?
PP : Now, if you look at Rafaella Gunz’s thin attack piece — nowhere in that piece is there even an acknowledgement of the occupation. She calls the term “occupation” a buzzword. There’s not even an ackwoledgement by Dana Beyer or Ariel Lipson or Rafaella Gunz of the fact of the occupation — the legal fact of it, or the brutality of the occupation or the genocide in Gaza in 2014, which, by the way, was part of what prompted Dana Beyer to write her attack piece, because she saw me posting quiet regularly on Facebook, as well as tweeting on Twitter, about the Israeli genocide in Gaza in 2014. Nowhere in Dana’s piece or in Rafaella’s piece is there any acknowledgement. In fact, they basically tried to erase the reality by referring to “occupation,” “apartheid,” and “genocide” as buzzwords.
LF : Right. It seems like that these “arguments,” if we can call them that, are meant to shift attention — there’s shade being thrown here — and there is misconduct being alleged, that you are anti-Semitic, and all this is, is a shifting of blame, that somehow you are responsible for misconduct, but what is really going on here is that there is an over-looking of all the human rights violations by the State of Israel of the Palestinians, which I find to be evidence of propaganda. Now, do you believe that the attack piece was meant to personally hurt you, or do you believe, as I believe, that this attack piece was meant to make an example of you, so that other LGBT critics of Israel would think twice before being as vocal or as public as you about your criticism of the Israeli occupation.
PP : Yeah, of course. Rafaella’s piece and Dana Beyer’s piece from 2014 are just two instances in a long-running campaign of harassment and intimidation against me ever since I stared engaging in Palestine solidarity organising back in 2011. They’re simply the tips of the iceberg, the most public denunciations coming from the Zionist machine. And any Palestine solidarity activists, Jewish or non-Jewish, will recognise what this is. The personal attacks on me, the vituperation, all are just an attempt to try to discredit me, because they object to my criticism of Israel’s occupation, apartheid, and genocide. Now, what’s interesting to me is that Rafaella — she spends half of her article basically quoting Ariel Lipson, as if he is an authority on anything — quotes him as saying he attempted to instruct me on how to talk about Israel in a non-anti-Semitic way. Well, he did post a link to this piece, which I read and I deleted, because it was really idiotic. The piece starts out by saying that there are ways of talking about Israel in a way that is not anti-Semitic, but the gist of the article is if you are not Jewish, you do not get to talk about Israel or Israeli Government policy, and that is an absurd assertion.
LF : Tell me why you or why American citizens, generally, can comment about Israeli Government policy ?
PP : My taxes are paying to support the Israeli occupation. That alone gives me the right to talk about the Israeli occupation.
LF : It’s not only the Israeli record of human rights abuses, but it’s also U.S. foreign policy that supports those violations. If we wanted to be critical of U.S. foreign policy, as citizens we are able to be critical of our own Government policy.
PP : Exactly, and a perfect example of this — and this was what was the proximate cause of Rafaella’s piece — after the whole thing died down on my Facebook page, I posted another link to — this was maybe two weeks ago – I posted a link to an article about S.720, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which is a bill pending in Congress, which is supported by Democrats, as well as by Republicans, which would criminalise support for BDS. It actually would levy 20-year prison sentences and a $1 million fine for those who publicly support the boycott, sanctions, divestment movement at ending apartheid Israel.
LF : What is your opinion about the proposed Israeli Anti-Boycot Act ?
PP : Now, this is clearly unconstitutional and outrageous, because it basically criminalises free speech and political speech. The U.S. Supreme Court has actually ruled in a case involving the N.A.A.C.P. — this was many years ago — that boycotts are political speech and free speech and protected by the First Amendment. There’s no question in Constitutional Law that this bill is unconstitutional. Anyway, what happened was I posted about this on Facebook, and Rafaella said, “I agree with you on this.” And I said, “You don’t agree with me on this, because the bill is premised on a false accusation of anti-Semitism against the BDS movement, saying BDS itself is inherently anti-Semitic.” … Anyway, to actually dissent from that unconstitutional legislation requires that you recognise that there is such a thing as a false accusation of anti-Semitism and that U.S. citizens, whether Jewish or not, have the right to object to that legislation.
LF : Was Rafaella able to see through the fallacy you were exposing ?
PP : Rafaella did not see this logic. In fact, she went ballistic and, not only defriended me … but she blocked me on Facebook, which is an example of the hysteria that is involved in this. And then, she penned this poisoned pen Zionist attack piece. Obviously, she quote-unquote interviewed Ariel, I guess, and then found Dana Beyer’s piece to cite. So, basically, if you look at this, it is a perfect example of an attempt by Zionists to silence a Palestine solidarity activist. I might add, by the way, it is an example of three White people trying to silence a woman of colour. All three of them are White. One of them is non-transgendered, or cis-gendered, to use the term. So, you have a non-transgendered White woman trying to silence a transgendered woman of colour for standing in solidarity with other people of colour.
LF : All of this is just demonstrating that the only strategy of the defenders of the Israeli occupation are using are any attempt to silence dissent, either by launching personal attacks upon leaders, such as you, legislation that is now pending before the U.S. Congress — everything is designed to shut down criticism. And nothing is being proposed to end the occupation or to end the human rights abuses. Can you comment about that ?
PP : Yes, of course. I mean, Rafaella’s hit piece on me, just like Dana’s, is just one more Zionist diversionary tactic designed to divert attention from the brutality of the occupation and of the apartheid regime to enforce it by focusing on allegations of anti-Semitism, which clearly are false. It’s drawn some people into some strange, self-referential discourse about Jewish identity, which has nothing to do with this. The idea that you can only legitimately criticise Israel if you are Jewish is bizarre, because the lived personal experience that is relevant here is not being Jewish — it is actually being Palestinian and living under the occupation.
LF : Right.
PP : The other relevant, lived personal experience here is that of the Palestine solidarity activist, which I am, which Dana certainly isn’t, being a self-described Zionist — and which neither Rafaella nor Ariel are. So, if you actually look at the substance of these two attack pieces, it really is a Zionist diversionary tactic meant to try to divert attention from the reality of the occupation, and, as you’ve said, to try to frieghten people who might speak out against Israeli Government policy into silence with the implicit threat that they, too, will have false allegations of anti-Semitism hurled at them if they dare criticise Israeli occupation, apartheid, or genocide. So, Rafaella’s piece is thoroughly reprehensible and entirely dishonest. I’m not even sure that she believes it herself. If she does, then she’s totally clueless. If she actually believes what she’s saying, she’s a clueless Zionist who thinks that there’s no legitimate way of criticising Israeli occupation, apartheid, and genocide.
LF : Short of just personal attacks, and ad hominem attacks ?
PP : Right, of course. And I mean, that’s all Zionists have : They have pink-washing and homo-nationalism — and false allegations of anti-Semitism. There’s no legitimate argument to support an illegal foreign military occupation that lasts for over 50 years.
LF : Right, and that is leading to human rights abuses that’s been called out by the United Nations and several nations in Europe.
PP : Yeah. Daily human rights abuses. I mean, when I was in Norway — I think just before I left from Norway – news was reported that the Norwegian labor federation, which is a federation of all the labor unions in Norway, voted overwhelmingly to endorse BDS, and this was despite the leadership of the Federation urging them not to and despite the fact that the right wing Government in Norway was opposed to this. But they voted — I believe it was well over 80 per cent., somewhere between 80 and 90 per cent. of the rank and file voted — to endorse BDS. Why ? Because it has become absolutely apparent that Israel is engaged in massive daily human rights abuses, human rights atrocities. There are soldiers — Israeli soldiers — who have formed an organisation, because they are traumatised by being ordered to carry-out human rights atrocities on a daily basis. And the Israeli Government and the Zionist machine are trying to discredit these Israeli soldiers, Jewish Israeli I.D.F. soldiers, because they are speaking out against human rights absues that they are ordered to engage in on a daily basis.
LF : So, personal attacks is the only way defenders of the genocide have to defend genocide ?
PP : So, there’s simply no defending the indefensible. So, the way that they try to defend apartheid is essentially by casting aspersions on people through personal attacks and false allegations of anti-Semitism. It’s the oldest trick in the book. It works to a certain extent, but the human rights absues and atrocities are so pervasive and grave that even people, who are not ordinarily inclined to criticise Israeli Government policy, can see through this. I think the Israeli genocide in Gaza in 2014 was a real turning-point, because for the first time in the history of the U.S. news media, they were forced to report on what Israel was doing.
LF : Right.
PP : So, for a brief period, the U.S. news media actually reported on Israeli human rights abuses, which is unprecedented, because U.S. news media almost never do so.
LF : Doesn’t this show us that defenders of the Israeli occupation find themselves to be in the last throes of being able to control this narrative, because, at some point, they lost control of the narrative, and all that is left is propaganda and personal attacks to try to divert attention, as you say ?
PP : There was a top secret report that was commissioned by a leading Zionist organisation. I think, I could be wrong, but I think it was Frank Luntz, a leading Republican pollster, who actually put together the report. And in the report, the authors of the report basically said that the Zionist strategy of trying to discredit BDS had failed and failed abjectly, that the Israel lobby had failed, that BDS was actually growing in strength. And that they were losing the support of young Jewish Americans, who were alienated by Israel’s pervasive human rights atrocities. And that the Israeli genocide in Gaza in the summer of 2014 may have been a turning point, even a tipping point, in terms of not only American opinion, but specifically Jewish American opinion.
LF : Do you see this tipping point will affect the narrative that gets handed down to us by American national political campaigns ?
PP : I think it’s interesting that that Democrats, including, I hasten to add, people of colour, who are rumoured to be running for President — Kamala Harris and Corey Booker and Deval Patrick — are still rigidly Zionist. Bernie Sanders, who is himself Jewish, was the first U.S. presidential candidate of one of the two big parties, the first major candidate, who was a viable presidential candidate, to call for an end to the occupation. Now, he has since waffled, unfortunately, but I think that was a really significant moment. One of the reasons — there are so many why Hillary lost to Trump — I think one reason was because when she went to A.I.P.A.C. and gave that speech, enthusiastically endorsing Israeli occupation, apartheid, and genocide, she alienated a lot of progressive Democrats, including progressive Jewish Americans.
LF : And the youth vote.
PP : And the youth vote. Young people, for the most part, do not buy Zionist propaganda. They see through it. They see the David and Goliath here — it is the Palestinians, who are David, and it is Israel, who is Goliath. We are at a tipping point. Now, I think that, if anything, Rafaella’s piece, far from deterring me from continuing to do this work, has only reïnforced my commitment to challenging Israeli occupation, apartheid, and genocide. The notion that Zionist trolls could bully me into submission and silence — these people do not know who I am.
LF : I just want to close with how Ariel Lipson, who was relied upon as a source for Rafaella’s piece, obviously does not know you went up against Michael Bloomberg as mayor at the height of his popularity to pass important trans equality legislation here in New York City. You led that coälition ?
PP : Yeah, I led the campaign to pass the New York City transgender rights law.
LF : There are very few people, who have gone up against Michael Bloomberg and survived, and you did, and you thrived. Not even once did Christine Quinn ever go up against Michael Bloomberg on anything. And you got legislation that extended equal protections to transgenders in New York City.
PP : … I challenged two mayors and three speakers. I challenged Rudy Giuliani and then Speaker Peter Vallone, Sr., when they tried to keep the bill from coming to the floor, then challenged Mike Bloomberg on a number of counts, and also the other two speakers following Peter Vallone, who were Gifford Miller and Christine Quinn. I have been in the leadership of several major legislative campaigns, led one, so I think anybody, who sees that record of activism, will just have to laugh at Ariel’s assertion that I’m not an activist. I’m thinking, “Well, what have you done, I mean, for anyone, let alone with regard to Palestine ?” The fact is one of the reasons, and I’m trying to say this in a way that doesn’t sound pompous, but I think that one of the reasons why Zionists have targeted me for abuse is precisely because I have this record of activism, even before I got involved with Palestine.
LF : Do you think what is happening here is an acknowledgement that Zionist supporters of the Israeli occupation feel threatened by you ? Is that what is happening ? That they are afraid that you will achieve a win in the fight for BDS ?
PP : I think so. I think that they feel threatened by a competent and credible activist, who has a long record of achievement as an activist, even before getting involved in Palestine. … It makes it harder to discredit someone, who was the first openly transgender Grand Marshall of the New York City LGBT Pride March, who was the keynote speaker at the Korea Queer Festival in Seoul Pride Parade in 2015, who led the campaign for the New York City trans human rights law, because they have no substantive argument, and, so, all they can do is engage in a smear campaigns and throw around the term anti-Semite, which, of course, is thoroughly misconceived, because Palestinians and Arabs are Semites, as well. But it is neither anti-Semtic nor anti-Jewish to criticise Israeli Government policy. In fact, Israeli Jews do it on a daily basis, as do Jewish Americans.
I work very closely with Jewish Voice for Peace, with Jews Say No, with New York State Freedom to Boycott Coälition, with Adalah New York, with colleagues in New York City Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, which I co-founded back in 2011, whose core group is majority Jewish. I’m actually one of the few non-Jewish members of the core group. So, doing Palestine solidarity work is actually the most Jewish thing I’ve ever done. And I stand in solidarity with Jewish, as well as Palestinian, activists, who are working to challenge and dismantle Israeli apartheid.
LF : And lastly, let me again use Michael Bloomberg as a guidepost. You had to work within the official channels of the Governmental structure here. Never once has any person in leadership in New York City Government — no one has ever made an accusation against you that you are anti-Semitic. No major activist group in New York City has made this accusation. To my knowledge, no activist and no activist leader and no activist in a leadership position has made that accusation against you. None of your colleagues that I know of has ever made that accusation against you. And, for the record, these two articles, in Huffington Post and in Gay Star News, stand in singularity as an anomaly. And it has to just be apparent that these are just attack pieces.
PP : They are just ridicious, Zionist attack pieces. They have no credibility. They’ve had zero impact on my reputation. If anything, if they’ve had any impact at all, it’s probably been to reïnforce support for me from Jewish and non-Jewish colleagues, alike, in the Palestine solidarity movement. No credibile person would ever hurl an accusation of anti-Semitism against me, because nobody would ever believe it, because it’s obviously so patently false. I’m not the least bit worried about this. I mean, frankly I have only gotten — I’ve never gotten any feedback from Dana’s piece, other than from Dana, herself, when I brought it up with her. Nobody has even mentioned it to me, that Huff Post piece. Dana is a regular columnist or writer for HuffPo, and Rafaella writes regularly for Gay Star News, which is why I suspect that piece never went through any vetting process. It’s sort of like a regular column of hers. So, no one of any credibility would make that accusation, nor would anyone lend any credence to it. As I say, if anything, if it’s any affect whatsoever it’s been to reïnforce support for me. When I posted this on Twitter and on Facebook, especially on Facebook, I got lots of expressions of support from colleagues both Jewish and non-Jewish, who recognised it for what it is : which is a silly Zionist attack piece with absolutely no substance to it.