LGBT advocacy organizations & the Gaza genocide

LGBT advocacy organizations & the Gaza genocide
Pauline Park

No Pride in Genocide march from Dupont Circle to HRC on Feb. 14 (Michael Key, Washington Blade)

The Hamas attack on a kibbutz just inside Israel on 7 October 2023 is reported to have killed around 1,200 people, prompting a genocidal response by the Israeli government that has already killed close to 40,000 people; no one knows how many of the 37,000+ Palestinians killed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF, or ‘IOF’ — Israeli Occupation Forces) are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ+), but if we were to use the ‘Kinsey 10%’ rule, that could mean upwards of 4,000 or more queer Gazans already killed in what may well be the worst genocide of the century to date — with the possible exception of Darfur.

The response to the genocide from LGBT advocacy organizations based in the United States has been underwhelming to say the least. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation — which now simply goes by ‘GLAAD’ — the National LGBTQ Task Force, Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund (Lambda Legal) and OutRight Action International are five of the leading US-based LGBT advocacy organizations; all have issued statements about the Gaza genocide and all — in the estimation of queer Palestinians — have fallen far short of unambiguous condemnation of Apartheid Israel’s Gaza genocide.

HRC has issued a number of statements on the Gaza war, none of them explicitly condemning Israel or using the ‘G’ word (Human Rights Campaign, “Humanitarian Crisis in the Middle East“); at the Oct. 13 HRC national dinner, Kelley Robinson declared, “I am outraged byy the brutal terrorist attack by Hamas, killing 1,200 Israeli civilians.” Three days later, the black lesbian did say, “We stand with our Muslim, Arab and Palestinian neighbors today and every day” (Oct. 16), but with no condemnation of Israel’s genocidal response to the Hamas attack; in fact, to date, HRC has not uttered a single word of criticism of Apartheid Israel other than a passing reference to “the Israeli bombing of a refugee camp” in a statement by the HRC Columbus Dinner board of directors — not the HRC board of directors — declaring that “The assault on Rafah must stop,” without any indication of who was carrying out that assault (June 1).

HRC’s mealy mouthed declarations prompted more than 200 to march from Dupont Circle to the HRC headquarters on February 14 (Michael K. Lavers, “No Pride in Genocide marches from Dupont Circle to HRC,” Washington Blade, 15 February 2024). “The Human Rights Campaign is mobilizing our community and our allies to support their initiatives because they believe their initiatives are in our best interest. However, these initiatives that are meant to benefit us, are being funded by a weapons manufacturer,” Indya Moore — star of the award-winning TV show “Pose” — told a crowd of queer protesters in New York on February 3 (Orion Rummler, “Why these queer Americans want LGBTQ+ groups to back a cease-fire in Gaza,” 19th News, 6 March 2024).

The National LGBTQ Task Force likes to cast itself as the progressive alternative to HRC, but the Task Force has hardly done any better than HRC in addressing the Gaza genocide. Like HRC, the Task Force was quick to condemn the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. Task Force executive director Kierra Johnson declared at the organizations 50th anniversary gala on Oct. 14, “The Task Force condemns terrorism, violence and har against civilians,” and led a moment of silence for “the lives shattered and lost in the terror attack by Hamas in Israel and for all those impacted who continue to suffer” (Michael K. Lavers, “National LGBTQ Task Force executive director mourns Israeli, Palestinian war victims,” Washington Blade, 16 October 2023). Only on January 16 — just before the beginning of its annual Creating Change conference — did the Task Force call for a ceasefire and explicitly call the violence in Gaza a ‘genocide’ (Michael Lavers, “National LGBTQ Task Force Calls for Gaza Ceasefire,” Washington Blade, 19 January 2024); it is difficult to avoid the impression that the statement was issued only to forestall demonstrations against the Task Force itself at its own conference; and even though the statement noted that “The roots of this conflict are based in fascism, white supremacy and colonialism,” the Task Force did not explicitly identify these ‘roots’ with Israel or explicitly condemn Israel for perpetrating genocide in Gaza.

Lambda Legal issued a statement on Oct. 13 unequivocally condemning Hamas by name (Lambda Legal, “Lambda Legal Statement on Crisis in the Middle East,” 13 October 2023). Tellingly, it took six full months for Lambda Legal to issue a second statement, declaring, “We once again call on all parties to respect and protect innocent lives. And we now call on our United States government to use all appropriate means to persuade the Israeli government to protect Palestinian civilians and to facilitate immediate, large-scale relief efforts,” but with no condemnation of Israel per se, merely a condemnation of “the horrifying number of civilian deaths and massive scale of destruction and starvation in Gaza” (Lambda Legal, “Second Statement on Middle East Crisis,” 16 April 2024); the failure of the leading LGBT legal advocacy organization in the country to condemn Israel by name is striking.

Among these LGBT advocacy organizations, Outright International is (as its name suggests) the only one whose focus is primarily international rather than domestic; so while Outright’s statements have been welcome, they, too, fall short of the *outright* condemnation of Apartheid Israel’s pursuit of genocide that one would expect of an LGBT organization specifically focused on international human rights (Outright International, “Outright’s Approach to Advocacy in Relation to the War in Gaza“). “This humanitarian crisis cannot be sustainably resolved without an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories and a long-term political solution based on UN resolutions and international law with respect for international human rights standards. Outright stands with all those in Palestine, Israel, and around the world working for freedom, peace, and justice,” Outright declared on Oct. 23 (“Outright International Statement on the Situation in Gaza: An Immediate Ceasefire Is Needed“). While Outright has signed onto a letter coordinated by Crisis Action calling for a ceasefire and a by Amnesty International calling for European governments to reconsider withdrawal of funding to Palestinian civil society organizations, Outright has yet to condemn Israel specifically explicitly for committing genocide in Gaza.

In short, leading US-based LGBT advocacy organizations have fallen far short of the outright condemnation of Apartheid Israel’s Gaza genocide that one should expect of organizations ostensibly committed to human rights for all; if and when the history of LGBT community involvement with the Gaza genocide is ever written, the judgment of history on these organization may well be a harsh one…

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