Queers Against Israel Apartheid (QAIA)
speech at the Center (3.3.12)
speaking at the
Queers Against Israel Apartheid (QAIA) action
at the LGBT Community Center
3 March 2012
I’m Pauline Park and I’m proud to say that I’m a co-founding member of both Queers Against Israel Apartheid (QAIA) and Queers for an Open LGBT Center (QFOLC) as well as the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA). And as a transgendered woman of color, I was honored to have been invited to participate in the first US LGBTQ delegation to Palestine, which took place last month. As someone who was born in a country that suffered 40 years of a brutal foreign military occupation, I feel a deep sense of empathy with the Palestinian people. Let me tell you about some of the things I saw on the tour.
In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, I saw Palestinians shopkeepers, villagers and farmers under siege by Israeli settlers and the Israeli military, begin dispossessed of their land and deprived of their dignity and their basic human rights by an occupying power that doesn’t stop to ask the sexual orientation or the gender identity of the occupied. This is an occupation supported by the United States and subsidizing by US tax dollars, and it outrages me that my tax dollars are being used to oppress the Palestinian people but I have no say in how those funds are used.
Our delegation met with both LGBT and non-LGBT Palestinians, including members of three queer Palestinian organizations — alQaws, Aswat (an organization for queer women) and Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (PQBDS). What should be clear is that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories affects all Palestinians, queer or non-queer, and makes it more difficult for LGBT Palestinians to advocate for themselves within Palestinian society.
And Israel is no haven for LGBT Palestinians; in fact, Israel does not recognize non-Jewish refugees, so the discourse of ‘pinkwashing’ which attempts to create the impression that Israel is such a have is entirely false. Actually, Israel is no gay paradise even for LGBT Israelis, except maybe for gay white men in Tel Aviv who are Israeli citizens and have money; for everyone else, Israel is anything but a gay paradise.
After the tour ended, I spoke to a group of queer Israelis in Tel Aviv – mostly transgendered; they were a group of progressive Israelis who were all anti-occupation. In Tel Aviv, transgendered people, especially transgendered women, face pervasive police harassment and brutality from the Tel Aviv police, regardless of whether or not they’re engaged in sex work.
While I was in Tel Aviv, a queer Israeli woman whom I met there showed me Levinsky Park in South Tel Aviv. There are hundreds of African immigrants living in a tent city in Levinsky Park, many of them undocumented, most of whom work as day laborers in construction in Tel Aviv; they are constantly harassed by the Tel Aviv police, and for them, Israel is no paradise; because Israel does not recognize non-Jewish refugees, they are not eligible for refugee status.
As a founding member of the board of directors of Queens Pride House (an LGBT community center in the borough of Queens), I’d like to point out that a community center can provide social services as well as providing a safe space for discussion of controversial issues — including the issue of Palestine. A community center can and should provide services at the same time as providing a space for community organizing, including organizing to support the rights of marginalized communities and peoples such as the Palestinian people. Queens Pride House does both, and there is no contradiction between the two.
Finally, I would like to encourage you to sign our mailing list and get involved with QAIA and QFOLC as we challenge the Center to end the ban on Palestine solidarity organizing here. Thank you.
Pauline Park is a co-founding member of both Queers Against Israel Apartheid (QAIA) and Queers for an Open LGBT Center (QFOLC) as well as chair of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA).
This is a speech given at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan on 3 March 2012; it is not a verbatim text of the actually speech given there, but rather a write-up of that speech reconstructed from notes a day later.