LGBTQ Israelis come out against occupation and homophobia

In response to online homophobic attacks, over 50 LGBTQ left-wing activists and NGO workers in Israel-Palestine release a statement condemning the occupation, racism and pinkwashing.

By Yael Marom

A pride flag at a protest against government incitement against Palestinians and the LGTBQ community in Israel, August 8, 2015, Tel Aviv. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
A pride flag at a protest against government incitement against Palestinians and the LGTBQ community in Israel, August 8, 2015, Tel Aviv. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The week before last a notorious extreme right-wing Israeli rapper posted another homophobic status on his Facebook page. The post, which was not the from a right-winger to put LGBTQ members of human rights organizations in the crosshairs, was the catalyst for an initiative to bring together LGBTQ left-wing activists ahead of the Tel Aviv Pride march this week.

As part of his post, the rapper attached pictures of five of our friends in these organizations, as if it were necessary to prepare a blacklist of queer leftists. So we decided to spare him and his friends the trouble, and put together our own proud pinklist. Yes, LGBTQs are prominent in left-wing organizations, and it’s no accident.

Over the last few days, we have brought together more than 50 members of the LGBTQ community who work for human and animal rights organizations, and who are active in struggles for public housing, social justice, equal rights for the various groups in this land, and against discrimination and racism. There is a close connection between the fact that we are all part of the same queer tribe, and our duty toward justice and equality — for all.

We have been turned into a tourism initiative even as the government routinely fails to pass legislation that would further our rights. We are not prepared for the state to continue cynically using our identity in order to portray itself as an enlightened country, as all the while the occupation continues undisturbed, people are thrown out of their homes and into the street in Givat Amal and Umm al-Hiran, asylum seekers are sent to jail, and demonstrations are violently suppressed. The glitter cannot and need not conceal the checkpoints, walls and thousands of prisoners.

Israeli activists graffitied anti-occupation slogans across Tel Aviv in the run-up to the 2016 pride parade. (photo: Activestills.org)
Israeli activists graffitied anti-occupation slogans across Tel Aviv in the run-up to the 2016 pride parade. (photo: Activestills.org)

We are a minority that has experienced violent oppression for thousands of years, and which has succeeded through the actual blood and sweat of real people who sacrificed their lives, creating nothing less than a revolution. Even if that work is not yet finished, even if they continue to murder us, threaten us, chase us, we still have a responsibility to other minorities. We must remember that we too would not have made the progress we did without the support of so many outside our community.

I’m sure every queer person knows the warm feeling of being somewhere new and spotting another member of the community, who notices you in return. It’s a look of mutual recognition — a glance that reaffirms to each of you that you are not alone, that it doesn’t matter where either of you are from, if one of you is religious and the other secular, if you are Muslim, Jewish, or Christian. You are all part of the same tribe, and that is the essence of our rainbow flag.

We look out for each other. We don’t look away when they murder our kin in Chechnya, when they slaughter them in a nightclub in Orlando or at the Jerusalem Pride parade. And we also don’t look away when they systematically blackmail them in the occupied Palestinian territories, on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Because if we do look away, we don’t have the right to call ourselves a community.

And that’s what the right-wingers keeping tab on us need to understand — when you attack a member of our community, they won’t remain alone.

Nothing to be proud of: Palestinian workers squeeze themselves to pass through the Israeli checkpoint of Bethlehem while heading to their work in Israeli cities, Bethlehem, West Bank, March 19, 2017. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)
Nothing to be proud of: Palestinian workers squeeze themselves to pass through the Israeli checkpoint of Bethlehem while heading to their work in Israeli cities, Bethlehem, West Bank, March 19, 2017. (Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

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Declaration: LGBTQs against the occupation!
As incitement against left-wing activists and human rights organizations in Israel-Palestine continues to increase, some on the Right have begun launching homophobic attacks against human rights advocates and drawing attention to the number of NGOs headed by LGBTQ individuals.

We, a group of queer social and human rights activists, want to say one thing to all the right-wing bullies busy keeping score: You’re right.

There are indeed many LGBTQ individuals within the human rights community and a great deal of LGBTQ leftists, and that’s no coincidence. We cannot but draw a connection between our own struggle for human rights, equality and freedom, and that of other communities. Israel markets itself as a queer Garden of Eden even as it extorts LGB Palestinians, flaunting its gay tourism credentials while cynically using us to negate the injustices it is responsible for.

To racist homophobes: There is no pride in occupation. There is no pride in expelling asylum seekers. There is no pride in throwing families into the street. Your violence, and that of the state, are nothing to be proud of.

We have chosen to be part of the long battle for human rights and freedom — not only for the sake of our own liberation, and certainly not as PR for the government. We will continue to oppose injustice everywhere, and to point out the connection between Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights and its discrimination against other communities.

And as a reminder to our friends in the LGBTQ community — our safety and security cannot depend on the trampling of others’ security. We are here to stay, and we will continue to tell our community: End the occupation, end the repression and end the discrimination. We all deserve a better future.

Signatories:

Avi Blecherman, social justice and human rights activist
Avi Buskila, Peace Now
Uri Weltmann, Standing Together
Uri Shmilovich, former head of the Haifa LGBT Forum
Orna Hadar, Amnesty International Israel
Aeyal Gross, board member of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Gisha
Iris Stern Levi, Her Academy
Alon Lee-Green, Standing Together
Elizabeth Tsurkov
Elinor Davidov, feminist activist
Alma Biblash, Human Rights Defenders Fund
Erin Toledano-Farajov, queer Mizrahi activist for intersectional rights
Gil Naveh
Dalia Zakah, Woman for Woman
Dan Yakir, Association for Civil Rights in Israel
Dafna Hirsch
Dror Mizrahi, The Front Against Police Violence
Hadas Pe’ery, social and political activist
Winter Adi
Zehava Greenfeld, activist in the struggle for public housing and against the occupation
Zizo Abu Hawa, IGY — Alwan
Khulud Khamis, author and feminist activist
Hagai El-Ad, B’Tselem
Chen Misgav, board member of Bimkom — Planners for Planning Rights
Hannah Safran, Woman for Woman
Tanya Rubinstein, Coalition of Women for Peace
Yuval Yonay
Yuli Novak, Breaking the Silence
Yonathan Gher, Amnesty International Israel
Yossi Wolfson
Yotam Shlomo, member of Sadaka-Reut’s Internal Audit Committee
Yael Agmon, MachsomWatch, former head of Tehila
Yael Marom, Local Call and Just Vision
Lihi Joffe, board member of Coalition of Women for Peace
Mickey Gitzin
Maayan Niezna, Hotline for Refugees and Migrants
Maayan Dak, Zazim
Nadav Antebi-Gruszka
Rabbi Noa Sattath
Natasha Roth, +972 Magazine
Nizar Hlewa, Sadaka-Reut
Nisreen Mazzawi, feminist activist and board member of Woman for Woman
Sahar Vardi
Smadar Sharon
Sapir Sluzker-Amran, social and political activist
Amit Gilutz, B’Tselem
Atalia Israeli-Nevo, Zochrot
Fady Khoury, attorney at Adalah — The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Roy Yellin, B’Tselem
Sarit Michaeli

Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.

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