LGBT and feminist struggles are not over: A reminder to the Israeli left

While the majority of Israel’s radical left focuses on the Prawer Plan or ending the occupation, it tends to neglect the hardships of the LGBT community.

By Leehee Rothschild

Last Thursday, I attended the protest against the Prawer Plan in the Negev. There, in the heat, hundreds of people stood and chanted slogans against the plan which could evict up to 40,000 Bedouin, Israeli citizens, from their homes. I was there to protest ethnic cleansing, racism, prejudice, and ongoing discrimination. On Thursday I went to a demonstration against Prawer Plan, a demonstration whose importance is beyond any shred of doubt, and yet, the decision to go was not an easy one.

While the demonstrations against Prawer were taking place, the Jerusalem Pride parade was also happening. The same parade in which I was arrested in 2006, the same parade that someone always tries to put an end to, the same parade that is still defined by many as a provocation and which will inevitably end up with someone throwing a stink bomb. The parade, which takes place in August (rather than June, when most pride parades take place) in order to commemorate the anniversary of the murder of Liz Troubishi and Nir Katz, who were murdered in an LGBT youth center shooting in 2009. It is a march that spells pride as well as resistance.

Throughout the week I debated with myself and others where should I go. Eventually, on a whim, I decided to go to the Negev, knowing full well that no matter what my choice will be, it will be both right and wrong. However, as I shared my dilemma with people, I was told (more than once) that Jerusalem Pride is either less important or less urgent than the protest against Prawer. And while I did eventually choose to head south, I would like to take a moment and address these comments.

The Israeli left always has something urgent to protest. There is always either a need to prevent the eviction of thousands of people from their homes, a wall to bring down, a military action to demonstrate against, or arrestees to release and support. There is always something more urgent that simply cannot wait, so much so that the feminist and LGBT struggles must take a step back and wait their turn. After all they are not dealing with matters of life and death.

And in the meantime, LGBT youth are being kicked out of their homes for coming out of the closet, they suffer abuse at school, and many of them contemplate or commit suicide. In the meantime, single-parent mothers struggle to survive another month, because 75 cents to the dollar is more than just a statistic. Many women face either sexual assault (Hebrew) or rape. For them, neither the street nor the home is a safe place, whether it’s day or night.

But the feminist and LGBT struggles are left behind among the Israel’s radical left, which is always quick to talk about connecting between the struggles. However, because these struggles seem less heroic and action-packed, the connection usually works in one direction. And anyways, the struggle is “theirs” rather than “ours.” Because apparently it is enough to show up once a year at Tel Aviv’s pride parade to complain about pinkwashing in order to feel radical and in full solidarity with the LGBT community, before going home and forgetting about homophobia, homeless queer youth, and those working in prostitution until next year’s parade. Because feminist struggles are still seen as “women’s issues” that radical men need not waste their precious time on. Because we shouldn’t really be complaining about sexual violence while men are fighting the war against the occupation.

So I would like to use this dilemma as an opportunity to remind the radical left of a few things. If we struggle against oppression, then the struggle against the oppression of women and LGBTs is part of our struggle. If we struggle against hatred and prejudice than homophobia is also on the list, right along racism. If we struggle for freedom, then the freedom of women to walk the streets safely is as high on the list as the freedom for Palestine. And if we struggle for demilitarization, then men should stop telling us “quiet, they are shooting.” If the suffragettes would have listen to them, we would have never gotten the right to vote.

Leehee Rothschild has been active in the Palestinian struggle for over a decade. She currently works with Anarchists Against the Wall and Boycott From Within. This article was first published in Hebrew on her blog.