US queer activists slam Israel ‘pinkwashing,’ endorse boycott call

A group of American academics and artists who identify as part of the LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer) community recently released an open letter and petition endorsing the Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel.

The group, which included filmmaker Barbara Hammer, famous for her avantgarde lesbian feminist cinema, was just on a trip to Israel and Palestine earlier this month. In their letter, they list the human rights violations they witnessed:

-a segregated road system (one set of roads for cars with Israeli plates, and another much inferior one for cars with Palestinian plates) throughout the West Bank, constructed by the Israeli state and enforced by the Israeli army; these roads ease Israeli travel to and from illegal settlements in the West Bank and severely impede Palestinian travel between villages, to agricultural land, and throughout a territory which is and has been their homeland;

-a system of permits (identification cards) that limits the travel of Palestinian people and functionally imprisons them, separating them from family, health care, jobs and other necessities;

-militarized checkpoints with barbed wire and soldiers armed with automatic rifles and the humiliation and harassment the Palestinian people experience daily in order to travel from one place to another;

-the reconfiguration of maps to render invisible Palestinian villages/homelands;

-harmful living conditions created and enforced by Israeli law and policy such as limited access to water and electricity in many Palestinian homes;

-violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, and the ongoing growth of illegal settlements facilitated by the Israeli military;

-homelessness as a result of the razing of Palestinian homes by the Israeli state;

-home invasions, tear gas attacks, “skunk water” attacks, and the arrest of Palestinian children by the Israeli military as part of ongoing harassment designed to force Palestinian villagers to give up their land.

Their call is rooted in a queer perspective that specifically sees the queer Palestinian struggle for liberation from “global heterosexism” as one and the same as the struggle for liberation of the Palestinian people from what they call colonization and apartheid. They emphasize the emerging Palestinian gay-rights movements, such as Al Qaws and Palestinian Queers for BDS, and criticize what has become known as Israel’s “pinkwashing” campaign, whereby the state’s PR mechanisms use the country’s liberal record on gay rights as a way to conceal its human rights abuses. Indeed, some see Tel Aviv’s recent declaration as the world’s best gay travel destination as cynical and injudicious in light of the ongoing  occupation.

But they do not exclude Israelis (or heterosexuals) from their show of solidarity and call for action:

We stand in solidarity with queer Palestinian activists who are working to end the occupation, and also with Israeli activists, both queer and others, who are resisting the occupation that is being maintained and extended in their name.

As Americans, they hold the US responsible for its participation in ongoing violation of Palestinian human rights, and make an explicit call for an  end of US aid to Israel.

We name the complicity of the United States in this human rights catastrophe and call on our government to end its participation in an unjust regime that places it and us on the wrong side of peace and justice;

We call upon all of our academic and activist colleagues in the US and elsewhere to join us by supporting all Palestinian efforts that center these three demands [1. End of occupation and dismantling of wall 2. Right of return for displaced Palestinians 3. Recognition and restoration of the equal rights of citizenship for Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent] and by working to end US financial support, at $8.2 million daily, for the Israeli state and its occupation.