Saturday, May 29, 2010

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid

Speaking of Apartheid in Israel, the Toronto Gay Pride committee has decided to exclude Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from its upcoming Gay Pride events. From QuAIA: "Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) is a Toronto-based organization that was formed to work in solidarity with queers in Palestine and Palestinian resistance movements around the world. We support the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law. As queers, we recognize that homophobia exists in Israel, Palestine, and across all borders, but queer Palestinians face the additional challenge of living under occupation, subject to Israeli state violence and control. We also recognize that as part of its Rebranding Campaign, Israel is cultivating an image of itself as an oasis of gay tolerance in the Middle East. QuAIA works to out this ‘pinkwashing’ of Israeli apartheid." The City of Toronto apparently threatened to cut funding to the parade if QuAIA was not banned, and the official pride committee knuckled under.

Again from QuAIA: "This follows a year of intense pressure from Toronto City Hall (one of Pride’s main funders) and Israel lobbyists, who claim that criticisms of the Israeli government amount to hate and discrimination. By caving to their demands, Pride Toronto has not only silenced the voices of queer Palestinians and human rights activists — they have set a dangerous precedent for free expression in our community."

It's disturbing to me how many gay people are duped by Israel's claim to be both the only middle-east democracy and some kind of beacon of gay rights. Gay rights cannot be divided from overall human rights: whatever legal protections lesbians and gays have in Israel are deeply compromised by Israel's overall policies and by its deprivations of the rights of all (non-Israeli) people--gay and straight--on the West Bank and in Gaza. Gay people, acutely sensitive to injustices against us, should be standing on the right side of history and welcome groups like QuAIA that carry forward the banner of interconnected social justice.

While at my age I'm not so interested in marching in pride parades anymore--I put in my time--I think it's really key that political issues not be excluded from what started out as a political celebration of gay identity.

I recommend this interview with a Queer Palestinian activist in the Haaretz newspaper: "It´s really pathetic that the Israeli state has nothing besides gay rights to promote their liberal image," says [Haneen] Maikey. "Ridiculous, and in a sense hilarious, because there are no gay rights in Israel....Stop speaking in my name and using me for a cause you never supported in the first place. If you want to do me a favour, then stop bombing my friends, end your occupation, and leave me to rebuild my community. I'm aware that my society has a long way to go in terms of human rights and social issues, but it's my responsibility, not yours."


  1. In the past few years, gays and lesbians have had a difficult time getting a pride parade going in (West) Jerusalem.

    Supporters of the current apartheid State of Israel like to mention that Israeli Arabs have it much better than Arabs living elsewhere. I can never figure out why the Israeli Arabs are never called Arab Israelis. I can never figure out why I never hear from the Arab Israelis or gay Israelis themselves. Some pro-apartheid Israel supporter somehow feels the need to speak on behalf of other groups or individuals.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Skinny.

    Excellent point. I've also noticed that those criticising QuAIA presume that this is an abstract political issue for QuAIA folks. While I don't live in Toronto so I don't really know, my own assumption is that while I think that's irrelevent at bottom line, I think it's entirely possible there are people in QuAIA who are of Palestinian or Israeli background raising this as a quite personal issue.