Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Pinkwashing" Called Out in the NY Times

It's not the kind of thing you usually see in The New York Times. While the Times has a "liberal" reputation, its position on Israel is quite fundamentally compromised (see the Angry Arab for near daily demolitions of the Times's anti-Palestinian racism). But there it is, an Op-Ed piece entitled "Israel and 'Pinkwashing.'" I'm proud to say that the author of this piece, Sarah Schulman, is a friend of mine, somebody I actually went to college with many years ago. She's been active as a writer, academic, and lesbian activist for three decades, and getting this piece in the Times is a real achievement not only for defenders of Palestinians but for lesbian and gay activists in general.

Schulman skillfully ties the Israeli attempt to make gays complicit with the repressive policies of the State of Israel to the European-American Islamophobic movement that is racist to the core:

"These depictions of immigrants — usually Muslims of Arab, South Asian, Turkish or African origin — as “homophobic fanatics” opportunistically ignore the existence of Muslim gays and their allies within their communities. They also render invisible the role that fundamentalist Christians, the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Jews play in perpetuating fear and even hatred of gays. And that cynical message has now spread from its roots in European xenophobia to become a potent tool in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Read the whole piece. Congrats, Sarah.


In related news, New York City Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (NYC QAIA) continues to be excluded from using the meeting rooms at New York City's LGBT Community Center. It's been conducting its business for months now at sit-ins in the Center's lobby. Veteran gay activist Steve Ault, both a member of QAIA and a founder of the LGBT Center, tried to meet with Center Board Members but was rudely disinvited from any board discussion. NYC QAIA has now issued an excellent identity statement:

New York City Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (NYC-
QAIA) is a group of queer activists who support Palestinians’
right to self-determination, and challenge Israel’s occupation
of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as the military
blockade of Gaza. We endorse Palestinian civil society’s call
for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel,
and the call by Palestinian queer groups to end the
occupation as a critical step for securing Palestinian human
rights as well as furthering the movement for Palestinian
queer rights.*

NYC-QAIA also calls for an immediate end to Israel’s siege of
Gaza and the collective punishment of its people, which are
clear and widely recognized violations of international law.
NYC-QAIA opposes the continued construction of illegal
settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the
demolition of Palestinian homes. NYC-QAIA calls for the
release of all political prisoners in Israeli jails. Lastly, given
that Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians depends so
heavily upon our own government’s support, NYC-QAIA
demands an end to U.S. military and financial aid to Israel.


As queers, NYC-QAIA recognizes the myriad ways in which
various forms of oppression — including colonialism, racism,
homophobia and transgenderphobia — are deeply entwined.
As queers, we refuse to accept state violence against
ourselves or others. As gay rights gain support in the US and
Israel, the Israeli government and its defenders have
increasingly co-opted the rhetoric of gay rights to veil Israel’s
racist, colonialist state violence—and this pinkwashing we
also adamantly refuse to accept.

To those who claim Israel is a haven for queers, NYC-QAIA
replies: queer rights in Israel have not been granted by a
benevolent government—they were demanded, fought for,
and to some extent, won. Because Apartheid Israel applies
different rules and laws to Jews, non-Jews and particularly
Palestinians, those minimal rights do not universally apply to
queer Palestinians, nor to queer Israelis of any ethnic group
who build families with Palestinians, nor to queers who
support BDS and oppose Israel’s crimes against Palestinians,
nor to many others. The presence or absence of the same
minimal rights in Palestine is not comparable; apartheid and
occupation strip Palestinian queers of the basic human rights
that have permitted queers in Israel to make their small
gains. Apartheid is the issue.

NYC-QAIA does not speak on behalf of Palestinians — we
stand in solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle. NYC-
QAIA does not support any formal political entity and we do
not all necessarily stand behind a one- or two-state solution.
We reject outright all systems of domination and hate,
including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Despite what our
detractors claim, we are not self-hating queers. And the
many Jewish members of NYC-QAIA are not self-loathing
Jews but rather Jews who refuse to support an apartheid

NYC QAIA meets at the LGBT Community Center. We're currently forced to hold our meetings as sit-ins in the lobby: at the behest of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatemongers, the Center refuses to rent meeting space to anti-apartheid queers. But the Center is wrong to deny safe space to Arab queers, Muslim queers & other queers it deems “controversial.” And the Center is wrong to censor queer political organizing. So NYC QAIA is holding the space. Occupy!

*The BDS document and its original signers are posted at For more information, see the websites
of Palestinian Queers for BDS, Aswat, and al-Qaws.

NYC QAIA sits-in at the Center alternate Tuesdays, next meeting December 6. They're working on getting a blog up, I will update here when that blog is made public.

For past Cahokian articles on Pinkwashing, click here. I also recommend another activist friend's article "Scott Piro, Queer Support for Israel & the Pinkwashing Scam" by Pauline Park, at her blog on gender rights.

UPDATE: Check out Sarah's "Documentary Guide to Pinkwashing" on Essential!

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