Monday, February 20, 2012

Convergence: Occupy & Anti-Pinkwashing Movements, March 3 NYC

In a striking convergence of movements, NYC Queers Against Israeli Apartheid are marking Israeli Apartheid Week with an occupation of the New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Community Center. As I have reported here several times, the NYC gay center has banned any discussion of solidarity with queer Palestinians, and banned any group intending to do so from using its meeting rooms, betraying the sense of openness and inclusion on which the Center was founded decades ago. It's clear that a handful of wealthy contributors and influential politicians are bound and determined to decide what part of the gay community is welcome at the Center, and the well-paid staff of the Center have heeded their master's voices.

The March 3 action is being called to end these policies of censorship. The action's demands include: End the ban on Palestine solidarity organizing at the Center; Open the Center to all who respect its stated mission; and Open the Center's board meetings and decision-making process to the community. As a fact sheet for NYC-QAIA says: The Center's “haven” then is for Zionist, not Arab, Muslim or especially Palestinian, queers as the ban brands anyone who even discusses the racism and violence of the Israeli government as a terrorist sympathizer, and a threat to the safety of “good” and “normal” queers. The Center’s Board has hidden behind closed-door meetings, flatly ignored calls, letters and requests to dialogue, and has refused to come forth with a promised policy on who can rent rooms at the center. They have failed the diverse LGBTQ communities and must be held accountable. A year has passed and it’s time to renew our action."

NYC-QAIA argues that here is a microcosm of society as a whole: the 1% are trying to use their wealth and power to silence the 99%.

It seems appropriate then that NYC-QAIA would apply the direct action tactics of the Occupy movement. I urge support of this protest!

The attempt by the State of Israel and its supporters to use pinkwashing to leverage support for Zionism in the gay community continues. Articles in the media lauding Israel for being some kind of "gay haven" bear the unmistakable stamp of official Israeli government manufacture. Take for instance this Associated Press article from January 24, 2012 syndicated widely including by the New York Times (though since scrubbed from the NYT site): "Tel Aviv Emerges as Top Gay Tourist Destination." While dropping tidbits of supposed balance, the article maintains an overall laudatory tone to Israel. But careful readers will not be fooled. Check out this sentence: "Omer Gershon, 37, a veteran of the Tel Aviv gay club scene, said tourists are drawn to the city's "crazy" night life." Wait, just a veteran of the Tel Aviv club scene? Flashback to last year: Omer Gershon was the paid agent of the Israeli government propaganda ministry who last year made a video under an assumed name falsely claiming that he had been the victim of alleged anti-gay attitudes of the Peace flotilla. His video was exposed as being a clumsy bit of pinkwashing propaganda. That the same name turns up in a "news article" as just another gay Israeli shows that it's just another clumsy lie dictated by Israeli government disinformation agencies. And it's outrageous that it was presented by AP as news. The only question is whether its author "Aron Heller" is a dupe or a paid employee of the Israeli government.

To counter all the nonsense hasbara propaganda being so clumsily disseminated, the first-ever U.S. LGBTQ delegation to Palestine went on a fact-finding mission to Palestine in January. They documented the systematic apartheid-style repression of the Palestinian people, and issued a strongly worded statement, which includes a section against Pinkwashing: "We call out and reject the state of Israel’s practice of pinkwashing, that is, a well-funded, cynical publicity campaign marketing a purportedly gay-friendly Israel to an international audience so as to distract attention from the devastating human rights abuses it commits on a daily basis against the Palestinian people. Key to Israel’s pinkwashing campaign is the manipulative and false labeling of Israeli culture as gay-friendly and Palestinian culture as homophobic. It is our view that comparisons of this sort are both inaccurate – homophobia and transphobia are to be found throughout Palestinian and Israeli society – and that this is beside the point: Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine cannot be somehow justified or excused by its purportedly tolerant treatment of some sectors of its own population. We stand in solidarity with Palestinian queer organizations like Al Qaws and Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (PQBDS) whose work continues to impact queer Palestinians and all Palestinians....

"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....

"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."
Read the whole statement; it's crystal clear and inspiring.

This convergence of movements is auspicious. We are indeed all together. If you're in NYC, see you on March 3rd!


  1. Ian, as a co-founding member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) as well as Queers for an Open LGBT Center (QFOLC), I would like to thank you for your eloquent summary of the issues involved with the Center's expulsion & banning of Siege Busters Working Group & QAIA. The Center must be held accountable for its actions, and I do not think it is at all hyperbolic to suggest that the very conception of LGBT/queer community is at stake in this dispute.
    Pauline Park

  2. Thanks for stopping by Pauline!

    It's so important. I remember the days before we had a community center and how exciting it was when the Center arrived; it's just a travesty that now the Center has become an institution closed off from the vibrancy that is the actual community.

    And congrats on your trip to the Middle East! Great work.