From the hit-or-miss MRZine, an important statement as one of the most vulnerable sectors of Arab society struggles to resist imperialist manipulation:
Arab Queers Say NO to Pinkwashing at the USSF
by Helem, Al-Qaws, ASWAT, and Palestinian Queers for BDS
SAY NO TO PINKWASHING AT THE USSF!
We, the undersigned queer Arab organizations, are appalled by the US Social Forum’s decision to allow Stand with Us to utilize the event as a platform to pinkwash Israel’s crimes in the region. Stand with Us is cynically manipulating the struggle of queer people in the Middle East through its workshop entitled “LGBTQI Liberation in the Middle East”.
Stand with Us is a self-declared Zionist propaganda organization which describes itself as “an international education organization that ensures that Israel’s side of the story is told in communities, campuses, libraries, the media and churches through brochures, speakers, conferences, missions to Israel, and thousands of pages of Internet resources”.
Stand with Us has no connection with the LGBT movement in the Middle East apart from ties to Zionist Israeli LGBT organizations, yet it claims to speak for and about our movements. It has no credibility in our region, and as organizations working in and from the Middle East, we condemn its attempt to use us, our struggles, our lives, and our experiences as a platform for pro-Israeli propaganda.
Since Israel’s brutal wars on Gaza and Lebanon in 2006 and particularly after the recent unprovoked attack on the flotilla of activists going to Gaza, the Israeli government has found itself increasingly marginalized by international condemnations and weakened through the growing success of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. To remedy this, it has launched a massive PR campaign using organizations such as Stand with Us to convince the world that Israel is not a brutal settler-colony state, but rather a free democracy where human rights in general, and LGBT rights in particular, are respected and upheld. Stand With Us deceptively uses the language of LGBT and women’s rights to obscure the fact that institutionalized discrimination is enshrined within the state of Israel.
Our struggle is deeply intertwined with the struggle of all oppressed people, and we cannot accept that we are being used as a tool to discredit the Palestinian cause. Stand with Us would have everyone believe that the Palestinian cause is an unworthy one because of the homophobia that exists within Palestinian society, as if homophobia does not exist elsewhere, and as if struggles for justice are predicated on some sort of inherent “goodness” of the oppressed, rather than on the principles of freedom, justice, and equality for everyone, everywhere. Stand with Us would have us all compartmentalize our beliefs, lives, and identities so that solidarity with the queer struggle would preclude solidarity with others.
While Stand With Us is quick to point out the oppression of queer Palestinians under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, it conveniently forgets that those same queers are not immune to the bombs, blockades, apartheid and destruction wrought upon them daily by the Israeli government, and that Israel’s multi-tiered oppression hardly makes a distinction between straight and gay Palestinians.
We refuse to be instrumentalized by anyone, be it our own oppressive governments or the Zionist lobby hijacking our struggle to legitimize the state of Israel and its policies, thus providing even more fodder for our own governments to use against us. If you want to learn about our movements and struggles, engage with us, rather than with those who will use us as pawns in Israel’s campaign to pinkwash its crimes.
The inclusion of Stand With Us at the USSF is an egregious oversight on the part of the forum. We ask the forum to justify this inclusion given that it violates its own principles of anti-racism, uniting oppressed communities, prioritizing marginalized voices, and opposing US foreign policy. The USSF should be held accountable to its own standards. We look forward to hearing its plans to address the situation.
Lebanese Protection for LGBT
For Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society
Palestinian Gay Women
Palestinian Queers for BDS
FYI, general USSF contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; (toll free) 877.515.USSF; and USSF Coordinators’ contact info: Detroit Co-Coordinators William Copeland firstname.lastname@example.org and Maureen Taylor email@example.com; National Co-Coordinators Adrienne Maree Brown firstname.lastname@example.org and Sylvia Orduño email@example.com. Click here for contact info of other staffers and working group coordinators.
This statement has been met with a statement of support from Queer Israelis for Palestine:
We, Israeli queer activists, are deeply disturbed that the US Social Forum is allowing the issue of LGBTQI rights in the Middle East to be used by the anti-arab propaganda organization Stand with Us, under the dishonest guise of educating and promoting liberation. The workshop to be held by Stand with Us at the US Social Forum, entitled “LGBTQI Liberation in the Middle East” is a particularly sinister attempt to use the issue of LGBTQI rights to veil the horrors of the Israeli occupation, and has no place in the US Social Forum.We support the statement issued by the queer arab organizations (see attachment), bravely standing up for their own rights, including their right to speak for themselves and not have their voices hijacked by Stand with Us, an organization that condones oppression of Palestinians, queer and straight alike. Queer Palestinians know: Israel does not give rights to queer Palestinians, Israel denies the rights of all Palestinans. As Jewish Israeli queers, we also refuse to be co-opted by Stand with Us. Transphobia and homophobia are real problems in Israel, as the violent attack on LGBT youth last year proved. Stand with Us has no interest in addressing these pressing issues, and does not actually support ongoing struggles for queer rights within Israel. Instead they flaunt the rights that we do have, erasing the need for continued struggle, for us, but more importantly, for other even more oppressed groups. We will not allow Stand with Us to use our hard earned rights to demonize the arab world and to justify denying the rights of the Palestinians. Being Jewish citizens of Israel affords us many rights denied to others, despite our queerness. We are acutely aware of our excess privilege within the apartheid state of Israel. For us this is no cause for pride and celebration, but rather it forces us to be accountable and take action. That means we can, and must, fight for rights and justice for all. Please don’t let Stand with Us lead a workshop that will detract from this important struggle for justice. Signed, Israeli Queers For Palestine