We must remain critical when the Israeli government co-opts the LGBTQ struggle to divert attention from the occupation. But let’s not minimize the urgency of the situation for many queer people in Israel and across the Middle East.
“LGBTQ Against Pinkwash” at Tel Aviv Pride
There’s a tendency towards extreme dualism when it comes to the LGBTQ community in Israel. Two recent essays on the subject of “pinkwashing” in +972 Magazine exemplify the tendency to show that a country that does bad things (i.e. Israel) cannot possibly do anything right, and the victims (i.e. the Palestinians) can do nothing wrong. This approach pushes the entirety of Israeli gay activism into the narrow box of hasbara (propaganda by the state in an attempt to “pinkwash” the occupation) while trivializing the mistreatment of so many LGBTQ residents of neighboring countries.
Over the past five years I have met with many LGBT activists in Israel – including some brave non-Jewish ones – and I have also worked on the global effort to rescue LGBTQ refugees from a variety of Muslim communities of the surrounding region. I live far away – in Northern California – but the personal statements (often under oath as part of a refugee application) of LGBTQ residents of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, and Palestine confirm that these are not happy lives.
While some (mostly older rich gay men) have been able to flourish in the upper echelons of Beirut and Amman, for the most part the fate of LGBTQ people in those countries is dire – ranging from the emotional burdens of closeted secrecy to outright torture and murder. Minimizing the seriousness of this reality weakens the credibility of otherwise valid critiques of Israel, and puts into question the motivation of LGBTQ activists who seem to have selected the truly deserving victims of the occupation as pawns in their efforts to motivate gay activists to join the anti-occupation movement. Continue reading on +972