No to Pinkwashing – No to Israel’s Use of Gay Oppression to Justify Palestinian Oppression
No to Pinkwashing – No to Israel’s Use of Gay Oppression to Justify Palestinian Oppression
Peter Tatchell and Others Support Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions
This letter from Peter Tatchell and other gay and Palestine solidarity activists is to be welcomed. It is certainly overdue. One of the more unpleasant features of recent years has been how the far-right has demonstrated how ‘tolerant’ it is to gay rights unlike those ‘backward’ Muslims. This reached its height with the killing of the gay fascist leader, Pim Fortyn in The Netherlands.
Even in Britain the English Defence League pretends to be sympathetic to gay rights and the BNP came out with the ludicrous position that although we may not allow you to adopt kids and have equal rights, we won’t kill you!
We have the obscene spectacle of the Israeli government, which follows a policy of ethnic cleansing, torture whilst seeking an unprovoked war with Iran, declaring how progressive it is. Support for gay rights is ‘cool’ in an even more ‘cool’ Tel Aviv. In fact Israel is anything but cool. World Pride in Jerusalem in 2006 , which Peter made a mistake in supporting, had to be held inside a stadium because the ultra orthodox who make up a large proportion of Jerusalem’s Jews, have the same attitude to gays as their fundamentalist Islamic counterparts.
I have personally been told by an Orthodox Rabbi that whatever crimes Hitler committed against the Jews he got it right with the gays.
There was a time when Peter Tatchell and his Outrage group wobbled a bit, especially with the advent of anti-Islamic racism and the appalling attitude of fundamentalist Islam to gay rights. In particular Peter turned up at PSC demonstrations demanding that we condemn the persecution of gays within Palestinian society, without realising that solidarity demonstrations probably aren’t the best place to do so. This was based on a lack of understanding that in a feudal style society issues such as gay rights, equality for women raise questions about the frozen nature of the society itself, distorted as it is by colonialism. It is only in the past 20 or so years that British society has begun to accept gay equality. Margaret Thatcher was famous for her hostility to gays and of course Clause 28 which prevented teachers including gay sexuality within the context of sex education. So to expect economically backward and repressed societies to adopt sexual liberation is a step too far.
One has to pay tribute to Tatchell’s fearlessness, whether it was attempting to arrest Robert Mugabe when he was viciously attacked by Mugabe’s henchmen, being punched to the head and still suffering headaches to this day, or turning up at Al Quds Day and both supporting a Free Palestine and opposing the Iranian states murder of Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh, a 16 year old girl who was a victim of sexual abuse before being hanged by the blood drenched murderers who use the Islamic regime to justify and legitimise their murderous rule.
This is not, as Mark Elf says, going to be popular with the BNP supporting site Harry’s Place. One suspects that HP isn’t going to be wishing Peter many more happy birthdays! Boycott Divestment and Sanctions is a prime example of ‘anti-Semitism’ to these to these woodenheads.
Not sure what fellow Outrage member Brett Lock, who used to be very keen on HP (but seems to have disappeared of late) will make of this, but I remember back in the 1980’s Peter being very supportive of Palestine solidarity within the Labour Party when he was a member. He was a speaker at the Labour Movement Campaign on Palestine at County Hall, the headquarters of the Greater London Council in about 1984.
I can also remember trudging the Council estates in Bermondsey in support of Peter when he stood against that rank opportunist Simon Hughes in an election where Peter’s sexuality was made the key issue. Led by the scum of the Sun, Peter was pilloried for his open and honest admission of his sexuality as the old Labour Right, led by Bob Mellish backed people like the bigotted former leader of Southwark Council O’Grady. Simon Hughes of course came out as gay about 20 years later having benefitted from the vicious anti-gay witch hunt against Peter, who lived under permanent threat on a Bermondsey Council Estate. Come the night and of course the witch hunt was successful and the ‘Liberals’ took the seat.
Part of the problem was that useless Worzel Gummidge of a Labour Leader, Michael Foot, who instead of a forthright denunciation of the bigots hummed and hawed. The rest is history.
It is therefore very welcome that Peter has come out in support of BDS and one suspects that he won’t be a hero to Nick Cohen of the Observer for much longer!
It is also good to see the name of Linda Bellos. Linda resigned many years ago from the collective of Spare Rib because she was half-Jewish and identified at that time with Zionism. It was the time of the Jewish (i.e. Zionist) Feminist Group and Zionist Feminism, a current that has all but disappeared.All signs that Israel is no longer ‘cool’!
LGBT and Human Rights Advocates Speak Out Against Israeli Pinkwashing
As Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month gets underway in the UK, human rights advocates are adding their voices to the global responses to Israel’s attempt to ‘pinkwash’ its oppressive nature by portraying itself as progressive and liberal with regard to gay rights. In a letter to the press today, veterans of the Gay Liberation Front, Stop Clause 28, Outrage!, other campaigns and their allies express concern over the hi-jacking of LGBT rights as a propaganda smokescreen to divert attention from Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians.
Pointing out that the gay rights movement originated at the time of civil rights, anti-apartheid and Women’s Liberation movements, and drew inspiration from people striving for freedom from colonialism, they say it would be ‘ironic if, in an attempt to gain a veneer of respectability by promoting itself as a liberal, tolerant haven for gay people and a prime gay holiday destination, a regime routinely violating human rights, practising institutional racism and dispossessing an indigenous population’ tried to co-opt their hard-won progress.
Last year an anti-pinkwashing picket of a state-sponsored Israeli gay art exhibition took place in Soho, and more actions under the banner ‘No Pride in Israeli Apartheid!’ are planned. Trade unionists, feminists, Palestine Solidarity campaigners, activists, actors, academics and artists are rallying to express condemnation of pinkwashing and solidarity with Palestinian queer groups, who are part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as are anti-occupation Israelis who oppose Israel’s attempts to exploit LGBT rights to win legitimacy. ‘Marketing Israel to holiday-makers is particularly callous when there is a world-wide diaspora of ethnically-cleansed Palestinians prevented from returning to their homeland,’ Sarah Colborne, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said. ‘There are plenty of other places to enjoy beaches and clubbing without supporting a brutal, racist state at the expense of dispossessed people.’
‘The state of Israel is increasingly desperate for positive PR, and is under huge pressure from the international BDS movement to end its apartheid system,’ said campaigner Frankie Green, a GLF member in the 1970s. ‘They are spending millions on rebranding Israel, and pinkwashing is a deliberate part of that. London is hosting World Pride 2012, and we hope anyone encountering pinkwashing will remember the movement’s history and support the Palestinian quest for justice.’
February brings events marking Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month, and London will host this summer’s WorldPride Festival, four decades on from the Gay Liberation Front’s first Gay Pride events. Simultaneous and overlapping with the civil rights, anti-apartheid and Women’s Liberation movements, GLF also drew inspiration from the national liberation struggles of people freeing themselves from colonialism. The LGBT rights we now celebrate originate in the groundbreaking work of that era.
How ironic it would be if, in an attempt to gain a veneer of respectability by promoting itself as a liberal, tolerant haven for gay people and a prime gay holiday destination, an oppressive regime which routinely violates human rights, practises institutional racism and dispossesses an indigenous population tried to co-opt that progress.
As long-term advocates of LGBT and women’s rights, some of whom created the first Gay Pride events, we wish to express our concern at the cynical hijacking of those rights by Israel’s ‘pinkwashing’ PR campaign. The specious freedoms enjoyed by some Israeli gay people and visitors to Tel Aviv’s nightclubs bear no more relation to real equality than did the privileges accorded white people during South African apartheid. Pinkwashing tries to divert attention from the untold suffering caused by Israel’s subjection of the Palestinians to siege, bombardment, military occupation, ethnic cleansing, land theft, settler violence, killings (180 in 2011 alone), imprisonment, forced exile, the crushing of economic, educational and social infrastructure and denial of legitimate aspirations to self-determination.
We write in solidarity with Palestinian LGBT and civil society organisations who initiated the burgeoning global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to bring pressure to bear upon Israel until it complies with international law, and endorse their insistence on the universality of human rights. We invite all who share our abhorrence of Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians to observe the boycott of Israeli tourism and goods, and hope that LGBT people encountering pinkwashing will take pride in remembering the roots of our campaigning history and support the Palestinian quest for justice.
Frankie Green, Mary McIntosh, Peter Tatchell, Stuart Feather, Miriam Margolyes O.B.E., Pratibha Parmar, Linda Bellos O.B.E., Rumana Hashem, Jane Lane, Sarah Colborne, Director, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Professor Oishik Sircar (message ends)