The attack on Jerusalem Gay Pride on Thursday was horrifying enough in itself. Six people were stabbed and two of them seriously injured. Marchers spoke about continuing the event walking on a road stained with blood and littered with medical equipment.
But the incident also shines a spotlight on Israeli society. Several hours after the attack, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated that “In Israel, everyone has the right to live in peace.” And yet, only hours after that, Jewish settlers on the West Bank attacked the homes of two Palestinian families in the village of Duma. Saad and Reham Dawabsha were taken to hospital with their son Ahmad, aged 4, while their eighteen-month-old son Ali Saad Dawabsha burned to death.
Settlements are Israeli cities, towns and villages built in territory Israel seized in the 1967 war. They are illegal in international law. Their purpose is to colonise these areas so that they become a permanent part of Israel. Netanyahu talks of peace, but on Wednesday 29 July he authorised the building of 300 more settlement buildings. On Thursday 30 July, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely pledged that the Israeli government would support the building of more illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land and stated that “the enemy is anyone who wants to uproot Jewish settlement.”
The population of the settlements is now over 750,000 people: they occupy about 50% of the land of the West Bank as well as part of East Jerusalem. They are joined by roads for use by Jewish Israelis only and use a disproportionate amount of scarce water. Israeli settlers have carried out at least 120 attacks on Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the start of 2015. They are the sharp end of Israel’s strategy in the region, and they make the racist and colonial nature of that strategy clear – as former Prime Minister Ehud Barack did when he called Israel “a villa in the jungle.”
The violence associated with the settlements is also linked to the attack on Jerusalem Pride. Yishai Schlissel, believed to have carried out the attack, is a settler. He comes from Modi’in Illit, a city now of over 50,000 people, first established in 1994 on land taken from five destroyed Palestinian villages. Remarkably, this is not the first homophobic attack he has carried out. In 2005 he stabbed three people at Jerusalem Pride and was imprisoned for 12 years. He was released 3 weeks ago – and has not been stopped from carrying out a repeat attack.
The attack on the Pride clearly exposes the lies at the basis of “pinkwashing” – the Israeli government’s claim that it heads a modern, democratic state exemplified by acceptance of LGBT people. Millions of dollars have been spent advertising Tel Aviv as a tourist destination, adverts aimed in particular at affluent gay men. But photos of good-looking men on the beach can’t divert everyone’s attention from the reality – such as Israel’s attack on Gaza last summer, which killed over 2,000 people, over 500 of them children. In fact, Israel is founded on violence and dispossession of Palestinians – including LGBT Palestinians – a process which continues today with the Israeli government’s endorsement of the settlements. The colonial nature of Israel means that it is not a “safe haven” for anyone – not indeed for Jews, including, as we saw on Thursday, LGBT Jews.
We hope that the events of the last few days will lead people to find out more about the conflict in Palestine, and to their becoming involved in the struggle for justice for the Palestinian people. These events show that a cynical public relations ploy like pinkwashing has nothing to contribute to that struggle.