The last few weeks have marked the height of the Pride season around the world, as events commemorate the Stonewall riot of June 1969. It’s also seen a higher public profile for issues around pinkwashing and LGBT issues in Palestine.
A rainbow flag on the apartheid wall
In late June, Khaled Jarrar painted a rainbow on a small part of Israel’s huge apartheid wall. He was inspired by the victory on same-sex marriage in the US, and felt that the rainbow could be a symbol of freedom and equality against Israeli ethnic cleansing. He was also aware that it’s an LGBT symbol, and was happy for Palestinian society to debate the issues it raised. He painted the mural with other people around, and most Palestinians supported his actions. However, a small minority didn’t – and the next night, a small number of Palestinian men whitewashed the rainbow.
Jarrar has written an account of what happened on Electronic Intifada. He points out that the story was typically reported from a pinkwashing perspective, which saw Israel as pro-LGBT and Palestine as homophobic – there was no mention of Palestinian support for his actions, or of the diversity of views in Palestinian society. He points out that, far from Israel being a safe haven for LGBT Palestinians, there are no Israeli laws which provide any kind of asylum to them. In fact, since 2003 Israeli law forbids the country’s citizens to live in Israel with Palestinian spouses from the West Bank, Gaza and several Arab states.
As he puts it, “It boils down to this: Israeli officials have boasted that 100,000 people attended the recent gay pride parade in Tel Aviv. But even if 100,000 of us Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip wanted to join that parade, we would have found the Israeli apartheid wall blocking our way.”
Free trips to Israel – how pinkwashing works in practice
A Canadian journalist has described how she took part in “a five-day press trip to Israel, sponsored and entirely funded by the Israeli tourism ministry to show off Tel Aviv Pride to 43 journalists from around the world.” Robin Perelle of the Canadian LGBT news site Daily Xtra described her visit to Israel in an article headlined Tel Aviv gay Pride: paradise or pinkwashing? Her piece presents both the Israeli and Palestinian viewpoints and, as so often in the mainstream and LGBT media, does little to explain the conflict. Still, it’s to her credit that Perelle doesn’t just accept the pro-Israeli story that’s presented to her – she points out that Tel Aviv is in many ways “a bubble that bears little resemblance to the rest of Israel” and that homophobia in Jerusalem is much more commonplace.
Back in Canada, she interviews a liberal Zionist lesbian feminist who details the Israeli system of fences, checkpoints and different legal systems for Palestinians. And she interviews Samira Saraya, an openly gay Palestinian woman living in Tel Aviv and the co-founder of the group Aswat, who tells her that you can be accepted in Tel Aviv as a lesbian – if you hide your Palestinian identity – and who also counters the myth of murderous and universal Palestinian homophobia, telling her “I go as a lesbian to Ramallah as well, and to Nazareth, and do not face homophobia or somebody cursing me because I’m a dyke.” The interview takes place by phone from Canada, so it’s clear that talking to Palestinians wasn’t included in the Israeli government’s expenses-paid trip. It’s all too clear that, in Samira’s words, the Israelis “use the parade to cover the other violations that Israel do everyday. This is pinkwashing.”
Pinkwashing protests on Berlin Pride
A group of Palestinian activists disrupted a speech by the Israeli ambassador to Germany at the Christopher Street Day parade in Berlin on Saturday 27 June. Campaigners joined the parade with a banner reading “2,300 dead in Gaza – you can’t pinkwash this”. One protester told a reporter from the Russian-owned RT network that “you can’t provide a platform for the Israeli ambassador to come here and preach about equality while committing ethnic cleansing and genocide in Palestine.” In the words of another Berlin against Pinkwashing activist, “The bombs falling on Gaza don’t differentiate between queers and non-queers.”
Opposing pinkwashing on London Pride
For the fourth year we’ve brought the anti-pinkwashing message to Pride in London. We carried our banner amidst those of our friends from the trade union movement, and handed out over 1,000 of our new postcards – one side with the heading “No Pride in Israeli Apartheid”, the other titled “No to Pinkwashing”. The postcard artwork is available to download, and you can keep in touch with all the latest news on our Facebook page.