Drinking the gay-torade
I won’t deny it, I winced at the viciousness of the attacks in response to my Letter to Editor in the Seattle Times.
But I think it was worth it. The discussion that has been raging in Seattle, and beyond, as a group of queer allies successfully shut down the three scheduled pinkwashing events here (Seattle, Olympia, and Tacoma) will make it extremely unlikely, if not outright impossible, for LGBTQI organizations in the region to host a panel on “gay rights in the Middle East” without first wondering if it is pinkwashing.
I would even venture to say that, just as the Seattle LGBT Commission had never heard about pinkwashing until some two weeks ago, and are now aware of this official Israeli propaganda campaign, so thousands of US queers, queer allies, and others who are simply interested in peace and justice in Palestine, have also learned a great deal about how Israel goes about projecting itself as civilized, in order to distract from its violations of international law and the human rights of the Palestinians.
For example, they will think twice before regurgitating that Israel is civilized, and Palestinians barbaric, because Israel allows openly gay and lesbian citizens to serve in the Occupation Forces.
They will understand that what that means, on the ground, is that it could have been a gay soldier who profiled me and detained me at the border between Jordan and Palestine–a border Israel controls illegally. And it could well have been a lesbian soldier who strip searched me. And it could also have been a lesbian soldier who dumped the contents of my suitcase on the floor, at the illegal checkpoint between two Palestinian towns within the West Bank.
That soldier behind the wheel of a huge bulldozer specifically designed to demolish Palestinian homes? Quite possibly gay, with no need to hide it. The pilot who flew the jetfighters that rained white phosphorus on a starved, besieged, refugee population in Gaza? His partner will get full benefits, the rewards of imposing collective punishment on 1.5 million people, for voting for a party that does not toe the Israeli line. The young recruit, protecting illegal settlers in Hebron as they terrorize Palestinian schoolchildren on their way to school? You got it, out and proud. And there are some 700 checkpoints in the West Bank, every one of them illegal, and every one of them staffed by, at the very least, four Israeli soldiers. With such numbers, one can only assume there are hundreds of Israeli soldiers, both gay and lesbian, humiliating Palestinians on a daily basis, violating their fundamental human rights. Not one of these soldiers will wave a young Palestinian man through a checkpoint because he’s gender non-conforming. Not a single soldier will ask if you’re gay before demolishing your home.
Now if I am to also assume—as indeed I do—that the percentage of gays in Palestinian society is similar to what it is anywhere else in the world, about 10%, and if I am to assume that 10% of the Palestinians Israel has killed, over the decades of a brutal military occupation, following the initial ethnic cleansing, the Nakba, were queer, that’s quite a few queer Palestinians that Israel has killed. More than the number of gay Palestinians that Hamas has killed, I’m sure…
Yet the pinkwashing delegation would have us believe that there are two main conclusions one must reach, from the fact that one can be openly gay in the Israeli Occupation Forces. First is that the Israeli Army is the most moral and “tolerant” army in the world. If you don’t agree, you’re homophobic. Second is that Hamas kills queer Palestinians, Israel does not, and if you don’t agree, you’re anti-Semitic.
However, thanks to the success of our group in getting the three cancellations, and our persistence, in the aftermath of these cancellations, in denouncing the delegation’s visit as propaganda, not “dialogue,” thousands will now refuse to drink the gay-torade that Israel is pouring.
Speaking selfishly now, I would say that makes the attacks a little easier to handle.