Photocredit: Telaviv Pride
Author: Humaira Ali Date: 13th July 2020 Share:
Israel is seen as a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. The 2006 WorldPride was hosted in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv has previously been considered as the gay Mecca. Its modern society starkly contrasts against its backwards neighbouring nations. Israel is a safe space for everyone, except if you are Palestinian. As much as Israel paints itself as progressive, it does not take away from their discriminatory treatment against queer Palestinians, like weaponising their sexuality and coercing them into being informants.
Homonationalism (a constitutive relationship between the state, capitalism and sexuality) is essential to Israel’s pinkwashing as it advocates for unified support of the LGBTQ+ community for certain states or organisations. The countries that are welcomed by the community are rooted in and shaped by colonialism. Both Jordan and Israel allow same sex activity, yet the latter state is accepted by the community because it is seen as part of the West in a cultural sense – not a geographical one. So, Israel is classed as progressive as it fits and reinforces the narrative that the West is civilised and not like the barbaric “Other” (even though historically many of “the Other” countries expressed homosexuality freely before colonialism). This increases Israeli support, specifically from white queers, and shifts focus away from Israel’s occupation, apartheid and genocide against Palestinians.
Ghadir Shafie talked about her experience as a lesbian Palestinian in Israel in her Pink-washing: Israel’s International Strategy and Internal Agenda. She mentioned how in Tel Aviv her Palestinian identity was eroded by Israelis – constantly convincing her she ‘did not look and sound Arab’ or attempting to change her Arab sounding name, trying to create this idea that one cannot be both Palestinian and queer. This contrasts Israel’s portrayal of itself being open to homosexuality, when she was actually compelled by her Israeli friends to ‘choose between being “gay and being “Palestinian”’. Her queer liberation was weaponised and conditional due to Israel’s pink-washing.
Israeli pink-washing is practised on a systematic level too. In 2009, the Ministry of Education made diversity awareness training compulsory. However, Palestinian schools were excluded from this. Plus, they refuse to cooperate with LGBTQ+ Palestinian groups like Aswat. Occasionally, they allow Palestinians to be taught about diversity, however it is taught by non-Palestinians. Therefore, Israel creates a white saviour narrative where they “free” Palestinians into an Israeli understanding of queerness.
Another tactic that Israel utilises is through weaponising the sexuality of queer Palestinian people. There are reports that Israeli intelligence spied on Palestinian internet activity and phone calls. They gathered and exploited the information to target marginalised people like Palestinian homosexuals. The Israeli army then force them into becoming informants, or else risk being outed.
As Israel was built on Zionism, they desire a Jewish majority, especially due to having what Zionists claim, a demographic problem. Under Zionism, homosexuality hinders the solution. Also, as Israel has no civil marriages, only religious ones, same sex marriages are illegal in Israel. They recognise them if the marriage occurred abroad, but that does not negate the homophobia in outlawing same sex marriage. Regardless of how progressive Israel tries to present itself, the foundations it was built on will favour heterosexual relations.
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