An Open Letter to LGBTIQ Communities and Allies on the Israeli Occupation of Palestine

via @queersolidaritywithpalestine

We are a diverse group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and trans activists, academics, artists, and cultural workers from the United States who participated in a solidarity tour in the West Bank of Palestine and Israel from January 7-13, 2012.

What we witnessed was devastating and created a sense of urgency around doing our part to end this occupation and share our experience across a broad cross-section of the LGBTIQ community. We saw with our own eyes the walls—literally and metaphorically—separating villages, families and land. From this, we gained a profound appreciation for how deeply embedded and far reaching this occupation is through every aspect of Palestinian daily life.

So too, we gained new insights into how Israeli civil society is profoundly affected by the dehumanizing effects of Israeli state policy toward Palestinians in Israel and in the West Bank. We were moved by the immense struggle being waged by some Israelis in resistance to state policies that dehumanize and deny the human rights of Palestinians.

We ended our trip in solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli people struggling to end the occupation of Palestine, and working for Palestinian independence and self-sovereignty.

Among the things we saw were:

  • the 760 km (470 mi) separation wall (jidar) partitioning and imprisoning the Palestinian people;
  • how the wall’s placement works to confiscate large swaths of Palestinian land, splits villages and families in two, impedes Palestinians from working their agricultural land, and in many cases does not advance the ostensible security interests of Israel;
  • a segregated road system (one set of roads for cars with Israeli plates, and another much inferior one for cars with Palestinian plates) throughout the West Bank, constructed by the Israeli state and enforced by the Israeli army; these roads ease Israeli travel to and from illegal settlements in the West Bank and severely impede Palestinian travel between villages, to agricultural land, and throughout a territory which is and has been their homeland;
  • a system of permits (identification cards) that limits the travel of Palestinian people and functionally imprisons them, separating them from family, health care, jobs and other necessities;
  • militarized checkpoints with barbed wire and soldiers armed with automatic rifles and the humiliation and harassment the Palestinian people experience daily in order to travel from one place to another;
  • the reconfiguration of maps to render invisible Palestinian villages/homelands;
  • harmful living conditions created and enforced by Israeli law and policy such as limited access to water and electricity in many Palestinian homes;
  • violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, and the ongoing growth of illegal settlements facilitated by the Israeli military;
  • homelessness as a result of the razing of Palestinian homes by the Israeli state;
  • home invasions, tear gas attacks, “skunk water” attacks, and the arrest of Palestinian children by the Israeli military as part of ongoing harassment designed to force Palestinian villagers to give up their land;

While travel restrictions prevented us from directly witnessing the state of things in the Gaza Strip, we believe the blockade of the Gaza Strip has produced a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportion.

Our time together in Palestine has led us to understand that we have a responsibility to share with our US based LGBTIQ communities what we saw and heard so that we can do more together to end this occupation. In that spirit, we offer the following summary points in solidarity with the Palestinian people:

  1. The liberation of the Palestinian people from the project of Israeli occupation is the foremost goal of the Palestinian people and we fully support this aim. We also understand that liberation from this form of colonization and apartheid goes hand in hand with the liberation of queer Palestinians from the project of global heterosexism.
  2. We call out and reject the state of Israel’s practice of pinkwashing, that is, a well-funded, cynical publicity campaign marketing a purportedly gay-friendly Israel to an international audience so as to distract attention from the devastating human rights abuses it commits on a daily basis against the Palestinian people. Key to Israel’s pinkwashing campaign is the manipulative and false labeling of Israeli culture as gay-friendly and Palestinian culture as homophobic. It is our view that comparisons of this sort are both inaccurate – homophobia and transphobia are to be found throughout Palestinian and Israeli society – and that this is beside the point: Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine cannot be somehow justified or excused by its purportedly tolerant treatment of some sectors of its own population. We stand in solidarity with Palestinian queer organizations like Al Qaws and Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (PQBDS) whose work continues to impact queer Palestinians and all Palestinians. (http://www.alqaws.org, http://www.pqbds.com/)
  3. We urge LGBTIQ individuals and communities to resist replicating the practice of pinkwashing that insists on elevating the sexual freedom of Palestinian people over their economic, environmental, social, and psychological freedom. Like the Palestinian activists we met, we view heterosexism and sexism as colonial projects and, therefore, see both as interrelated and interconnected regimes that must end.
  4. We stand in solidarity with queer Palestinian activists who are working to end the occupation, and also with Israeli activists, both queer and others, who are resisting the occupation that is being maintained and extended in their name.
  5. We name the complicity of the United States in this human rights catastrophe and call on our government to end its participation in an unjust regime that places it and us on the wrong side of peace and justice.
  6. We support efforts on the part of Palestinians to achieve full self-determination, such as building an international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement which calls for the fulfillment of three fundamental demands: (http://www.bdsmovement.net/call)
    • The end of the Occupation and the dismantling of the Wall (jidar).
    • The right of return for displaced Palestinians.
    • The recognition and restoration of the equal rights of citizenship for Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent.

Signed, January 25, 2012:

Katherine Franke Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director, Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, Columbia University; Board Member Center for Constitutional Rights
Barbara Hammer Filmmaker, Faculty at European Graduate School
Tom Léger Editor, PrettyQueer.com
Darnell L. Moore writer and activist
Vani Natarajan Humanities and Area Studies Librarian, Barnard College
Pauline Park Chair, New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA)
Jasbir K. Puar Rutgers University, Board Member Audre Lorde Project
Roya Rastegar Independent artist and scholar
Dean Spade Assistant Professor, Seattle University School of Law and Collective Member, Sylvia Rivera Law Project
Kendall Thomas Nash Professor of Law, Columbia University
Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz intersections/intersecciones consulting
Juliet Widoff, MD Callen-Lorde Community Health Center

All organizational affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and in no way indicate a position taken by such organizations on the issues raised in this statement.

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via cuntrastamu!

Judith Butler: Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement

Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2011
To: Glennda@gaycenter.org
From: Judith Butler

Subject: censorship at the NY LGBT Center

Dear Glennda Testone,

I am writing to communicate my outrage and sorrow that our movement has come to this point where it refuses to house an organization that is fighting for social justice. I was appalled to see the very ignorant and hateful messages that supported your center’s decision to ban Siegebusters from holding an event on the topic of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. The colleagues at Jewish Voice for Peace and other progressive Jewish organizations with whom I have spoken are in strong disagreement with your action. It is simply wrong to assume that housing an event that discusses the BDS movement is anti-Semitic in content or implication. There are increasing numbers of Jewish intellectuals and cultural workers (including Adrienne Rich and myself) who support the BDS movement, including a vocal group from Israel that calls upon the rest of us to put international pressure on their country (including Anat Matar, Rachel Giora, Dalit Baum – one of the founding queer activists there, and Neve Gordon). There are also queer anarchist and human rights groups in Israel- including “Who Profits?” – who support BDS and who are struggling against illegal land confiscations in Jerusalem and the building of the wall or who, at least, would support an open forum to discuss the pros and cons of this strategy, non-violent, to compel the State of Israel. But there is, perhaps most importantly as well a network of Palestinian Queers for BDS that have an important and complex analysis of the situation, calling for BDS as a sustained non-violent practice to oppose the systematic disenfranchisement of Palestinians under the Occupation. It is surely part of our global responsibility to understand this position and to make alliances across regional divisions rather than stay within the parochial assumptions of our own neighborhoods.
The idea that BDS is somehow anti-Semitic misunderstands the point and is simply false. It is a movement that is in favor of putting pressure on states that fail to comply with international law and, in this case, that keep more than 1.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank under the military control of Israel, which also maintains political control over their survival, mobility, employment, health, and elections – and this has been amply demonstrated. This is a human rights and social justice issue about which we all have to learn. And it seems to me that just as the very notion of freedom must include sexual freedom, and the very notion of equality must include sexual and gender equality, so must we form alliances that show that our concern with social justice is one that will include opposition to all forms of state subjugation and disenfranchisement. We now have many organizations that affirm the interlinking networks of subjugation and alliance: queers against racism, queers for economic justice. We must oppose all forms of anti-Semitism to be sure (as a Jewish queer who lost part of maternal line in the Nazi genocide against the Jews, I can and will take no other stand). But we must extend our critique of racism to all minorities whose citizenship is unfulfilled, suspended, lost, or compromised, which would include the Palestinian people in the last several decades.
The Siegebuster event is one that would simply seek to inform the LGBTQ community of a set of political viewpoints. No one who goes to the event has to agree with the viewpoint put forward there, and neither does the center. By hosting this event, your center would simply be acknowledging that this is an important global issue in which LGBTQ people are invested and are now currently debating. The Center thus would agree that we all need to hear this viewpoint in order to make more informed decisions about the situation. I fear that to refuse to host the event is to submit to the tactics of intimidation and ignorance and to give up on the important public function of this center. I urge you to reconsider your view. These are important matters, they concern us all, and we look to you now to show that the LGBTQ movement remains committed to discussing social justice issues and will not be intimidated by those who seek to expand the powers of censorship precisely when so much of the rest of the world is trying to bring them down. There is still time for you to act with courage and wisdom.

Sincerely,

Judith Butler
University of California, Berkeley
Visiting Professor, New School for Social Research (Spring, 2011)

The regime’s dirty tricks will be its own destruction

No one saw it coming; when protesters took to the streets on January 25th no one expected that less than two weeks later the demonstrations would bring the 30-year autocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak almost to its knees.

And yet its brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters and the lengths it was willing to go to in order to decimate the will of the Egyptian people who had taken to the streets indicates that the continued presence of this regime is unsustainable.

Not that it was ever the most benign of regimes at the best of times, with a brutal human rights record and a curtailing of personal and civil liberties the norm. However, the scandalously dirty tricks put into play since Jan 25th would spell the end of any government in any country in the world. The fact that it hasn’t so far in Egypt is an indictment of the spineless attitude of the international community towards their strongman Mubarak.

It began with the attacks on protesters throughout Cairo on Jan 25th who finally converged on Tahrir Square, after which security forces blasted almost 500 tear gas canisters into the square to break up the protests. They must have thought that would be the end of it. It wasn’t.

As the protests continued, and the people refused to be cowed into submission, greater steps were taken to suppress what must have been at that point no more than an annoyance to the regime. It culminated by Friday Jan 28th into a complete shutdown of the Internet and mobile phone communications.

Consider for a second a government that is willing to do that to an entire population. An act of sabotage by a country’s own government, over the gathering of an amount of people not out of place at a Rock festival. All that was left was for the government to shut down landlines, television, water and electricity to put Egyptians into the Stone Age. One suspects the only reason they didn’t was so that more people didn’t take to the streets. Had they felt it would have worked, they’d have done so.

Here the resilience and kindness of the Egyptian people came to the fore, with people in the area opening their homes to protesters to use the landlines to call their families, supplying them with water, onions and vinegar to counter the effects of the tear gas.

This is a government that in recent years had prided itself on its modernity; its cheap rhetoric about the advancement of Egypt into the age of the Internet, foreign investment and prosperity a bombastic calling card for the puffed-out suited chests.

And that wasn’t the end of it. By Friday evening – after having failed to end the demonstrations with (American made) tear gas, water cannons and bullets – security forces disappeared en masse to leave the country in a chaotic void.

A video that surfaced later showed prisoners breaking out of a prison in Fayoum with security forces standing around and not intervening. Numerous reports of the looting that followed seemed to indicate that it was the work of government-affiliated baltagiya – or thugs. These thugs would also surface later in an even more outrageous maneuver.

The army took to the streets to restore order and a curfew was enforced. After the million-man march on Tuesday Feb 1 Mubarak gave a speech later that night in which he stated that he would not run again for President. Some Egyptians felt that now was the time to stop the protests, and for normal service to be resumed.

Less than 15 hours later government-sponsored armed thugs descended on Tahrir Square in another brutal attempt to crackdown on the protests. The army did next to nothing to stem the attacks, which led to an overnight battle where the protesters heroically and miraculously managed to keep control of Tahrir Square. By Thursday the death toll since Jan 25th was conservatively placed at 300 with another 5000 injured and thousands others detained. All violence was instigated by the regime, whether through the Interior Ministry’s security forces or the thugs that always rear their heads come election time.

Meanwhile, Egyptian State television continued to broadcast what can only be described as the news service from the Twilight Zone, a world where things that happening on the ground weren’t happening at all, or if they were, were the work of a surreptitious, foreign, sabotaging hand.

State television accused the Tahrir protesters of being foreign agents, seduced by foreign currency and KFC meals, oblivious to the fact that in the parliamentary elections last November an NDP candidate from Zamalek, Hisham Khalil, was buying votes with – you guessed it – KFC meals.

Accusing the protesters of being agents of Israel, America, Hamas and Hezbollah (figure out how that would make sense yourself) State TV also neglected to mention that Mubarak’s regime is a tremendously close ally of the US and that Israel was one of the few governments to staunchly support him, along with Silvio Berlusconi and Dick Cheney. A group of supporters to be proud of.

What arose from that State TV propaganda – masterminded by Information Minister Anas El-Fiqi – can only be described as a disgusting witch-hunt of journalists and foreigners in Egypt that led to the stabbing of Greek and Swedish photographers, and neighborhood watches suspecting even Egyptians of being foreigners and therefore in need of detainment. Not only was this a gross incitement of violence against innocent people on the part of El-Fiqi, the effects it will have on Egypt’s main source of income – tourism – remains to be seen but surely cannot augur well.

A girl who claimed that she was an activist who was trained by Israelis and Americans in Qatar to create chaos in Egypt aired on Mehwar TV in pixilated glory turned out to be a reporter for the newspaper “24 Hours” who had fabricated the story and has now been suspended.

State TV presenter Hala Fahmy resigned her post and headed to Tahrir Square, not before telling Al-Jazeera that El-Fiqi was personally involved with the thugs who attacked Tahrir Square on Wednesday Feb 2.

The treasonous behavior of the regime since Jan 25th makes it very difficult to stomach that it should remain in power for the next six months. It couldn’t be trusted prior to Jan 25th and its actions since have shown an utter callous disregard for the future of Egypt and its people; merely a stubborn resolve to cling to power at the expense of the country.

What also galls has been the reaction of Mubarak’s Western allies, whose pathetic role will not be forgotten in the annals of history nor by the Egyptian people. It is grossly insulting that a major reason for the reticence of Western governments to tell Mubarak to stand down for the benefit of Egypt is concern for Israel’s security. Again the Egyptian people come last. The support of citizens – and not governments – in the international community has been its one saving grace.

There is also a fear of an Islamist takeover in case Mubarak stands down. A cursory trip to Tahrir Square will show this to be an absurd notion. The protesters are a wide cross-section of Egyptians: young and old, religious and secular. And even if Egyptians do pick an Islamic government – which I personally believe will not happen – is that not democracy? One hopes that we hear the last of the lip service by American officials about democracy and human rights. When it comes down to it that is not what the US government will support in Egypt and the Middle East.

There is no great foreign-led conspiracy, it is the regime that has been behind the murder, terror and sabotage that has gripped Egypt since Jan 25th and it is that which makes their position untenable, irrespective of how successful they have been in pitting Egyptian against Egyptian as has been the case in some instances.

They are now paying lip service to reforms they forcibly withheld for three decades and are only seemingly giving in because of the efforts of the protesters and the ones who gave their lives for a better Egypt. They are not the ones who should be leading reforms, they should be held accountable for their actions since all this begun, not to mention before that.

The one source of optimism and hope is the people continuing to hold fast inside Tahrir Square, who have managed to overturn every negative perception of the Egyptian people as a passive, disheveled and unorganized populace. Standing side by side in solidarity, cleaning up the square it is in Tahrir where Egypt’s future should lie and it will be a gross miscalculation to think otherwise.

By Abdel-Rahman Hussein

source: The regime’s dirty tricks will be its own destruction | http://www.occupiedlondon.org/cairo/?p=328