Queer protesters reject NY Israel Parade's claims on "civil rights"
On Sunday June 5th, different groups of young American Jews opposed to the occupation both marched in and protested the 2017 NY Israel Parade. Read below and here for differing perspectives on being anti-occupation in Jewish mainstream spaces.
[pullquote align=right] Queer Jewish protesters are being accused of being “homophobic”
[/pullquote]The Celebrate Israel parade has long been a contentious display of Israel’s grip on NYC politicians, its militarization of the NYPD, and its driving role in perpetuating Islamophobia – and last weekend New Yorkers took our objections to the streets. More than one hundred Jewish, anti-racist, and queer activists blocked the parade three times with human chains, a stilt-walking circus mocked the NYPD band as it carried Israel’s flag, and sideline protests met marchers all along Fifth Avenue. Separately, a group of Muslim and Jewish protesters gathered near the start of the parade. It was beautiful trouble.
Now, queer Jewish protesters are being accused of being “homophobic” because they disrupted the LGBT contingent. If that accusation is confusing, it’s because of the pretzel logic required to cast being pro-Israel as being pro-rights.
The Israeli government’s “pinkwashing” PR plan markets Israel as a haven for wealthy gay tourists (the tourism invitation doesn’t extend to Arab, Muslim, or Persian queers, nor queers who oppose apartheid.) To do so, it promotes the liberal version of Islamophobia that says “queers need Western armies to fight Muslims!” weaving in many false presumptions about Palestinians, Muslims, and queers. Most egregiously, even as pinkwashing suggests that Palestine is immovably homophobic, it papers over the Israeli violence that buries Palestinian cultural debates under the crisis of trying to survive. In short, Israel claims to be an emblem of rights while actually trampling rights. That’s why queers protested the LGBT contingent in NYC’s Celebrate Israel parade. (I supported that protest from the sidelines. Earlier, I and other queer activists had blocked the parade with signs opposing the NYPD’s training by the Israeli military.)
[pullquote align=left] Queers are at the heart of Israel’s designs on civil rights.
[/pullquote]The claim that queers are homophobic for protesting Israel rests on more complex lies. In order to say it’s a champion of LGBT rights, Israel has to point to its policies of “tolerance.” But Israeli politics are dominated by a homophobic religious right. So what it calls LGBT protections – which already apply unequally to Jewish and Palestinian queers – are actually small interventions in Israel’s pervasive, often violent homophobia. (Queers in Israel this week corrected the record on Israel’s claims about LGBT rights, and refocused people concerned about “rights” on Israel’s unrelenting violence against Palestinians.) What’s more, the accusers claim that queer protesters made it harder for orthodox Jewish LGBT people to come out, since their communities are also Zionist. By that reasoning, queers shouldn’t challenge white supremacist Christians in case there are some queer white supremacist Christians for whom that has a complicating effect. Seriously: people don’t get a pass on supporting racism just because they’re queer. Asking for that pass is the definition of “pinkwashing.”
Israel’s American supporters are desperately clinging to the claim that they’re in it for civil rights. Queers are called “homophobic” when they oppose pinkwashing, Jews are called “self-hating” when they oppose Israeli apartheid. Even the Movement 4 Black Lives was called “confused” and “at odds with” civil rights history for calling out Israeli violence. Really, though: we’re all self-hating and confused? But only when we challenge one particular state with an outsized military that dominates and displaces people of color? And only certain Zionists know what “civil rights” truly mean? Hmm.
Queers are at the heart of Israel’s designs on civil rights. Especially during Pride season, pinkwashing surges – as does Islamophobia in support of LGBT rights. Queers are so useful for covering up war and Islamophobia that even right-wing Republicans are on board. That’s one reason queers made up so many of the 100 protesters at the Celebrate Israel parade.
[pullquote align=right] In my other ear, one parade goer shouted “You dyke bitch!”
[/pullquote]The message queers brought to the Israel parade amounts to this: you can’t claim civil rights anymore. You can’t have queers. You can’t have black liberation because Jewish activists worked for black civil rights 50 years ago. (Many of those activists are anti-Zionist now anyway!) And you can’t have a parade without hearing from us.
As I cheered the queer disrupters from the sideline, one Celebrate Israel parade-goer screamed at me: “Why would you protest Israel when it’s the only safe place for you?” In my other ear, one shouted “You dyke bitch!” That, just exactly that, is one big reason. The bigger reasons: Palestinian lives, Israeli apartheid, and the growing collaboration between Israel and the NYPD.