Pink Action Against Homonationalism and Pinkwashing

I have a spotty relationship with the Tel Aviv Pride Parade. Where I started out, several years back, was excited support: My city sponsored a colorful, loud, LGBT parade! In spite of this country being largely religious, conservative, homophobic… Yay for liberal Tel Aviv! Yay for gay tourism! Yay for gay couples being able to walk down the street holding hands! Most people I know are still exactly there.

But as I became more politically aware, as I began to embrace and express my own queer identity… I realized that not everything was truly awash in pride-colored beauty. I learned how the Agudah (Tel Aviv Gay Center) is run by white gay bourgeois men, who push forward gay white male middle-class issues, such as surrogacy, and same-sex marriage. All the while budgets are either non-existent or under constant threat for issues such as homeless LGBT youth, transgender housing and health, and HIV/AIDS (which is on a terrifying rise in Israel). Bisexuality as a topic or issue is entirely erased. I became aware of the pinkwashing policies of the Israeli government, who use Israel’s relatively good record on LGBT issues (the middle class ones) to cover up heinous crimes against the Palestinians. And of course the government is not above spreading outrageous lies about the treatment of LGBT Palestinians, claiming Israel is a haven for them, whereas the truth is quite the opposite.

So two years ago, I participated in the alternative radical campaign and march – we started out with the main parade in solidarity with the blocs we identified with – the Transgender Bloc, the Asexual Bloc, etc. – and when the main parade turned right to go to the beach, we turned left and headed to an open mic event for anyone who felt their voice was being silenced.

Last year, no alternative campaign took shape, so I went on record as shunning all city-sponsored pride activities. I was happy with my decision, but was disappointed that no counter-action was in play.

So this year, I was thrilled that a group called Mashpritzot, an anarcho-queer activist group I am part of, decided to take action and do a protest and event. I am extremely proud to have been part of this event, proud that we had an impact on what turned out to be the largest TA Pride Parade ever (over 100,000 by some estimates, who were mostly straights by some other estimates). And I am both happy and proud to record that action here.

The Pink Protest 

In this action against the “gay” community’s priorities, group activists painted themselves pink in protest against pinkwashing – the cynical use of the Israeli “gay” community in order to paint Israel as a “liberal”, “progressive” country, and divert attention from the occupation and apartheid against the Palestinians.

Pink4

Initially marching along with the main parade, we carried signs highlighting issues not dealt with by the community, such as “While You Fight for Gay Marriage, LGBTQs Are Sleeping in the Street”, “While You Fight for the Right to Have Children, LGBTQ Youth are Facing Parental Violence”, “One Quarter of Bisexuals Suffer from Poor Health”, and more.

In the middle of the Pride Parade, we spread a huge rainbow flag, and cordoned off the area, blocking the parade. Participants then fell upon the flag, feigning death. The sign seen in the picture reads: “Here lie the victims of the community’s priorities”.

Here Lie the Victims of Israeli Homonationalism Priorities

Fliers were distributed as onlookers surrounded the display. Some were amused, some were annoyed. One man told me he hoped we really would die. Others were truly moved and excited, shook our hands and expressed support. Some people took the opportunity to learn more about transgender and bisexual issues. Some made transphobic remarks. But no one who passed by at the time of the action was able to ignore us.

Some of my friends and colleagues got asphalt burns, but according to them it was well worth it.

Afterwards, we went back to the park where the Gay Center is located (while the commercial parade went to dance on the beach) and had another open mic event, where every single person who wanted to, had their voice heard.

For more about pinkwashing:
BDS, LGBT, and Why You Should Care About Pinkwashing
Pinkwatching Israel: Pinkwashing Kit

PinkMe1

Tel Aviv Slutwalk 2013

This year I decided to organize the Tel Aviv Slutwalk. Last year, the event was sabotaged by the police (and the weather), while this year a non-feminist organization tried to co-opt the Slutwalk to promote their own political agenda… All very vexing, and so I decided that the event would be safer in my radical little hands.

One of the added values my cohorts and I are trying to bring about in this year’s march is to underline how rape culture affects absolutely everyone, but also how voices that are often silenced anyway, are doubly or triply silenced when it comes to sexual violence. So we’ve invited women from all walks of life, from different ethnicities, refugees, trans* folk, people who are discriminated against for being deaf or in a wheelchair or for any other disability, fat women, lesbian and bisexual women, young and old women… And so on – to share a text saying why she needs the slutwalk. We make a poster of it, and put it on the event page. The results have been nothing short of amazing. The images are in Hebrew, so here is just one sample (though you can see the entire album here if you’d like):

As a teen, I need the Slutwalk because the fact that my breasts have developed does not mean that anyone has the right to mention it all the time, or to touch my breasts. Because I’m tired of all the adults around me interfering with my sexual life, and thinking that is legitimate. As a teen, I have not yet entirely learned how to say no, or to run away or protect myself, and I find myself just freezing in shock and waiting for someone to come by and help me.

As a teen, this is my opportunity to learn to say no, before I get used to being harassed.

I usually do not do any type of fundraising on this blog… But today I decided to make an exception. This event is just that important to me. I set up a page for anyone who want to buy a tank top for the event, or just make a donation. So I thought I’d open up the opportunity here as well, on the off-chance that someone here wants to support this effort. 

The funds will go towards signage and such, and any leftovers will be sent to our sister slutwalks in other cities.

  Donate here, or check out the page with the shirt for sale. Not sure what I would do with international orders for an actual shirt, I guess it depends on the amount of the donation :) The shirt without shipping is about $8-10. So I guess I would send it to you for a donation of $20 and above. Just let me know!

Indian Women Teach Us All Feminism

In the wake of the horrific gang rape (*tw) that resulted in a young woman’s death last week in India, major protests have been going on, in the face of police violence, in spite of a justice system stacked against the women… In protest after protest women are standing up to the violence against them. I have no words to describe how I feel reading about this and seeing the images, I am in awe of them, and I don’t understand why we all aren’t out in the street right now. Really lacking the words, so here are some pictures.

See more amazing pictures of protests and vigils

Protests with Police 121222042816-02-india-protest-1222-horizontal-gallery 121223120022-01-india-protest-police-tear-gas-1223-horizontal-gallery 121228052457-01-india-1228-horizontal-gallery india_delhi_rape_protests_dec_2012_6 TOPSHOTS-INDIA-RAPE-PROTEST india_delhi_rape_protests_dec_2012_6 (2)

Activists Brand Themselves in Solidarity with Farm Animals

On October 2nd 2012, world farm animals day, three animal rights activists in Israel got branded with a hot steel brand, in the same way farm animals are branded in factory farms.

Trigger warning for animal cruelty on the first vid.

***

See also

http://www.facebook.com/269calf

How I Was Blocked From Facebook

This week, my friend Leehee Rothschild published a record of how she was detained by Israeli security, held, and questioned for hours. Her crime? Political activism on behalf of Palestinians and against Israel’s occupation of that nation. Not surprisingly, some of the responses she got were belittling ones, “boo hoo, you’re quite the martyr, having spent three whole hours in security!”, blatantly ignoring the fact that she was being intimidated, threatened, sexually harassed, her freedom curtailed… Also (as she alluded to in her article) she has had other more intrusive run-ins with Israeli security.

As a matter of fact, Leehee Rothschild is well-known to Israeli security forces because of her ardent and extensive activism, but as long as her politics are on the “wrong” side, she is to be belittled, and reduced to a whining little girl, rather than the powerful, intelligent, political woman she is. (Read more in her blog, Radically Blonde).

Well, Leehee’s story has moved me to do a little whining of my own.

I must admit that while I am also an outspoken, strong, intelligent, and political woman, I have never been arrested for it, or threatened, or tear gassed. I’ve had shouting matches with police, been shoved by them, threatened as part of a group… But so far, I’ve escaped their notice as a focal point. Until, that is, the dreaded FACEBOOK police.

~~*~~

This week, the Tel Aviv Pride Parade campaign kicked off. Lo and behold, it is entirely based on nationalistic ideas and imagery. Homonationalism is a problematic concept anywhere, but in Israel it takes on special significance, given the sharp divides between Jews and Arabs (whether citizens or not) and the treatment of other marginalized groups.

The reproduction of hegemonic power structures into the “LGBT” community is an ongoing issue. I am fond of calling the LGBT center the “gay-white-man center”, that’s how obvious and blatant the marginalization is. All the men in positions of power there are quick to deny it, and point at the one or two women in the room (somehow, never named, never quoted, never heading up any important projects…). But even the two token white lesbians, does NOT an “LGBT” community make. Nor does it encourage any idea of commitment to equality when Ethiopians, Palestinians, any non-Jews (unless they are cute European gay guys), trans folk of any ethnicity, and others are continually made to feel unwelcome.

So back to the Pride campaign. Based on and inspired by the ultra-nationalist idea of celebrating Israel’s independence, just using the rainbow flag… A white-Jewish-male-gay-guy-spokesman felt obliged to note that “this is not meant to promote nationalist sentiments, and community members from minority sectors are included and invited to participate in the parade.

Well, um. Yeah. Minority sectors = Arabs, right? How kind of you!! I mean, it doesn’t really matter how unfriendly you make it for Arabs, as long as you then add a disclaimer in the small print.

(To put this in context, Arab supreme court justice Salim Joubran was excoriated by Knesset (parliament) members and the public recently for not singing the national anthem (which calls for the *Jewish* national state), and as this is being written, the latest outrage around Arabs (and other minorities) being entirely excluded from Israel’s upcoming Independence Day ceremonies.)

So, back to me, and Facebook. I made a poster/caricature of the Gay Center similar to this one:

It’s not about the WHITE, it’s about the PRIDE, dummy!

Israeli Gay Pride Welcomes Minorities!

Having gotten carried away with my own annoyance at the Center, and my desire to point out the ridiculousness in their assertions of inclusion, I disregarded the fact that Facebook runs bots on your pictures, and can pick out certain symbols. They immediately flagged the klansman, and blocked me indefinitely, putting a dent in my political activism as well as my social life!

So now I know what it feels like to be singled out by the police for my activism for social justice. And just for kicks, here is another draft of the idea.

Israel Gay Pride -- Minorities Welcom

Highlighting Women

The more I get involved with feminist activism and the more I read and research for this blog, the more I discover how many women are out there every day in every aspect of public and private life, dedicating themselves to changing the order of things.

Isn’t this beautiful?

2010 performance highlighting women’s rights in Tajikistan. The show, Three Stories, emphasizes issues affecting rural Tajik women. The first scene focuses on women’s right to education. The second scene shows the consequences of being in an unregistered marriage, and the third illustrates how mothers can get child support payments from their children’s fathers.

One of the pitfalls of any activism that wants to change existing power structures is falling into the place of a victim: On one hand, the “system” does victimize the other, whoever is defined as lower in the hierarchy. Such as women, transgender people, people of color, atheists… The list, of course, goes on and on. On the other hand, developing a victim mentality is not necessarily the best way to get out of that morass, IMHO. (Not that everyone has the luxury of making that choice.)

So I believe in highlighting not only the injustices, rife as they are. I want to put a bright shining spotlight on the women who can and do stand up and insist their voice be heard. I really can’t do enough to give credit to these women. But I promise to continue featuring them as they come across my desktop and consciousness.

Haneen Zoabi

Haneen Zoabi is the first woman to be elected to the Israeli parliament (Knesset) on an Arab party’s list – the Balad (National Democratic Assembly) party.

Zoabi first came to public prominence because of her participation in the controversial 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla. In the ensuing raid on the flotilla, Zoabi mediated the evacuation of the wounded from the flotilla, and was subsequently among those arrested by the Israeli military. She was later censured by the Knesset for her participation, and stripped of parliamentary privileges. An investigation of Israeli nationals (including Zoabi) who participated in the flotilla took place, but ultimately was closed without charging anyone. Public opinion ran strongly against Zoabi (among Jewish Israelis, that is); she received death threats, and was jeered in the Knesset, and even faced a physical attack by fellow member of parliament Anastassia Michaeli.

See some great coverage of the entire saga in the Tikun Olam blog, including articles, pictures, and videos.

→ Here is an interview with Haneen Zoabi on challenging Zionism and demanding co-existence ←

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

“Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.”

“I cannot emphasize enough how wrongheaded this is. Withholding criticism and ignoring differences are racism in its purest form. Yet these cultural experts fail to notice that, through their anxious avoidance of criticizing non-Western countries, they trap the people who represent these cultures in a state of backwardness. The experts may have the best of intentions, but as we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, The Caged Virgin:
An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam

“I would like to be judged on the validity of my arguments, not as a victim.”
― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a controversial figure, to say the least.

Born into a traditional Muslim family, Hirsi Ali was raised in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya, and like most girls of her background, underwent genital mutilation. When in her early twenties she found herself being forced into marriage with a distant cousin she’d never met, Hirsi Ali escaped and sought political asylum in The Netherlands (under circumstances that were later a subject of controversy as well, though the issue has since been put to rest).

She has since become an author, politician, feminist and anti- female genital incision activist, and outspoken critic of Islam, having renounced her religion and become an atheist. She was a member of the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006. She founded the AHA Foundation, whose mission is to protect the rights of girls and women in the west from oppression justified by religion and culture.

The controversy surrounding Hirsi Ali centers primarily on her opposition to Islam. Some critics accuse her of playing into right-wing Christian hands with her anti-Islamic stances. Others accuse her of over-generalization on the topic.

In 2004, together with director Theo van Gogh, she made Submission, a film about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures. The film resulted in van Gogh’s assassination by an Islamic extremist, who pinned a death threat against Hirsi Ali to his victim’s chest. Because of the ongoing death threats against her (she is under fatwa for apostasy), Hirsi Ali subsequently announced that she would not make the planned sequel Submission II out of fear for her life. She now lives in the US in safe houses, under constant police protection.

Hedy Lamarr

.
**************************************************

“Any girl can be glamorous,” Hedy Lamarr once said. “All she has to do is stand still and look stupid.” Lamarr would know — the film star hid a brilliant, inventive mind beneath her photogenic exterior. In 1942, at the height of her Hollywood career, she patented a frequency-switching system for torpedo guidance that was decades ahead of its time.

**************************************************

If you are a fan of Hollywood’s glamour era, you probably know one of its major sex symbols, Hedy Lamarr. However, beyond being crowned by some the most beautiful woman in the world, and being famous for the first on-film simulated orgasm, Lamarr was a brilliant mind and a groundbreaking inventor.

Together with avant-garde composer George Antheil, Lamarr invented and patented a frequency-hopping radio signal intended to prevent jamming by the enemy of torpedo guidance systems (they called it the “Secret Communications System”). While the Navy didn’t immediately put the technology into use, they eventually dusted it off and found new applications for it. The kind that most of us now use.

Like wireless communications (ever heard of Bluetooth?). Yep, based on the invention of Hedy Lamarr.

…………..

“Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World,” by Pulitzer prize winning author Richard Rhodes

NPR: ‘Most Beautiful Woman’ By Day, Inventor By Night

Palestine-Israel Medley

Selected posts and articles from the Israel/Palestine frontier. Mostly about women, of course. 

Palestinian artist is removed from art competition

Larissa Sansour is an award-winning interdisciplinary artist, who uses Middle-East politics in her work. Sansour was shortlisted for the 2011 Lacoste Elysée Prize, an art competition hosted by the Swiss Musée de l’Elysée, with funding from the Lacoste clothing brand.

The theme of the competition this year was la joie de vivre, and participants were given free rein to interpret this any way they desired. Sansour’s project, Nation Estate, envisioned “a Palestinian state rising from the ashes of the peace process.” The project depicted a science fiction-style Palestinian state in the form of a single skyscraper housing the entire Palestinian population.

Sansour was then notified that Lacoste requested she be removed from the competition, as her work was too “pro-Palestinian”. Controversy ensued, with accusations of censorship against Lacoste and the Musée de l’Elysée. The museum eventually withdrew from hosting the competition. The museum and Lacoste stated that Sansour’s work did not fit the theme. The museum offered to do a separate exhibit of Sansour’s work.

♦ Larissa Sansour Speaks Out
 Detailed interview with Larissa Sansour
 Larissa Sansour’s Nation Estate

Palestine: Women First / Photographic Exhibition

Photographed by Mati Milstein and curated by Saher Saman, the exhibition will open May 25th at Marji Gallery & Contemporary Projects, in Santa Fe, New Mexico

“This is the story of a new generation of radical Palestinian activists who stand out from their society in the most distinct way: they are women. These activists are on the front lines of West Bank protest, they are beaten and face arrest and sexual harassment for their bold role. “ Read more…

Palestine: Women First II from Mati Milstein on Vimeo.

Milstein was inspired to do this project by the following analysis by Gila Danino-Yona, on photographic documentation of women in the Arab Spring:

Women of the Revolution, or Revolutionary Women?

How have women been depicted in these Arab Spring uprisings? Danino-Yonah identified several typical categories.

.
Category I – Weakened Femininity

Women crying, women frightened, women throwing up, women screaming….


.Category II – A Woman is Always a Woman

Women cleaning, women preening, women pretty in pink and chatting on the phone…

Category III – Thanks to Our Men

Women being grateful, women being worshipful, women swelling with maternal pride…

.
Category IV – Female Gaddafi supporters beyond the consensus

The “good” women are represented according to the feminine stereotypes above. But when a woman supports, say, Gaddafi, she is shown ugly, angry, scary, crazed, violent…

.

But – if you look for them – you will find revolutionary women, too.

Maybe not the typical image shown, but they were certainly there!

(You can see my personal take on some revolutionary women here)

Reflections of an Arab Jew

This article is by an American, but it relates directly to the Israeli-Arab conflict. One of the major casualties of this conflict is the identity of millions of Jews who are from Arab countries. In today’s political climate, “Arab” and “Jew” are deemed opposites. What does that do to someone who is both? Especially when the “Jew” in that equation is assumed to be European — related to via European literature, humor, art, food, music… That they have nothing to do with?

Ella Habiba Shohat is only the second person I have had the privilege to read on this greatly underrepresented topic, and I am so glad I found this short, but poignant article.

B’Tselem West Bank Video

B’Tselem is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

In January 2007, B’Tselem launched its camera distribution project, a video advocacy project, providing Palestinians living in high-conflict areas with video cameras, with the goal of bringing the reality of their lives under occupation to the attention of the Israeli and international public.

In 2011, volunteers in the camera project filmed over 500 hours of footage in the West Bank. The video was edited into two minutes meant to sum up the passing year

After the Fall

Back to Nabi Saleh, after the murder of Mustafa Tamimi:
Sexual intimidation by the military, and the double standard for Israelis and Palestinians — even Israelis on the “wrong” side.

This post was begun the week after Mustafa Tamimi was killed, when local Palestinians and supporting activists went out again for their weekly protest. Tension was fierce, I am told, as everyone wondered if there would be more violence (there was).

Meanwhile, other events took over, and another weekly protest or two have come and gone. Ho hum. Back to the normal business of occupation and resistance. Which of course takes place in many other places, not only Nabi Saleh.

I want to share with you the testimony of activist Sahar Vardi, of that first time back after Tamimi’s murder (December 16, 2011):

A few minutes before I was arrested in Nabi Saleh on Friday, we were walking near the soldiers. I kept pretty close to them while they approached the main road, mainly because I knew that the other soldiers would not shoot tear gas in the vicinity of the soldiers – a sort of reverse human shield strategy. Anyway, I was walking, and I don’t remember anymore whether I spoke with them or not. I think I did, I think I asked them why they were there, and if they feel they are protecting something, someone, or me? And then one of the soldiers turned to me and asked: “How big is the Arab cock you’re getting?” Many answers ran through my mind, most if not all of them at the same level as his question. And no, I don’t answer, it’s better not to answer. I will gain nothing from it, I will be speaking with myself only if I say anything. And still, it echoes in my head for hours. It doesn’t harm me. It doesn’t bother me at that level. Or maybe it does, it harms me not as “me” but as a woman – and a political woman. It harms me because, as I explained to the interrogator later at my interrogation, at the point where they ask “Do you have anything to add” – and I had what to add – I want to add that a soldier asked me, “How big is the Arab cock I’m getting.”And the investigator stopped short in astonishment. Not so much because of the fact that the soldier asked me that, but more because of the fact that I said it. And he asked me why I said it, as I knew he would, and I had my answer ready, and I answered him, but fuck it, what does that mean, why did I say it? Why did HE say it?!

So here’s the explanation to the interrogator for what bothers me so much, and why I have to say it, and why I should file a complaint for sexual harassment if I identify the soldier: Because that soldier, in a single sentence that was to him just an insult and nothing more, removed from me, as a woman, any idea of free choice, any possibility of being a political being, of having positions and thoughts and ideas of my own. I am a tool. I am a sexual tool in the hands, or thoughts, or bed of a man. That’s what I know how to do, and that’s how my thoughts, ideas, and ideologies are formed. I am a woman – I am a sexual object – and anything I do, including protesting, is the result of a man objectifying me. I am a woman, I am a sexual object of the soldier or the Arab, ours or the enemy’s, but either way, it doesn’t matter which side I sleep with, their cock is what determines my opinions and thoughts. Their size it what determines whether I protest here, or enlist there. So that’s what aggravates me so much, that with just one sentence, without even thinking about it, that soldier put me back in the position of an object with no desires other than its sexual desires. An object that must be the property or objective for conquest of an instrument, and of course, it is size that determines whose instrument it will be; an object whose every thought, idea, or action is ultimately determined by one thing – a cock.

And to today’s double standard — emphasized by the heroism of two women: 

Vardi was arrested along with other protesters. As usual – the Israeli protesters were let go within a day, while the Palestinians were held over.

This time, Vardi and another woman – Ayala Shah – refused to be released until the Palestinians were released. Let’s just say it took a while.

See a video from the protest here: Who’s Afraid of Women’s Song?

Tahrir and Beyond

By now, the image of the Egyptian “woman in the blue bra”, being stripped, dragged, and kicked by soldiers is probably seared onto your retinas. It is on mine. Few images of women protesting for their rights have ever sparked that degree of coverage. I’m not exactly sure if the prurient aspect of her bra being revealed is the reason, or her presumed humiliation for being undressed that way… After all, women are often humiliated, with no international consequences.

I also wonder why three weeks of protests against the military government, and then escalation to violence where many women and men were beaten, shocked, and humiliated, and at least 10 people were killed (10 at that point; the number is now at least 17) – didn’t evoke a particular response.

Either way, what was astounding and wonderful in my eyes, beyond the recognition of the brutality and the reason for it – this brave woman standing up for her freedom – is the tremendous wave of protests by women in Egypt in response. For almost a week now, thousands and thousands of women are taking to the streets, saying – we are drawing a red line, and you may no longer cross it! (View video)

           “It is your eyes that are cheap”

And in the spirit of the Tahrir, here are some other women’s protests from around the world this past week:

Late edit: I am happy to report that women were everywhere this week, so this is far from comprehensive. Let’s call it a very significant sample.

Belarus          December 19

The Ukrainian feminist group Femen organized a protest in Minsk against Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko. In addition to commemorating the brutal shut-down of the protest of his fraudulent re-election last year, Femen protests sex trafficking carried out via Belarus. Protesters were teargassed, beaten, and many were arrested. Three of the protesters have reported that they were taken by the KGB, blindfolded, stripped, doused with gasoline and threatened with immolation. The KGB agents then beat them, cut their hair, took their money, clothes, and passports, and left them in the woods, 120 miles from Minsk. In addition, at least a dozen reporters were detained, including Australian reporter Kitty Green, and several Belarusian reporters. Though no charges were filed, the reporters were fingerprinted and interrogated, and the photos on their cameras were erased. In that spirit — view a photo album of the protest.

Yemen             December 20

A women’s march in Yemen on Tuesday

Bahrain             December 15-17

Bahraini women occupy a roundabout on December 15 — simply sitting there, asserting their right to be. Nevertheless, authorities violently removed the women, and beat and arrested activists Zainab AlKhawaja (shown above) and Fathiya Abduali. On December 17, the third day of anti-government protests, protesters react to tear gas fired by riot police.

India          December 14

A sit-in demanding fair compensation for farmland seized by the government for private development.