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Ah, Pinkwashing. Is there anything cheerier to wake up to in the morning?
Today, I woke up to to this article, an interview with Israel’s ambassador to the US Michael Oren. Oren, who starred in this blog about a week ago regarding the debacle of trying to forestall CBS News from airing a 60 Minutes piece on the plight of Christian Palestinians.
This time, Oren is preparing for his keynote address at the Equality Forum, an annual LGBTQ conference in Philadelphia. This year, its “featured nation”, inexplicably, is Israel — the nation identified by the UN as the only democracy that limits human rights, the nation carrying out a military occupation of a nation of people for 45 years, the nation doling out wave after wave of anti-democratic legislation aimed at limiting public roles of non-Jews, placing refugees in concentration camps, upholding segregation of women in public spaces, and the list seems endless…
That Israel presents itself as a paradise for LGBT folk is beyond ironic, but it also has a name: PINKWASHING. Pinkwashing is the idea that Israel has conceived of that if it flaunts its relatively good record on LGBT issues, it can divert attention from its anti-democratic, human-rights-violating, occupation-and-conquest-based policies and agendas. (More about pinkwashing here and here.)
And thus, featuring Israel at the Equality Forum, and having the Israeli ambassador as the keynote speaker, has quite rightly been branded the pinkwashing event of the year.
Back to the interview that started this post. It is filled with gems (read: lies, lies, and more lies), but my favorite is this part, which in a nutshell neatly wraps up everything that is wrong, and sick, about how Israel presents the issue:
What do you say to those that criticize Israel being featured at the Equality Forum?
Israel was fighting for gay rights before the 1967 war. Even when terrorists were blowing up our buses and cafes, there was equality for gays.
Where do I begin????
(Well, I will just do my best to deconstruct this for you. )
Israel was fighting for gay rights… Really? Fighting? Fighting whom, exactly? Israel is the STATE. If the state wants someone to have rights, it GRANTS them. Who are these nefarious powers FIGHTING with Israel to prevent gay rights?
…before the 1967 war. Again — REALLY?? Two parts here:
- Connecting the issue of gay rights and Israeli-Arab war is at the heart of the pinkwashing mentality: What is the relevance? Are the ARABS those evil geniuses preventing Israel from achieving true equality for gays? And,
- Gay rights were not a policy issue prior to 1967, given that, for example, sodomy laws were only taken off the law books in 1988, and even then (swear to the spirits!) it was apparently done only through clerical error (accidentally on purpose). When the legislature voted on the new version of the sex crimes law, they didn’t realize that the final bill did not include the sodomy clause. So actually: Israel, the STATE, never actually voted on the issue, never “fought” for inclusion of gay rights in the law.
Note that the vast majority of LGBT rights in Israel were not passed by law — but rather informed by the courts, in which case, the STATE was often the party objecting to those rights. And to the extent that rights have been legislated or incorporated into national policies — NONE of that has been done under the current government, the one Michael Oren represents. So even if there is credit to be handed out, it isn’t credit they get.
Even when terrorists were blowing up our buses and cafes, there was equality for gays. Again, this weird conflation of Arab violence and gay rights. And is this still before 1967? Is Oren claiming there was a state of ongoing terrorism on buses and cafes before the war in which he apparently fought for gay rights? Because there have been spates of terror attacks in Israel, but the worst of them — particularly those aimed at buses and cafes — were after the collapse of the Oslo peace plan, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
So is Oren claiming gays have always has rights in Israel? And yet, oddly, that Israel has had to fight for them? And that the fighting was apparently against Arabs — because otherwise, how does this last sentence even compute? “Even when terrorists were blowing up our buses and cafes (bizarre thought trick connection) there was equality for gays”.
(And the more observant among you already noticed (and are probably biting your tongues) that somehow all we are talking about here is “gay rights”. That is Oren’s level of awareness — in this LGBT heaven! — that “gays” are the only ones who need rights, and BY GOD they already have them! He is giving the keynote address at this LGBTQ convention, and he has no fucking clue what LGBTQ even means. Or rather, to him it is just a means to an end. And the Equality Forum is going along with this.)
Thinking about this made me imagine Oren’s vision of Israel’s war in 1967: Amid exploding buses and cafes, running through the smoke and debris are crack Israeli combat troops — carrying rainbow flags. They halt, and create a phalanx before the Arab enemy with whom they are fighting for their gay rights, and they firmly state: This shall not pass!
Which is how this meme was born 🙂
Among Oren’s other lies: Israel (or rather “his” ministry) is the only one in the world that grants spousal privileges to gay partners; that Israel provides shelter to Palestinians who are brutally persecuted in their own culture (that has NEVER happened. EVER. Yes, there is an ex-pat Palestinian community in Israel, but they must hide from the authorities because they will be DEPORTED if caught); that Israel is a LIBERAL DEMOCRACY (while his own party is passing laws that create racial, religious, and sex discrimination); Oren claims that proof of this is that groups like alQaws (the Palestinian organization for gender and sexual diversity) are “headquartered in Israel” rather than in the Palestinian territories… Totally ignoring that East Jerusalem is NOT LEGALLY PART OF ISRAEL, and is considered by those very groups to be PALESTINE… The extent of the hijacking of both Palestinian and Israeli queer issues by this most oppressive Israeli government ever is truly staggering.
Here is a statement by Palestinian Queers for BDS (PQBDS) and Pinkwatching Israel.
Here is an open letter by the first LGBTIQ delegation to Palestine.
The massive distribution of the racist attacks in south Tel Aviv on the Internet and social media means that finally, the mainstream media is forced to deal with the item. So here you are: Confirmation by the police to the Jerusalem Post that they simply do not consider a five-fold, organized, bombing attack on homes and kindergartens to be serious, and rather characterized as just another “little incident”.
Police admitted to The Jerusalem Post that they had not sent out an announcement to the press regarding the incident. When asked by the Post why they had not followed standard protocol of sending out a press announcement, the police said that while there was no conscious decision not to, that typically announcements were only made for “serious” incidents and not “every little incident.” The police did not explain why the throwing of several Molotov cocktails was not considered serious.
It is not likely that if a Jewish kindergarten was so much as threatened, that the police public response would be simply to acknowledge that a complaint was received. Nor would the ENTIRE Israeli media and political machine be completely ignoring that it even happened.
Welcome to apartheid Israel.
Friday, April 27 2012
Four houses and one kindergarten in south Tel Aviv, all serving the African asylum seeker community, were hit within the same hour by Molotov cocktails. Testimonies from asylum seekers and Israeli neighbors indicate a coordinated pogrom.
Forensic workers take pictures of unused Molotov cocktails (Oren Ziv / Activestills) (Oren Ziv / Activestills)
“Somebody is trying to get rid of these damn Sudanese,” said an Israeli resident of Shapira neighborhood in south Tel Aviv this morning. The term “Sudanese” is commonly used by Israelis to describe all African asylum seekers. The house adjacent to the house of this Israeli was hit at around 1:30 a.m. by three Molotov cocktails: two were thrown through the window, and one into the entry hall. No one was hurt, as residents and neighbors quickly awoke and extinguished the fire. Another fire bomb was thrown into a neighboring yard, where five asylum seekers sleep outdoors. Furniture was badly burned, but none of the residents were hurt. All of the cases are probably linked, as Mya has noted.
“Whoever did this is right, but he’s doing it the wrong way,” says the neighbor. “This fire almost burned my car, and also – there is a small girl in that house. He should have waited until nobody was home, and then blown the place up to send them a message”.
Asylum seeker looking at a couch burned in the south Tel Aviv attack (Oren Ziv / Activestills)
Shortly after the first two attacks, two more houses were hit in the center of the neighborhood. “My brother and I were sleeping, and we awoke from the sound of the fire – which started right next to my bed,” says Maskala Masgene, an Eritrean asylum seeker. “They opened the window and threw the bottle in through the bars. When I saw it I took the bottle and threw it right out to the street. I couldn’t go back to sleep since. I’m too scared. I understand they were not caught yet, whoever did this. I’ve experienced hate talk on the street before, but nothing like this.”
The apartment next door was the fourth place hit. Here the bottle exploded on the frame of the window. Another Eritrean woman and her four children were sleeping inside, right under the window.
Maskala Masegne speaking about the attack on her home (Oren Ziv / Activestills)
The fifth attack, at around 2:30 a.m., targeted a kindergarten that also serves as a home to the Nigerian couple who runs it. The burned playground equipment was still visible in the morning. “We didn’t wake up from of the fire, but actually from the knocks on the door by the firefighters,” says Balsin Baraka. “They told us to stay inside, and now the children are coming and have no games to play with outside. I have no idea who could have done this but it’s terrifying.”
All five locations were visited by police forces, who also located unused Molotov cocktails. The Tel Aviv police spokesperson has been contacted for a response but has yet to respond.
The burned kindergarten (Yotam Ronen / Activestills)
While refugees are uncertain about the identity of the attackers, Israeli residents of Shapira are all very certain that this was a racial attack. In addition to the neighbor interviewed above, several other neighborhood activists said that this is a culmination of a dangerous process that’s been going on for quite some time. “There is racist propaganda that comes down from the government, through members of the Municipal Council, and to the street – and this is the result,” accuses Nir Nader, a resident who is planning a solidarity vigil later on today. “People preaching violence should be in prison, and if the state doesn’t stop them – we shall.”
Asylum seeker at the site of fire bomb attack in south Tel Aviv (Activestills)
Haggai Matar is an Israeli journalist and political activist. After writing for the short-lived Palestine Times and for Ha’ir Tel Aviv he is currently working as the municipal correspondent of Zman Tel Aviv, the local supplement of Ma’ariv, and is a prominent writer at the independent Hebrew website MySay.
In 2002 Matar was part of the Shministim (Seniors’) Letter to then PM Ariel Sharon, and was imprisoned for two years for his refusal to enlist to the Israeli army. Since his release he has been active in various groups against the occupation, as well as in several class-based struggles within the Israeli society.
© 2012 +972 Magazine
Post-surgery fatigue, so we’ll just do this in general order without a lot of commentary:
The 60 Minutes Story
60 Minutes’ Bob Simon does a story on why Christian Palestinians are leaving the “Holy Land”, largely disputing any claims (made by Israel) that the Christians are a non-player, just caught up in the wider Jewish/Muslim conflict, and are fleeing because of MUSLIM fanaticism and persecution.
Israel's Attempts to Quash the Story
Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, placed a call to the CBS Chairman, before the piece is even aired, calling it a hatchet job. This is pretty much unheard of. Bob Simon broadcast an interview with Oren, in which Oren baldly admits that the mere existence of the story, without knowing what’s in it, is already enough of a provocation to excuse one country trying to interfere with another’s free press. Uh, yeah.
But that’s not the first Hasbara attempt — here’s an article on some of the efforts made by the Israeli PR machine.
Here is a letter Oren wrote to the Wall Street Journal in which he tries to scatter blame on everyone but Israel.
And here is an excerpt from 60 Minutes where he tries to divert attention to bad things happening elsewhere in the Middle East (why do Israeli officials think that if someone else is doing something bad, that makes them look good?)
972 Magazine Gets Extra Footage of the Simon-Oren Interview
Palestinian journalist Omar Rahman has more to say on this. While the subject of Israeli Hasbara efforts is important, somewhere the plight of Christian Palestinians got lost in the shuffle. Rahman wants to tell us that they are PALESTINIANS, and that they suffer the same fate as all Palestinians under the Israeli regime. (read more…)
(Did anyone actually fall for Oren’s “We love our Christians!” routine? You are hereby banned from this blog!).
This week, a Facebook friend 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, she is well-known to Israeli security forces because of her 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 intelligent, political woman she is.
Well, this 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!
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.
|Yesterday, it was mansplained to me that Israel cannot possibly be an apartheid state because it lets in all these refugees… And that refugees wouldn’t want to come here if it were. The problems with this argument are too many to list, but here are the highlights: Apartheid means segregation, and in its wider context applies to a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race. The question of whether Israel, as a political/legal/military/bureaucratic system discriminates (against Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, foreign workers, non-Jews, Ethiopian Israelis, Mizrahi Israelis…) is not in any way dependent on the entry of refugees to the country. That is what you might call a fallacy. But the attempted use of this sad fallacy brought to front and center, yet again, how misinformed people are — right here in Israel — about African refugees in Israel. Because Israel doesn’t LET THEM IN. At all. Ever. And they don’t come here because it is a paradise — they come here because we’re the closest place they CAN come to, to get away from war zones, mass murder, enslavement, and rape. So I wrote this note on Facebook in a probably vain attempt to inject some reality into the situation.|
There are somewhere between 35,000 and 50,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Africa in Israel today. Mostly from The Sudan and Eritrea.
None of these refugees are recognized by Israel as refugees. NONE. That’s ZERO.
Since 2003, fewer than 10% of these Africans have been granted some sort of temporary residency in Israel on humanitarian grounds. That’s a sum total of 2700-3000 Africans. Leaving the other 32,000 to 50,000 designated by Israeli authorities as INFILTRATORS.
Since 2007, the default treatment of asylum seekers is detention. When the prisons fill up, the refugees are released to city centers without further assistance — meaning, no home, no job, no legal status enabling them to find a job, no healthcare, no NOTHING. The slums of South Tel Aviv are the refuge of the lucky — many remain homeless. Or in prison.
|Levinsky Tent Encampment After Violent Raid by Police and City Inspectors|
Of course, none of this accounts for the unknown numbers who died or were detained on their way out of their countries of origin, or the Africans who have been subject to “hot return” by the IDF — a government policy that instructs the army to force refugees “back” to a neighboring country — in this case Egypt — where they are typically incarcerated, and denied any access to asylum-seeking procedures. There have also been incidents of Egyptian soldiers shooting at the Africans being “hot returned”. Hundreds of refugees that we know of have been imprisoned in Egypt or forcibly returned to the Sudan or Eritrea.
Meanwhile, those left in Tel Aviv or elsewhere in Israel also have no legal status or protection. In addition to being denied basic human rights to healthcare, education and the like, they are subject to police raids and random arrests, violence, and eviction. In recent weeks, the City of Tel Aviv destroyed the tent cities where many of the refugees were sheltering from the winter. One man, Jonathan Johannes Birkau, subsequently died from the cold.
Ever since the “refugee problem” began growing to more than sample proportions, Israel has been doing everything in her power to prevent additional refugees from crossing the border. The criminalization of refugees has been a de facto development, and now is becoming a de jure status as well:
Israel recently passed the “Infiltrator Law”, that provides that anyone crossing the border uninvited can be placed in detention — without any administrative hearing or trial — for up to three years. There is no age limit on this detention — it is being planned for adults and children alike. And no appeals system, or evidence required, because the law doesn’t care if the people detained are actually asylum seekers or work immigrants. The law also criminalizes anyone who provides assistance to refugees, providing for prison sentences for transgressors.
To this end, the govenment is building an internment camp in the Negev.
The new facility being built to “house” these men, women, and children will allocate about 5 square meters for each refugee, which is *significantly* less than even Israeli prisons allocate per prisoner. Government sources have said that this is intentional, to make it uncomfortable for the Africans to be in Israel.
None of this even begins to delve into the racial distinction made between the African “infiltrators” and say, people from Europe or the US who don’t otherwise have a “right” to be here, but are not placed in prison, and whose homes are not raided in the middle of the night, whose children are not arrested, imprisoned and deported as has been done regularly to non-western workers and refugees living in Israel, especially since 2010, when 400 young children born in Israel were ordered to be deported, with nearly 1000 more still facing deportation. (Children as young as 3-years-old are regularly put in prison cells, and deprived of food and medicine; authorities have also been caught in mulitple lies as to the legality of many of the parents involved, and children have been deported SEPARATELY from their parents. But Israel’s endemic racism is a wider issue than that of refugees, and too large to be dealt with in a note.)
At the time of this writing, about 2000 refugees from the Ivory Coast are in the process of being deported back to the IC, even though international humanitarian organizations are still recommending against refugees’ returning. The Israeli move is breaking up families, and depriving people of homes they have lived in since 1996.
Welcome to paradise.
Photo by: Shachaf Polakow
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?
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.
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.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
“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.
“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