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.
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”.
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.
On a warm and bright Sunday morning, three-year-old Saqer was cuddling with his mother when she was shot several times in the head and chest. Dishevelled, tremulous, and smirched with his mother’s blood, Saqer was spotted by a neighbour pleading for help, but was unable to give utterance to what had just befallen his household. Saqer’s mother, Mona Mahajneh, had just been murdered in cold blood in front of his own eyes; the only suspect so far is his maternal uncle, whose detention has been extended in order to allow the investigation of the murder to progress.
Mahajneh, a 30-year-old mother of three from Umm al-Fahm in the Northern Triangle, is the latest martyr of domestic violence against Palestinian women in the Palestinian territories occupied by Zionist militias in 1948 (hereinafter referred to as the Green Line, Israel’s internationally-recognised armistice border). She tried to start a new life after her divorce, despite being separated from her other two children. However, in a patriarchal society, where divorced women are often dehumanised and treated like scourges and onerous burdens, Mona paid with her life for seeking independence and the freedom to choose.
Ironically, Mona was murdered only two days after a protest against killings of women under the cloak of “family honour.” On Friday, 26 April, the Committee Against Women Killings, a coalition of 20 Palestinian feminist groups, toured Palestinian villages and cities in the Green Line in two separate motorized processions. Dubbed “The Procession of Life,” the protest called for an end to the phenomenon of “honour” crimes. Two motorcades, one that took off from the Naqab in the South, and another from Kafr Manda in the lower Galilee, eventually converged for a joint protest in Kafr Qare’ near Umm al-Fahm. The processions passed through Palestinian villages in the South and the North, sending a vociferous message against violence throughout Palestine. Names of women killed by their family members, as well as placards and signs that read “No honour in honour crimes,” and “She was killed for being a woman” were raised on the cars. The impressive turnout for the protest and the media attention it attracted, however, could not prevent Mona’s murder.
This is not the first time that a Palestinian woman had been murdered shortly after a protest against gender-based violence. On 10 March of this year, Alaa Shami, 21, was stabbed to death by her brother in the northern town of Ibilline, just two days after International Women’s Day. On 7 February, 2010, Bassel Sallam fatally shot his wife, Hala Faysal, and left her to bleed in her bedroom. Hours before the murder, his father Ali Sallam, deputy mayor of Nazareth, participated in a demonstration against violence on women and gave a speech denouncing it.
Six Palestinian women have been killed in the Green Line so far this year, two more than those killed in all of 2012. Statistics provided by the Nazareth-based organisation Women Against Violence show an even more distressing picture: Since Israel ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1991, 162 Palestinian women in the Green Line have been killed by their husbands or other family members. Since 1986, 35 Palestinian women have been murdered in the towns of al-Lydd and Ramleh alone. Numbers provided by “Women Against Violence” also show that an overwhelming majority of the women killed in the Green Line are Palestinians. In 2011, for instance, 14 women were killed in the Green Line, nine of whom were Palestinians. Of the 15 women killed in 2010, ten were Palestinians. A total of eleven women were killed in 2009 and nine of them were Palestinian women. In that same year, 13 Palestinian women were killed across Gaza and the West Bank. Accurate figures about women killings in Gaza and the West Bank are harder to obtain, and not all cases are documented or covered by the Palestinian media, but by no means is the situation less disturbing than that in the Green Line.
A recent high-profile initiative targeting violence against women and challenging the concept of “honour” killings was the music video “If I could Go Back in Time,” released in November 2012 by the Palestinian hip hop group DAM. The moving music video, co-directed by Jackie Salloum and funded by UN Women, has drawn over 200,000 views and received positive feedback in Palestine and beyond. A major drawback of the video, though, was that it de-politicised violence against women and traded depth and intersectionality for populist drama and reductionism. As Lila Abu Lughod and Maya Mikdashi wrote in their critique of the video, “it operates in a total political, legal, and historical vacuum.”
When it comes to violence against women in the Middle East in general, and in Palestine in particular, there are two dominant and completely opposing paradigms: The first blames the violence on a backward tradition and an inherently misogynistic society, choosing to focus solely on the category of “honour” crimes, as if they represent the only form of domestic violence women are subjected to. The other paradigm, meanwhile, holds Israeli colonialism and its institutionalised discrimination responsible, claiming that one cannot expect women to be free when Palestine is under occupation. Both paradigms are obviously too simplistic and unrepresentative. They avoid asking the tough questions and ignore both the multi-layered reality and the politics of daily life that Palestinian women on the ground face.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Arab bourgeois feminist movements, including the feminist movement in the West Bank, shot themselves in the foot and chose to ally with tyrannical Arab regimes in order to promote their social rights through legislation. By standing with the authorities and power structures, they operated as a fig leaf for so-called “secular” dictatorships. Moreover, by opting for an elitist and apolitical “feminist” struggle, bourgeois feminists ignored that real social change cannot be brought about in the absence of political freedom, nor can it be achieved by groveling before a repressive system. Feminism is not just about fighting for gender equality; it is about shaking the hegemonic dynamics of power and domination. Gender subordination is a fundamental factor in this matrix of power, but it intersects with political oppression and exploitation on the basis of class, religion, ethnicity, physical ability, and related aspects of personal identity.
Despite its many structural problems and shortcomings, the feminist movement inside the Green Line, to its credit, understood early on that the personal cannot be separated from the political, precisely because the state of Israel plays an active role in marginalising Palestinian women and strengthening local patriarchal elements such as clan leaders and religious courts that oppress women. Most Palestinian feminists also never had the illusion that advancing the rights of Palestinian women can come from the Knesset, the Zionist parliament.
It is naïve to believe that the police, a violent, militaristic, and intrinsically patriarchal organ of the state, could be genuinely committed to eradicating violence against women. It is even more naïve to think that Israeli police, a law-enforcement tool for the occupation, would be determined to abolish violence against indigenous Palestinian women unless it is under immense pressure to do so. The stories of Palestinian women who complained to the Israeli police about threats by their family members – only to be turned down by the police and later killed by their family members – are too many to recount. For instance, few months ago in Rahat, the largest Palestinian city in the Naqab, A young woman approached the social service office and reportedly informed the police that she feared for her life. Police officers reportedly told her to go back home, assuring her that she would be safe. Almost 24 hours later, she was found dead.
The latest incident occurred on 21 May, 2013: Two girls, aged three and five, were strangled to death in their home in Fura’a, an unrecognised Palestinian village in the Naqab. The girls’ mother had approached the police station in the nearby Jewish colony of Arad and said that her husband threatened to kill the girls, but her plea was ignored. These horrific events demonstrate marriage between the state – a patriarchal, masculinist entity – and the conservative patriarchal elements in the community.
The Israeli police treat domestic violence among the Palestinian minority as a “private affair” that should be left for the clan and its leaders to solve. It is much more comfortable for the police to link domestic violence against Palestinian women to “family honour” and thus absolve themselves of the responsibility to intervene under the pretext of respecting “cultural sensitivity.” Using this pretext to justify lack of enforcement of women rights stems from Israel’s racist presumption that the abuse and oppression of women are intrinsically tied to Palestinian culture and tradition. It also stems from Israel’s double standards in respecting and protecting multiculturalism.
On the one hand, Israel claims to respect the principle of multiculturalism to buttress and sustain the oppression of women. On the other hand, Israel shows little respect to multiculturalism when it comes to the recognition of minority rights: The ostensible status of Arabic as an official language is solely ink on paper; Palestinian culture, history, narrative, and political literature are intentionally snuffed out of school curricula; and collective memory is targeted through constant attempts of Israelification. In addition, the same Israeli police that evades its duty to protect women from domestic violence because it is a “family” affair is, in the end, has no such concern for “Palestinian family affairs” when its forces demolish homes and displace entire families on a regular basis in the Naqab.
Not only is protection desperately scarce in all of this, but so is accountability. The majority of cases involving violence against women are closed either for lack of evidence or lack of public interest. Although Israel, unlike many Arab states, does not have a provision in its criminal law that mitigates punishment for so-called “honor crimes,” women’s rights organisations repeatedly accuse the police of not investing enough effort in the attempts to find the killers and hold them accountable. Some of the worst cases of violence against women occur in Lydd, Ramleh and the Naqab. Those places also happen to boast some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates; they are also subjected to a targeted Israeli policy of extreme discrimination, denial of basic rights and services, and constant threats of eviction and home demolitions. Add to that the inaccessibility of the Israeli justice system for Palestinian and under-privileged women, and the social retribution that women face for approaching the police and complaining about their family members, and it should be no surprise, then, that Palestinian women do not trust the state to protect them.
It all begins with the huge difference between the way Palestinian media covers the killing of a man and the killing of a woman: the first is often referred to as a “tragedy” while the latter is referred to as an “ambiguous incident”. When Palestinian politicians, religious leaders, and public figures are asked to speak out against women killings, they begin by blaming the police and then reiterate that violence against women is part and parcel of mounting violence in the Palestinian society in general. Indeed, hardly a day passes by without hearing of shooting or stabbing incidents involving Palestinian men in different Palestinian towns. So pervasive has violence been that almost 10,000 demonstrators flocked to the streets of Haifa – one of the largest protests in Haifa’s history – on 7 May to say enough is enough. People who conflate gender-based violence with violence in general ignore the reality that women are murdered simply for being women; they are also killed in places that are supposed to be the most secure, and by people who are supposed to be the closest and most intimate to them. It is trendy to voice condemnations and call for respecting women’s rights immediately after a woman is killed… and then to completely and utterly forget about it two days later and wait until the next killing. Women killings, under whatever euphemism, are only one manifestation of patriarchy. The root problem is much more entrenched and less spoken about.
The seasonal and rhetorical condemnation of physical violence against women by those who promote or remain silent over less visible forms of patriarchy helps explain the failure of the society as a whole to take a firm position on crimes against women, let alone prevent them. The Northen Branch of the Islamic movement, for instance, condemns physical violence against women while it rejects participation in mixed-gender political protests and segregates women in their public events. How can Talab Arar, a Knesset member for the Unified Arab List, have a moral ground to denounce violence against women when he is polygamous?
Misogyny and patriarchy are, by no means, exclusive to religious and conservative Palestinians. Many left-wing activists and politicians do not hesitate to use sexist language, give tacit justifications for sexual harassment, or claim that fighting for women rights is not a priority as long as we are under occupation. How can we ever be free, as women and Palestinians, when a protest leader and a poster boy of Palestinian popular resistance is implicated in sexual harassment and everything is done to cover-up for him? As long as Palestinian women are expected to push their demands for gender liberation to the fringe, and as long as a large chuck of the population cannot concede that women are structurally oppressed, women will continue to be killed with social and legal impunity.
A first step towards challenging the hegemonic lexicon of the local and colonial patriarchs would be to quit using the term “honour crimes,” even with quotation marks. Its very use legitimises the concept and gives the false pretence that “honour” is the real motive for the crime, when it is really only a guise to strip women of their autonomy and dignity. The second step is to speak out, for silence is complicity. Sweeping the ugly truth under the rug will not hide it; it will only make its force more brutal and intensify the cycle of violence that has literally destroyed the lives of large numbers of women over time. The third, and most important step, is not to wait for the police to protect us. Women should take up arms to protect themselves and organise street militias to combat sexual harassment.
The different legal systems under which Israelis and Palestinians are tried apply to children as well. As +972 has consistently documented, Palestinian children arrested by the army are treated by the military court system as “potential terrorists.” The visual below demonstrates what would happen should two 12-year-old boys, one Israeli and one Palestinian, get arrested for fighting. One would swiftly be brought before a judge, given access to a lawyer, tried and spared jail time. The other could face two years in jail without trial. This illustration is the eighth in a series of infographics on Palestinian civilian life under occupation.
By Michal Vexler, with the cooperation of Caabu – The Council for Arab-British Understanding
The Israeli Ministry of Tourism presents a new and highly militaristic, sexist and simply obnoxious campaign for bringing more tourists into the Jewish-Democratic State of Israel, to experience the lush and beauty of Israeli apartheid.
One should wonder who are the tourists that would be persuaded to visit a state that’s so highly militarized, racist and sexist? A state that does not abide by its obligations under international law and who violates the most basic human rights for non-Jews? A state whose most liberal city, Tel-Aviv, boasts at having the highest percentage of military commanders in their municipality’s ad campaign, along with boasting the 92% draft rate of its high school graduates who serve in the army (aka ITF, IOF or IDF). A state whose vast majority is proud of holding ethnic-supremacist ideals, or at the very least think it is ok.
Please choose to stand by the basic rights of Palestinians and insist on their freedom, justice and equality in this land. For more information:http://www.bdsmovement.net/
The Freedom Theatre performs in Nabi Saleh. By Bryan MacCormack.
Mohammed returned to the central square of his village in a small caravan of cars with his friends. Their horns were blaring. This wasn’t a usual night in Nabi Saleh: Half of its 500 inhabitants were already out in the square, surrounding a makeshift stage of lights and speakers. His friends dragged him out of the car and through the crowd, toward the lights. The crowd chanted “Freedom!” and then found their way into a song that declares against the jailer, “I will love the dark.” There was a play already underway, and suddenly it was about him — and, by extension, the nearly three-year-old struggle of his entire village.
That night in late September, after two weeks in an Israeli jail, Mohammed came home during a stop of the Freedom Bus. This nine-day tour through the West Bank was the work of the Freedom Theatre, based a few hours north (on a day without checkpoints) at the refugee camp in Jenin. In Nabi Saleh, to an audience of villagers and foreign supporters traveling on the bus, actors from the Freedom Theatre were doing Playback Theatre — hearing stories from people in the audience and turning them into improvised skits.
Urged into taking a microphone, Mohammed described what had happened to him, and what has happened to so many others in Nabi Saleh. Israeli soldiers raided his home in the middle of the night, tore it apart and took him away for interrogation. He was forced to remain standing for hours at a time while blindfolded and hurled with insults. As the actors reenacted Mohammed’s story, his friends shot fireworks overhead.
Mohammed, who looked to be in his early 20s, earned his detention simply by doing what people in Nabi Saleh have been doing since late 2009: demonstrating after Friday prayers, every single week, against land grabs by the nearby Israeli settlement of Halamish.
His arrest is only one of more than a hundred that villagers have suffered since the protests began, including young children. Throughout, houses have been burned, windows have been broken, furniture has been smashed. “We want to make these demonstrations stop,” an Israeli intelligence officer told Mohammed.
Bassem Tamimi is at the forefront of organizing the campaign in Nabi Saleh, his home. He is in his mid-40s, and four years of his life have been spent in Israeli jails. Israelis killed his sister and have arrested each of his children. His face is narrow, with a peppery moustache and dark wrinkles. He looks a little like George Orwell. “We decide to resist because we believe that our destiny is not to accept the occupation,” he said. Nabi Saleh’s strategy comes as a response to the experience of the Second Intifada of more than a decade ago, he says, when Israel was able to justify brutal repression by branding Palestinian armed resistance as terrorism in the international media.
“We don’t want our society to turn to violent resistance in the future,” he explained, “not because our enemy does not deserve it, but because we don’t want to hurt our issue.” Their goal is to create a model of resistance that will spread to other Palestinian communities — and it already has. “We don’t want to go to an academic workshop and talk about violence and nonviolence and Gandhi. No — don’t talk about nonviolence, do it. We’re going to do it on the ground to convince everyone.”
After Friday afternoon prayers each week, the villagers begin a march to the land confiscated from them by the nearby Israeli settlement. Together they approach the inevitable line of soldiers, who inevitably deploy a combination of tear gas, flash grenades, noxious “Skunk” spray, rubber bullets and live ammunition. Some villagers react by throwing rocks while others run. Repeat, week after week.
“They will not give us a rose because we are resisting,” Bassem Tamimi said. “We do not expect that they will welcome us, and we are not welcoming them.” A relative of his, Mustafa Tamimi, was killed last year after being hit in the face by a tear gas canister. Mustafa owned the land with a spring on it that the village had depended on and that the settlement had taken.
A Freedom Theatre actor talks with a boy in Nabi Saleh. By Bryan MacCormick.
Resistance has thus become a way of life for everyone in Nabi Saleh. A point is made of including women and children alongside men. The effects of the fight are therefore visible among villagers of all ages, both men and women: missing fingers, scars and chemical burns. “We know that women are half of our society and half of our power,” Tamimi explained. As for the children, “We want to strengthen them, to make them strong to face the enemy in the future.” One little boy, I was told, had a special talent for throwing tear gas canisters back to from where they came.
During the Freedom Theatre’s show, one women told of being arrested by Israeli soldiers while her children tried to pull her away. Another watched the actors recreate the day that she had to push her daughter out a window after soldiers fired tear gas into her house. A grandmother said that she goes to sleep early since most nights she can expect to be woken up by an Israeli raid.
Balil Tamimi — Tamimi is a common family name in town — has taken on the job of documenting the protests. He looks about Bassem’s age and wears thick bifocal glasses. After the Freedom Theatre finished its performance, clips of video taken by him and others were projected on a wall, with scenes of tear gas canons on armored vehicles and soldiers shooting their rifles. It showed the fence that villagers have made out of spent tear gas canisters.
“From the beginning we realized that the media is one of the most important things,” Balil told me. “We use it in our demonstration to reach the world, to reach people, to tell them what has happened in our village.”
Video projected on a wall in Nabi Saleh. By Bryan MacCormick.
The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem gave him a camera soon after the campaign began, and he uploads his videos to the Internet. They’ve helped attract support from international media and the European Union. Now, in many of the demonstrations, supporters from Israel and abroad stand alongside the villagers. Their target is the mentality of occupation and control, of land grabs and night raids. When that is gone, the people of Nabi Saleh might be willing to welcome their new neighbors.
“If we change our thinking, we can live together,” said Bassem Tamimi. “But they want to control our lives. Life is freedom. If you lose your freedom, you lose everything.”
At the end of the Playback rendition of Mohammed’s story, as is customary in the genre, the actors held their arms toward him with their palms facing up. The visitors on the Freedom Bus were applauding along with the villagers. The actors asked him whether what they had done was right — if they’d captured his experience or if he had anything else to add.
“I have a beautiful feeling,” Mohammed said into the microphone, which echoed his voice against the buildings of the village. “Thank you very much.”
As the Freedom Bus pulled away from Nabi Saleh and on to the maze of roads Palestinian vehicles are allowed to travel on, it passed a corner of the Halamish settlement. Behind the fences and the gate, one could see a group of settlers serenely gathered in a circle under a single streetlight. They were not soldiers with guns, nor were they innocents. It was just a momentary glimpse, and it might have seemed sentimental if it did not come at such a cost.
The intifada, or uprising, of women in the Arab world is a campaign that truly excites me. I “made friends” with the group on Facebook via the Femina Invicta FB page a while ago, but truly became enamored of them when they kicked off their photo campaign, “I’m with the uprising of women in the Arab world because…”, which has gone viral, and includes statements from women and men from Arab countries, as well as from supporters around the world.
Femina Invicta was invited to add to the campaign, but ultimately my picture was not included, I guess because the sensitivity of my posting from occupied Palestine, a decision I completely understand and respect. My support remains unwavering.
A women’s rights group has launched a social media campaign to promote women’s rights across the Arab world.
The Uprising of Women in the Arab World group launched the campaign on 1 October, encouraging Facebook and Twitter users (female and male) to upload photographs of themselves holding a sign reading “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because…” followed by their reason to support the cause. Since the launch of the campaign, to mark the anniversary of the launch of the group, there have been over 200 replies with more being posted each day.
The group was started in October 2011 by four female activists, Yalda Younes, Diala Haidar from Lebanon, Farah Barqawi from Palestine and Sally Zohney from Egypt. They started the group to harness the social and political progress of the Arab spring. They believe that the calls that came from across the Arab world for freedom, justice and dignity cannot be fully achieved without the inclusion of women.
The group’s slogan is, “together for free, independent and fearless women in the Arab world.” Currently the main source of contact for the group is through their Facebook page and Twitter account. They receive posts from all over the Arab world, however support has also come from as far afield as Spain, Sweden, America, Brazil and Italy.
The group has many demands including, “absolute” freedom of thought, the right to autonomy, equality with men, the abolishment of all laws violating the Universal Declaration of Human rights and protection against domestic violence.
The campaign aims to “highlight the various kinds of discrimination against women in the Arab world” and to “re-open the debate in the social media on women’s conditions.” The group hopes to create a base for feminist activism and to highlight that despite the relative success of the Arab spring in many countries, the issues facing women are still present in society.
Responses have come from both women and men, all giving different reasons for why they support the campaign. Ragheed from Syria said, “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because my mother, my sister, my girlfriend, my daughter are independent human beings, they are not my followers.” Assil from Palestine said, “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because it’s not fair that I have to be trapped at home [for] three months to prove to people that the baby in my womb is my late husband’s.”
The group’s Facebook page raises a number of issues affecting both men and women in the Arab world, including the issue of homosexuality. Mohammad from Oman posted his picture with the sign, “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because all the religious, social, and sexual oppression I was subject to was directed towards the female inside of me.”
I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because it’s the woman’s right to stay single as long as she wants and not be labeled as defective. And because it is my right to choose the type of education and career I want irrespective of my future role as a wife or a mother
Sara from Yemen
I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because
it is allowed by law to rape me when I am a child
in the name of marriage.
Walaa from Syria
I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because my mother should have chosen whom to marry instead of whom I should marry
Abdulkareem from Saudi Arabia
I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because I am 16 years old and according to the law, I am the guardian of my widowed mother.
On Saturday, May 26, 2012, a group of us went out to create an event at the location where the Palestinian village Imwas once stood.
The background to the event was personal: Twenty years ago I met in the US a Palestinian man named Mohyeddin Abdulaziz. Few months ago I wrote him a letter apologizing for my shabby treatment of him back then, and thanking him for the part he played in my own political development.
He answered me, and told me about the destruction of the village and the expulsion of its residents in 1967. He asked that if ever I found myself in the recreational park built on the location where the village once stood, that I think of him, and of peace, and of justice.
I felt that it was entirely inadequate that I think of this issue only if I happen to find myself at that location. I felt this was an excellent opportunity to connect between the personal and the political, and decided to go to where Imwas stood and make an event of it.
I turned to Zochrot for cooperation, and they offered their guide, Umar, to take us on an excursion to Imwas, and also offered to spread the word about the event.
On the day of the event, we arrived with signs, such as “Imwas is Here” and “Ethnic Cleansing Courtesy of the JNF”. We read some texts we prepared in advance, and did a photo shoot of the signs and building remnants.
Afterwards, when Umar guided us through the village, we called Mohyeddin on the phone so he could be with us as we toured his village. When we managed it, we added video to the call. In his conversations with Mohyeddin, and with the help of a map of Imwas created by Zochrot together with refugees from the village, Umar was able to discern the exact location of Mohyeddin’s home. We took a picture to commemorate the spot, even though there is no sign that a house ever stood there.
The experience of being there, understanding that there used to be a community, with houses and schools and cafes – made all the more real by the presence of a son of Imwas, who could speak with us and hear us, even if only by phone – was both exciting and upsetting.
Watching people having barbecues there, seeing the few remains of houses, looking at the lists of donors (who undoubtedly were not told the park was built upon a destroyed village)… I, at least, am changed by that day, and it is clear to me that the event is not yet over. That event will continue, whether through additional projects that grow out of the acquaintance with Imwas and Mohyeddin, or if simply because the place and its story continue to live within us. Because as long as we remember it, we have not allowed Imwas to be totally erased.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?)
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!).