Graphic by the OutWrite Graphics Team
Content warning: discussion of genocidal violence
Every June, corporations unabashedly participate in rainbow capitalism by putting out rainbow logos and pride product lines without taking any meaningful action to support LGBTQ+ causes. We have grown quick to call out such corporations for their performativity, so why don’t we call out other forms of rainbow-washed oppression — especially when it comes to justifying the mass murder of an entire populace?
Euro-American society ingrains the notion that Jewish people need an ethnostate in order to be safe; in reality, Israel is a state used to further Euro-American, colonial desires. The Israeli government grants Jewish Palestinians privileges that aren’t offered to Palestinians of other religions, mirroring the practices of the apartheid regime in South Africa. Israel and its accomplices exploit misleading justifications for conquering and overtaking Palestine: specifically, rainbow-washing (also known as pinkwashing).
Tel Aviv, a city in occupied Palestine, advertises itself as a gay vacation destination to present Israel as queer-affirming and vilify Palestine as outdated, homophobic, and undeserving of solidarity, respect, life, and land. Claiming that queer people are not real in Palestine is racist and untrue.
Ghadir Shafie, a queer Palestinian, was advised to move to Tel Aviv in order to live “out,” but once there, felt pressured to hide her Palestinian identity. She details her experiences as a queer Palestinian in Tel Aviv forced to choose one identity over another in her Kohl Journal article Pinkwashing: Israel’s International Strategy and Internal Agenda: “After leaving Tel Aviv, I started associating lesbianism with ‘Jewishness,’ or even ‘Zionism,’ in opposition to being Palestinian. It took me years to be able to reconcile my same-sex desires and my Palestinian-ness.”
Fortunately, there is support for those wanting to publicly embrace both identities. AlQaws, a grassroots Palestinian organization, works to uplift LGBTQ+ people across Gaza and the West Bank. They have spearheaded a healthcare initiative, a suicide prevention/affirmation call line, and educational programs and articles. Furthermore, a crowdsourced database called Queering the Map shows the beauty in queerness all around the world. By sharing their locations and experiences through short written stories, queer Palestinians affirm their existence and know they are not alone. Lately, there has been an outpouring of entries from queer Palestinians wishing they didn’t have to fight genocide — wishing to just be themselves and experience queer joy. “With regard to pinkwashing, Palestinian queer activism is invested in pinkwatching efforts to debunk Israel’s propaganda,” explained Shafie in her Kohl Journal article. She is also involved in Aswat, “a [Palestinian] feminist queer movement [working] for sexual and gender freedom.”
Israel presents itself as a queer-friendly state, but how is committing genocide ever queer-friendly? Israel allows queer and trans people to openly serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), ignoring its impact on LGBTQ+ Palestinians. It also can’t claim to be queer-friendly when same-sex marriage remains illegal and its governments leaders have proudly expressed anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments.
With Israel committing genocide in Gaza and leveling the West Bank, keeping people safe and alive is the top priority. Israeli officials are openly dehumanizing Palestinians through genocidal language and admitting to pushing genocide by bombing hospitals, using white phosphorous, and employing many other inhumane tactics. There are also Israelis using gay dating apps to spy on and exploit queer Palestinians for Israeli intelligence, as detailed in this account of a queer Palestinian’s experience.
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Israel’s crimes are being ignored in favor of Jewish and gay people’s imagined safety in Israel; Zionists will respond to any queer anti-Zionist people on social media by saying “Do you know what they’d do to you as a queer in Gaza?” in order to defend Israel committing genocide. Queer Palestinians are taught they can only exist as queer in Israel, and this is simply not true. That doesn’t mean queer people don’t exist and don’t need support in Palestine, but when human life is devalued to the extent it is now, fighting pending extinction is queer liberation.
Jewish people are told they need Israel to survive, but how is exiling people from their homes justified? How is killing queer and trans people — or any Palestinians — in order to achieve a Jewish ethnostate justified? Why is the separation of church and state only considered a good thing when it benefits people in Euro-America?
Although any person can be Jewish regardless of racial identity, Israel specifically serves white Jews. Zionists know they can rely on white queer people in Israel to uphold settler colonial, neoliberal values (including marriage, discrimination, and other normalized institutions) while seeming progressive by touting their support for LGBTQ+ people. Thus, Zionists resort to fallacy-filled, neoliberal perspectives on LGBTQ+ issues in order to defend Israel: pinkwashing proving no exception.
In Shafie’s experience, pinkwashing is “an internal political strategy to contain radical Palestinian dissent and keep Palestinians at a constant disadvantage” through the exploitation of “gay rights.” By vehemently supporting Israel and outright denying Palestinian liberation, Zionists show their support of queerness only extends to those fitting their narratives.
“Israel is desperately afraid of Palestinians organizing around the intersecting issues of occupation, apartheid, and sexual and gender-based oppression,” Shafie’s account resolved. Queer and trans people exist in every corner of the world, and if we are truly fighting for queer liberation, that means fighting for Palestinian liberation. The death toll continues to rise, and there is no pride in genocide.
Author: Ember Ireland (They/She)
Artist: OutWrite Graphics Team
Copy Editors: Gwendolyn Hill (She/Her), Emma Blakely (They/She/He)