عربي

Words by Musa Shadeedi
Images by Mothanna Hussein 
Translated by Hiba Moustafa

The settler colony of Israel1 launched its massacre of the civilian population of Gaza Strip over a month ago. Its brutal bombardment and ground invasion is allegedly a response to its inability to retaliate directly against the leaders of Al-Qassam Brigade following its October 7th operation,2 which resulted in the killing of 1,400 Israelis and capture of over 200. While its declared goal is to destroy Hamas and bring hostages home, Occupation Forces have killed at least 50 prisoners3 and at least 20,000 Gazan civilians (at the time of writing).

Mass demonstrations and direct actions have erupted across the world, with people taking to the streets to condemn the massacres in Gaza and the imperial and colonial forces that allowed this to emerge. As with earlier attacks, Israel has tried to hide behind “pinkwashing” strategies to draw attention away from the atrocities and undermine criticism. But the open participation of queers,4 including some from Gaza, has provoked Zionists and Israel.5

Previously effective Zionist pinkwashing rhetoric and strategies had to shift. As the wave of admonishment against queer people surged, one pinkwashing account after another appeared on Instagram. The slogans of the account, “Stand with LGBTQ” (meaning stand with Israel), piqued my interest, because it diverges from rhetoric used in previous wars. This article analyzes some of the slogans it uses, to look at what they are responding to and the flaws in their logic within the broader historical and political context of occupation.

Note: Since launching, “Stand with Israel” was merged with another account, @future4lgbtq, and moved most of its content to the new account. It left the last video discussed on the original account.

No Pride In Occupation/No Pride In Hamas:

Stand with LGBTQ posted its first photo, “No Pride in Hamas,” on October 22, twisting the “No Pride in Occupation” slogan that has been used by queer activists globally to refute Zionist pinkwashing strategies.

The BDS movement defines pinkwashing as “an Israeli government propaganda strategy that cynically exploits LGBTQIA+ rights to project a progressive image while concealing Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies oppressing Palestinians.” Because these are used to justify their crimes against the Palestinian people, anti-pinkwashing queer protests are an essential part of Palestinian resistance. BDS has collaborated with 100 queer and anti-pinkwashing groups to call for the boycott of Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv. Additionally, they called to boycott Tel Aviv Pride marches – which aim to attract the largest number of queer tourists to further whitewash the apartheid colony to make it appear as humane before the international community – and put Palestinian rights at the forefront of Pride events across the world.  

Solidarity between advocates for the Palestinian cause and Palestinians, on the one hand, and gay rights advocates and queer people, on the other, terrifies Israel. This was particularly apparent when anti-pinkwashing movements entered Israeli society, for example, when over 50 LGBTQI Israeli activists signed a 2017 statement condemning Israeli pink washing strategies and asserting the importance of the Palestinian right of return and the need to stop right-wing racists and homophobes. This became more visible in 2018, when hundreds of queer activists blocked Tel Aviv Pride March and protested “the Israeli government’s use of the LGBTQ community to cover up its discriminatory and racist policies and the maintenance of the occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza.” Activists raised banners that read, “No Pride in the Occupation” in Arabic and Hebrew.

While the “No Pride in Hamas” slogan aims to flip the “No Pride in Occupation” slogan, it is ultimately unsuccessful. Unlike Israel, Hamas doesn’t use Pride marches or a hollow acceptance of homosexuality in order to cover up its crimes. But, focusing on Hamas in this way is an attempt to distract from other fronts; today, it is so easy to stigmatize anyone associated with Hamas and terrorism, even queer people. 

Queers for Palestine/Queers for Israel:

Its second post, shared the same day, aimed to flip “Queers for Palestine” slogan – which has become widespread among pro-Palestine queer people – to “Palestine for Queers.” Below the slogan is an image of four young men executed, hanging inside a truck. This juxtaposition implies that because Palestine is a place where queer people are hanged, its inhabitants deserve to be exterminated. This is reminiscent of Netanyahu’s 2011 address to Congress: “In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.”

I recalled seeing this photo before in an article about the execution of queer people in Iran in 2017, published The Daily Beast. This distortion of facts and fabrication of images should no longer be surprising, as we saw recently with US President Joe Biden’s discussion of the “40 beheaded babies” and with Israel’s fabrication of evidence related to the bombing of the Baptist Hospital in Gaza, which killed 500 civilians.

This slogan was also commandeered by an account named “Queers for Israel,” which posts content that mocks queer people who support Palestine and promotes traditional pinkwashing rhetoric which centers the criminality of homosexuality in Gaza. The account conveniently overlooks the fact that this law, which was a product of British colonialism,6 was abolished in Jordan and the West Bank in 1951, while the Zionist colony continued to apply it as late as 1988. The spread of the “Queers for Palestine” slogan at pro-Palestinian marches provokes Zionists, as they see their pinkwashing campaign – in which they invested $90m in 2010, alone – fall apart. This is apparent in an October 8th tweet by a pro-Israel Indian influencer stating, “LGBTQ supporting Palestine/Hamas is like chickens supporting KFC,” with a photo of queer activists holding a “Queer for Palestine” banner. And, it is apparent in the way that transphobic and racist accounts like “Pink Tank” attack non-Palestinian LGBTQIA+ advocates for voicing their stances, including Indya Moore when they condemned the massacre; Matt Bernstein when he called for a ceasefire; and Lady Buddy for when she called to end the invasion.

Zionist accounts comparing queers opposing the genocide to animals like chickens, cows, sheep, and snails, like the Nazis compared Jews to rats.

The “threat” of queer activism for Palestine continues to grow rapidly. In June 2023, just months before the “war,” hundreds of queer people that raised Palestinian flags while demonstrating in a Pride march in Jerusalem were attacked by police. Three activist were arrested at a march in Haifa, when undercover police violently attacked the crowd after seeing a trans teenager carrying a flag. The Israeli government and Zionists sees the global anti-Zionist, anti-pinkwashing, and pro-Palestinian queer political movement at their doorstep. 

“Hamas is ISIS”

The Stand with LGBTQ video, “Escaping Hamas: Fares’s Story,” told the story of a young Palestinian man from Ramallah, whose father threatened to kill him after he was outed on Facebook. “Hamas is ISIS” – a slogan now used extensively in Israeli propaganda – appeared at the end of the video. The clip was taken from The Invisible Men (2012), a documentary produced by the Israeli government about the hardships faced by queer Palestinians in the West Bank, where Hamas is not in power.

Zionist accounts sharing caricatures of ISIS executing queer people to discourage queers from opposing the genocide.

Not only did Hamas have nothing to do with the threats Fares faced, but it was likely caused by Israeli intervention. Two years after the documentary’s production, Israeli and Western newspapers published testimonies from IOF7 soldiers in Unit 8200, who spoke of surveilling Palestinian phone use for things that were socially taboo, including sex outside of marriage, alcohol consumption, or homosexuality. This information is used to blackmail them, forcing them to either collaborate or be exposed. This strategy causes many problems within Palestinian society, most recently when a Palestinian collaborator was executed by the resistance in Nablus after being blackmailed by Israeli intelligence. They had forced him to collaborate after they filmed him having sex with another man. Israeli propaganda has historically used accusations of homophobia against the PLO to justify its war against them, the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank, and the persistent suppression of uprisings. During the Second Intifada, the pro-Israel US media machine published two very similar articles. In his 2002 article, “Refugee Status,” Yossi Klein Halevi depicted Israel as the haven for queer Arabs after describing the PA’s torture of queer people. Davi Bernstein recycled the same phrases and stories in his article, “Gay Palestinians Suffer Under Arafat,” published only one month later. At the same time, Israeli TV mocked Arafat kisses, hinting that he was homosexual. Once Israel gained control over the PA, these accusations minimized and were redirected to Hamas.

The title of Stand with LGBTQ’s post, “Know Who You Are Supporting,” suggests that its target is  pro-Palestine queer people. However, the critiques they are waging in the post are also critiques that exist within Israeli society.  Their general claim that queer people were beaten and robbed while the “Palestinian police” stood idle is reminiscent of the 2009 terrorist shooting that took place in the “queer center” of Tel Aviv, when two were killed and ten others were injured. Ten years later, parents are still waiting for answers.8

The post also claims that queer people in Gaza are forced to marry and hide their sexual orientation because of their communities’ rejection, implying that Israeli society is a safer and more inclusive.  But, similar crimes are also committed against queer people in the colony of Israel. According to Israeli LGBTQ organizations, homophobic attacks in the Israeli colony has increased by 54% in 2018 and by 36% in 2019. In 2020, 315 persons were kicked out of their homes because of their sexual orientations and genders, and in 2021, a gang of 15 homophobic settlers brutally attacked a queer man until he lost consciousness.

In its video, the account asks, “Gays, are you tired of Berlin? Are you tired from the circuit of Barcelona? It’s time to discover a new destination… let’s turn Gaza into Gay’za!” The sarcastic invitation of queer people to Hamas-controlled Gaza – which is followed by “you won’t be able to leave” and information about “Palestinian homophobia” –  is meant to rebuke queers who support the cause. It ends, “Hamas is ISIS.” This attempt to win queer people over to condone the genocide shows Israel’s (and its supporters’) fear of the growing sympathy and solidarity of queers globally with the Palestinian cause, and the believed role such accounts play in the war. 

Conclusion

The goal of this article is not to argue where is “safer” for queer people. Rather, it is to show that the propaganda pushed by pro-Israel accounts, which critique Palestinian attitudes toward homosexuality, are hypocritical. In fact, the current Israeli government is one of the most homophobic governments in its history, to the point that Netanyahu is accused of being Pro-LGBT in the West and homophobic at “home.” This sentiment is shared throughout his cabinet. Head of government, Avi Maoz, has petitioned to ban Jerusalem Pride; Minister of Finance, Bezalel Smotrich, who proclaimed himself a “fascist homophobe” and argued to stone queers; and Minister of national Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has famously organized anti-Pride “beast parades” in 2006, comparing queers to animals, echoing the Defense Minister’s claim that Palestinians are “human animals.” And, Israeli government and IOF obviously don’t care about Palestinian queers. They directly threaten, target, and exploit their homosexuality to create further divisions in Palestinian society. There is no safe place for anyone under occupation. 

If two parties are homophobic, then it is illogical to condemn one party and overlook the other along the standard of “gay rights,” if this is a morally correct standard. It would be more productive to look at the root causes that shape these events and the power imbalances that govern the conflict. While queer people in Gaza face oppression (like the rest of its people), it does not mean that their lives are less important or that they deserve to die. War is homophobic, no matter the context, and has failed to create an LGBTQ+ friendly world throughout history.  

Zionist propaganda aims to reduce “the resistance” to only Hamas, as if Hamas controls all of Palestine and is the only Palestinian entity opposed to the occupation, and create a simple binary between Hamas and Israel. This dualism is beyond biased or anti-queer, because through this pinkwashing discourse, they are demanding the support of genocide and the targeting of all residents of Gaza to allegedly turn Gaza into “Gay’za,” a city for the gays.   

Queers must continue to pressure to stop the genocide, and every queer person in the world should know that the Israeli regime is committing a massacre in the name of gay rights. It is imperative for everyone to take to the streets; exert pressure; express their rejection; communicate with anti-pinkwashing and anti-war LGBTQ+ organizations and pressure those who haven’t declared their rejection of war yet; support queer people who get fired from their jobs or face violence because of their stance and try to document all that; organize discussions, lectures, events, produce content about the cause and raise awareness; refuse funding from pro-Zionist groups and return funds to the funders who do not acknowledge the horrors committed by the colony of Israel in our lands. 

If you don’t fight this, they will have blood on your hands.

  1. Using “colony” rather than “state” is a more accurate way to describe Israel. A state has clear and fixed borders, whereas Israel continues expanding its settlements into territories (namely the West Bank). Additionally, early Zionist called themselves colonizers and the territory a colony.
  2. Haaratz has since confirmed that IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) killed its Israeli partygoers at the October 7th music festival.
  3. Israel refused to receive two older female hostages that Hamas had tried to return for days. When they were safe at their homes, one gave a press conference and asserted that Hamas treated her well, offering her protection, food, and medical care. She also said that Hamas has burned “[their] fields, and the IDF did not address this seriously.” In another video, three female hostages accusing Netanyahu of failure to save them and trying to get rid of them.
  4. Below are some of the videos posted by queer activists against genocide in Gaza and which have had wide resonance on social media: Example 1; Ex. 2; Ex. 3.
  5. To a lesser extent, homophobic hardliner Islamists.
  6. This British colonial law was based on Saint Paul’s condemnation of changing “the natural use into that which is against nature” (KJV, Romans 1:26).
  7. Israeli Occupation Forces.
  8. These actions are repeated in Israel, such as the incident of a settler stabbing six marchers in a Pride march in Jerusalem and killing a sixteen-year old girl, in 2015.
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