Producer, writer & host: Saleem Salameh
Researcher: Rabeea Eid
Editor: Musa Shadeedi
Translator: Christina Kaghadou
Transcripts: Hosãm Omrãn
Voice-over: Rama Sabanekh
Illustrator: Mohammed Al Mohanna
Design assembled by: Alaa Sadi
Editor in Chief: Khalid Abdel-Hadi
Publishing and distribution: My Kali Magazine
Rabeea’s study publisher: Mada Al-Carmel – Arab Center for Applied Social Research
The Pride Month and the Pride Parade in Tel Aviv are connected to colonialism in Palestine. The link might not be as tangible and direct as that of the military occupation that we witness on a daily basis, however, it has a huge effect on several levels. First of all, it helps Israel polish its image abroad as there is a divide in how Israel is perceived internationally. This being said, Israel uses the Pride Parade to change its stereotypical image as an occupation and a war country, and it does that for many reasons, such as normalising its colonial project and making a profit from tourism, to name a few. Tourism serves the Israeli state and society and helps it to become a ‘normal state’ despite the fact that it has been occupying the Palestinian people for more than 70 years now.
My name is Saleem Salameh, I am a writer and a film/ audio documentary maker. With my guest, Rabeea Eid, a Palestinian journalist and researcher, we will be talking in this podcast about boycotting colonialism, by understanding the link between Israeli pinkwashing and tourism…
On the 7th of October 2023, we witnessed the start of a genocide committed by the Israeli occupation against the Palestinians of Gaza; it has been killing civilians, including children, women, men, journalists, doctors, teachers, artisans, and cooks; it has been targeting hospitals, schools, refugee camps; it has cut access to water and has been starving people; all of which is a blatant violation of international law.
These crimes are still being committed despite the protests of millions of people around the globe because of the support expressed by most of our governments, regimes, as well as official and non-official media outlets, to Israel and its crimes.
It is understandable that such a reality can generate a deep feeling of helplessness because we do not see our demands and protests resulting in anything tangible, while the killing and displacement of Palestinians are ongoing.
However, we can make a difference; sustainable change is possible and real, but for it to happen we need to act collectively. One of the things we can do to support Palestinians is to boycott. In this podcast, we are going to talk about this concept in depth, because we cannot boycott without knowledge; once we know, it becomes our moral duty to act upon that knowledge.
To talk about efficient boycotts we are going to focus on tourism and the Israeli Pride Week, to be more specific; an event that has been used by Israel for years for purposes that we are going to clarify in this podcast.
We are going to talk about how Israel uses the LGBTQI+ card to hide its crimes and export to the world an image of a progressive and democratic state that is open, loving, and tolerant; a state that accepts the other.
Talking about this image is important because it is a tool of propaganda used by Israel to attract a large number of people from all over the world who participate, knowingly or not, in pinkwashing its image and strengthening its economy, hence supporting the colonisation of Palestinian lands, and the occupation, imprisonment, and killing of Palestinian people who have been stripped of their most basic rights.
Let’s go back in time, but not too far… You have probably seen the recent images of two Israeli soldiers holding two flags; one held the Israeli flag combined with the Western Rainbow flag while the other held the Western Rainbow flag that read in both Arabic and Hebrew ‘In the name of love’. This image was shared on StateofIsrael’s Instagram on November 13th 2023 with the following caption: ‘The first ever pride flag raised in Gaza’.
These images are a continuation of Israeli pinkwashing campaigns and the beginning of normalising the occupation of land (Gaza in this case) with the excuse of liberating it from homophobia to later expand settlements, attract tourists, strengthen the economy, and fulfil other aspirations of the occupation.
This idea is not a fruit of imagination; it has been the reality of Palestinian people for more than 75 years now.
I invite you today to examine together how we, ordinary people, might be supporting the Israeli occupation and disseminating their propaganda – deliberately or not; let’s talk about ways to boycott such practices, listen to Palestinian voices, and learn more about their demands.
I am Rabeea Eid.
I am a Palestinian writer, journalist, and researcher; I live between the UK and Palestine, in territories occupied since 1948.
In my work, I focus on political activism and Palestinian and global causes.Recently, I directed Last May In Palestine, a short documentary about the Karamah Uprising that took place in 2021 in Palestine.
Months ago, I saw a post by Rabeea Eid, in which he shared the English version of his case study entitled Tourism as a Colonial Practice: Pinkwashing and the Israeli Pride Parade.
In it, he analyses ways in which the Occupation seeps into the smallest details of our daily lives and how Israel exploits the Pride Parade to promote itself as an open and democratic country that is a heaven for homosexuals from the region and the world; which sounds just like the propaganda currently used by Israel as a tool of war on Gaza and its people.
This paper was part of my Master’s degree studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies.
I thought a lot about the topic I wanted to write about.
I wanted it to be interesting for me and relevant to the social and global context we live in.
I ended up getting inspired by one of the courses I was taking, Feminism and Postcolonial Studies, in which we read texts about colonialism and tourism. I started thinking about connecting this topic to the colonialist context in Palestine.
In his paper, Rabeea aims to deconstruct the link between colonialism and tourism, so he describes the frameworks, structures, and power relations that shape colonialism from a political, historical, economic, and cultural perspective.
Rabeea also describes how tourism was used as a colonial practice in contexts of other previous colonies. He focuses on the Israeli Pride Parade held in Tel Aviv and shows the connection between this event and tourism as an Israeli colonial practice that is embedded in its pinkwashing politics.
To show this link in his study, Rabeea analyses texts, pictures, videos, articles, and Israeli PR campaigns in the theoretical framework of gender and postcolonial studies.
I divided the study into multi-layered chapters.
In the introduction, I explain the general topic of my research.
Then I explain the theoretical framework; I talk about tourism and colonialism, then about LGBTQI+ tourism in postcolonial countries by mentioning examples of several countries around the world.
These examples show how colonisation influences tourism, as well as other practices imported by white people of a certain economic class into previously colonised states; they also show how such practices create inequality from a colonialist perspective.
In further chapters, I talk about Israel as a colonialist state that is still exercising colonisation today. I mean, in previous chapters I talk about postcolonial states, but Israel is a current coloniser, maybe the last one in the modern world.
After explaining the nature of the Israeli state, I show the connection between tourism and the Israeli colonial project. Tourism was one of the most important Zionist projects before 1948; it was a tool to mobilise settlers and bring them to Palestine to introduce them to the so-called Israeli land and the concept of return. It was also a PR tool. After 1948, tourism remained an important tool used for the same purposes. I also mention some projects that encourage Jews from around the world, who have not been to Israel yet, to visit.
In the same context, Palestinian tourism has been marginalised in favour of Israeli tourism. This being said it was crucial to talk about tourism practised by Israel in the context of Israeli colonialism.
In another chapter, I talk about the birth and development of the Pride Parade in the Israeli context, and how it got sponsored by the government and other Israeli institutions, such as the Municipality of Tel Aviv and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I also mention the continuous campaigns used to advertise the Israeli Pride Parade around the world to improve the image of Israel, generate profit, and fight the global BDS movement that has been gaining power and influence in the world in the past two decades.
In other chapters, I talk about Israeli pinkwashing practices and the connection between pinkwashing and the Israeli Pride Parade. I talk about the emergence of pinkwashing and show examples of terminology, discourse, and other Israeli pinkwashing practices and tools.
Showing this connection was not easy at first. I needed to conduct a lot of research and look into other examples in the world. I also needed to understand how global events are connected to what is happening to this kind of tourism in Palestine. This is what my study is about.
So it talks about tourism and colonisation. When we travel as tourists, we often go to places or do things without understanding the context we are in, so we end up supporting certain places or projects that affect the society we are visiting and might deepen some forms of discrimination. My case study sheds light on modern tourism and helps readers understand the intersection of tourism and capitalism that is widespread in today’s world.
Tourism can be connected to colonialism in many ways. In the case of tourism in Israel, meaning the colonised Palestinian lands, we see religious, cultural, leisure, beach, sexual, and other kinds of tourism. In the past years, LGBTQI+ tourism emerged as well and it is directly connected to Pride Week and the Israeli Pride Parade. Israel benefits from such tourism economically and exploits it for PR purposes to promote itself as an open, modern, and democratic state; this practice or PR is called pinkwashing…
In collaboration with a number of institutions and companies, the state of Israel spends millions of dollars yearly on the Pride Parade and Pride Week to ensure a high-quality event. In return, it generates profits from it that get pumped into the Israeli economy.
On pages 10 and 11, Rabeea explains how tourism and the Israeli colonial project embodied the beginning of the Zionist colonial project in Palestine: ‘[…] in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, represented a pivotal turning point for the Palestinians and their collective rights, since this project was able to achieve its goal of establishing a Jewish State in 1948, that State was founded on the ruins of the Palestinians through organized ethnic cleansing operations in order to occupy as much of Palestine as possible and evacuate it from the indigenous population. But what happened in 1948 was not the end of the realization of the dream of establishing a Jewish State, but a new, more institutionalized, and bloodier stage in the continuation of the colonial settlement project, the control of more land, and the establishment of a racist apartheid regime that violates human rights and international agreements and resolutions to this day.’
If we look at what is happening in Gaza today and compare it to what started in 1948, it becomes obvious that the war and settlement machine is still fully operational; it has not stopped. What we are currently witnessing in Gaza follows the same ‘[…] detailed plan developed by Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv on March 10th 1948. The Israeli occupation forces aimed at ethnically cleansing Palestine by instilling widespread fear; besieging and shelling villages and population centres; burning houses, properties, and goods; expulsion; demolishing houses and facilities; and planting mines among the rubble to prevent the expelled residents from returning to their homes.’
What is maybe different nowadays is the use of pinkwashing as a strategic propaganda tool by the Israeli occupation to normalise its existence and cover up its war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Homosexuality is being used as a propaganda tool and that is obvious in the Instagram post I talked about at the beginning of the podcast.
The use of homosexuality as an Israeli propaganda tool did not start with this post; it is a huge and successful campaign that has been ongoing for years.
The Pride Parade was organised in Tel Aviv at first, later it spread to other cities. This event is usually accompanied by press conferences, film festivals, and parties. In the past few years, more than 200 thousand people participated in the Pride Parade which was sponsored by the Municipality of Tel Aviv and Israel’s Ministry of Tourism.
In 2011, the Ministry of Tourism sponsored the event as it saw it as an attractive Pride event; in that year, thousands of foreign tourists joined the Parade for the first time.
In 2013, the Pride Parade became more known internationally, which attracted more Israeli politicians to participate in it and make speeches. It also attracted thousands of homosexual foreign tourists who came to the Pride on European boats.
In 2016, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism allocated 11 million Shekels, the equivalent of approximately 3 million USD, to enhance Pride tourism, a term widely used in Israeli discourses in media and PR campaigns in Europe and other countries to promote Israel as a liberal country and invite members of the LGBTQ+ community to visit Israel.
In that same year, NYX, the first Pride hotel opened its doors in Tel Aviv. The hotel hosts Pride Parade-related events in collaboration with the Municipality of Tel Aviv, including discussions, parties, and the press conference of the Parade which is usually attended by journalists from different countries.
According to reports issued by the Municipality of Tel Aviv, a large number of tourists come back. Other studies conducted by it show that each tourist is expected to spend 270 USD per day while regular tourists spend an average of 155 USD per day.
Yaniv Weitzman, a member of the municipal council in Tel Aviv and the organiser of the Pride Parade stated: “The gay tourists participating in the parade, after their return to their countries, turn into ambassadors of the advanced liberal State of Israel.”
I am sharing this short analysis with you to show how Israel benefits from using LGBTQI+ rights; it exploits them to polish its image, distract societies and countries from its crimes, strengthen its economy, and create for itself a symbolic place at the table of the so-called progressive and civilised countries.
But who pays for this image, economic prosperity, and progress?
The Pride Parade in Tel Aviv is connected to colonialism in Palestine.
The link might not be as tangible and direct as that of the military occupation that we witness on a daily basis, however, it has a huge effect on several levels.
First of all, it helps Israel polish its image abroad as there is a divide in how Israel is perceived internationally. This said، Israel uses the Pride Parade to change its stereotypical image as an occupation and a war country, and it does that for many reasons, such as normalising its colonial project and making profit from tourism, to name a few.
Tourism serves the Israeli state and society and helps it to become a ‘normal state’ despite the fact that it has been occupying the Palestinian people for more than 70 years now.
There is also another layer of pinkwashing related to the narrative Israel uses with queer Palestinians; it conveys that Tel Aviv is their safe space, unlike their ‘backward’ communities, as they say, and that Israel is an enlightened and liberal country while Arabs are ‘backward’.
I have not deepened this thought much in the case study, but it has been discussed by Palestinian activists and academics. They talk about how pinkwashing targets Palestinians and the conditions and compromises they need to make in order to get a place in what is promoted as Tel Aviv’s safe bubble. In reality, the situation is different. This is, of course, considered to be a violent discourse against Palestinians that stems from an orientalist and supremacist perspective of colonial power.
There are some discussions in closed Palestinian circles, as well as in the Palestinian LGBTQI+ movement, about participation in the Parade. Some ask, should we participate in it? Why not?
There is little Palestinian presence in the parade. In my opinion, it is not about participating or not. What is more important is understanding the consequences of taking part in this event and the identity that it imposes. They talk about sexual freedoms and safety while covering up the colonisation and occupation of the Palestinian people.
Here comes the importance of intersectionality when talking about rights. Some Arabs think that it is important to have a safe space for queer people even if it is under an Israeli umbrella. However, Israel is benefiting from this so-called safe space and it is not safe as they say.
This has a huge influence on political reality. Israel has been strategizing and investing huge sums in the Parade and the tourism industry. They work methodologically, which means there are several political entities involved, not only the Israeli government. The civil society also plays a role in this, as well as Zionist institutions and organisations abroad. I mentioned this in my paper. One of the projects conducted by foreign organisations is the so-called Aliyah, a Hebrew word for return or immigration to the Promised Land. They are using the concept of Pride Aliyah to encourage Jewish homosexual people to ‘return’ to the Land of Israel. This is only one of many examples.
I discussed this in my paper and it was important for me to highlight the opinions of people who are critical of pinkwashing, be it in Palestine or in other countries. I also highlighted the presence of a minority in the Israeli society that opposes the Israeli regime; some of them, for example, left Israel because they think that it is a Zionist military state that is also homophobic. In some cases, Israeli homosexuals were targeted by Israelis; usually, such incidents do not become public.
Rabeea mentioned briefly how Israel promotes itself as a paradise for queer Palestinians, a place where they can hide, from the cruelty of their communities. This claim is fake according to many Palestinian queer organisations, activists, and individuals. However, it is a consistent part of Israel’s PR campaigns. It is another example of the language it uses to dehumanise and denigrate Palestinians, isolate them from their communities, and create conflicts within the Palestinian society. If we go back to the caption under the two flag pictures I mentioned earlier and read it carefully, we will see an embodiment of this language and the depth of violence in what seems to be a short and simple sentence…
But queers in Palestine did not remain silent; they knew that Israel might use this narrative in its war on Gaza…
On November 7th 2023, days before the publishing of the picture I mentioned earlier, Queers In Palestine shared a liberatory demand. Here are excerpts from it.
Excerpts from the Liberatory Demand written by Queers in Palestine:
“We write this as workers, students, farmers, parents – as Palestinians, as queer Palestinians. We write this not because our queerness exceptionalizes our positions but because, in the same way, we have been othered as queers, we are now facing patriarchal colonial tactics that seek to further alienate us as queer Palestinians. To gather our words and energies requires an enormous effort. We are sickened that amidst these moments of spectacular brutality and carnage projected onto Palestinian bodies, including rape, torture, mutilation, and maiming, we are diverted from grieving and organizing to make a demand.”
“During these times, and in line with its long-standing exploitation of liberal identity politics, Israel has been weaponizing queer bodies to counter any support for Palestine and any critique of its settler-colonial project. Israelis (politicians, organizations, and “civilians”) have been mobilizing colonial dichotomies such as “civilized” and “barbaric,” “human” and “animal,” and other dehumanizing binaries as a discourse that legitimizes the attacks on Palestinians. Within this settler-colonial rhetoric, Israel seeks to garner and mobilize support from Western governments and liberal societies by portraying itself as a nation that respects freedom, diversity, and human rights, that is fighting a “monstrous” and oppressive society, illuminated clearly through the declaration of the Prime Minister of Israel “There is a struggle between the children of light and children of darkness, between humanity and law of the jungle.”.”
“While these blatantly racist genocidal declarations take the stage, activists in Palestine, and internationally are being silenced, harassed, detained, criminalized, workers fired from their jobs, and students suspended from universities. International feminist and queer activists, in solidarity with Palestine, are facing attacks and harassment by Zionists under the premise that those who support Palestine will be “raped” and “beheaded” by Palestinians for merely being women and queers. Yet more often than not, rape and death are what Zionists wish upon queers and women who stand in solidarity with Palestine. Zionist fantasies of brutalized bodies do not surprise us, for we have experienced the reality of their manifestation on our skin and spirit.“
“We refuse the instrumentalization of our queerness, our bodies, and the violence we face as queer people to demonize and dehumanize our communities, especially in service of imperial and genocidal acts. We refuse that Palestinian sexuality and Palestinian attitudes towards diverse sexualities become parameters for assigning humanity to any colonized society. We deserve life because we are human, with the multitude of our imperfections, and not because of our proximity to colonial modes of liberal humanity. We refuse colonial and imperialist tactics that seek to alienate us from our society and alienate our society from us, on the basis of our queerness. We are fighting interconnected systems of oppression, including patriarchy and capitalism, and our dreams of autonomy, community, and liberation are inherently tied to our desire for self-determination. No queer liberation can be achieved with settler colonisation, and no queer solidarity can be fostered if it stands blind to the racialized, capitalist, fascist, and imperial structures that dominate us.
We call on queer and feminist activists and groups around the world to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their resistance to displacement, land theft, and ethnic cleansing, and their struggle for the liberation of their lands and futures from Zionist settler-colonialism. This call cannot be answered only by sharing statements and signing letters but by an active engagement with decolonial and liberatory struggles in Palestine and around the globe.”
These were excerpts from a liberatory demand written by Queers in Palestine.
I invite you to visit their website to read the full text and check out their other demands. You will find the link in the description of the episode.
I also invite queer organisations and collectives around the world to sign their petition that until November 11th 2023 had been signed by 275 collectives and organisations.
I hope that this analysis clarified the concept of pinkwashing, the danger of complying with Israeli propaganda and ignoring the demands of the boycott movement, as well as the demands of queer and non-queer Palestinians.
Talking about boycotts, I would like to say that while it is important to express our anger, sadness, and setbacks while witnessing the murder of Palestinians and the crimes committed against them, it is equally important to talk about our fights and wins; the wins of Palestinians and their allies in the whole world.
One of these wins is the BDS movement‘s existence and achievements.
It is a global Palestinian-led movement that aims at boycotting Israel, divesting Israel of investments, and imposing sanctions on it. It seeks justice, freedom, and equality for Palestinians and protects their rights.
Boycotts can take different forms; it is accessible and easy to practise. All we need to know is what to boycott, why, and how.
It is important to not underestimate our collective power and the power of boycotts led in unity.
The Pride Parade is also a touristic site; there is a connection between the capitalist tourism industry and Israeli PR campaigns.
Some famous queer directors and renowned artists take part in the Parade ignoring all the invitations of the local and global BDS movement.
On the other hand, there are some important wins. Some heard the voices of resistance and called off their participation in the Parade after being called out and pressured on social media, in petitions, and in official invitation letters.
There is an annual queer film festival in Tel Aviv and there are always directors who withdraw from it in response to public pressure and advocacy efforts.
You can find the link to the website of the BDS movement in the description of the episode. Feel free to check it out, boycott, and become part of a movement for tangible change.
Boycott LGBTQI+ tourism during Israeli Pride Week, cultural and art events, such as film and music festivals, and any events linked to occupation and colonisation that aim at covering up murder, violations, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed by Israel.
Thank you for listening to this podcast.
I invite you once again to check out the links and resources listed in the description of the episode and join the struggle against the colonial murder machine. Together we can change the dark reality we live in as long as we lead a collective struggle to make a tangible difference; a difference that we and those experiencing colonialism can see and feel.
This podcast is written, produced and hosted by Saleem Salameh, with research by Rabeea Eid, editorial feedback by Musa Shadeedi, technical follow-up & support by Khalid Abdel-Hadi, translation to English by Kristina Kaghdo, interview transcripts by Hosam Omran, voice-over by Rama Sabanekh, illustration by Mohammed Al-Mohanna, publishing and outreach by My Kali Magazine.
This podcast was created independently by a collective effort of a team from Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, and Jordan.
Links to visit (to read/sign petitions):
- BDS Movement
- Queers in Palestine
- Tourism as a Colonial Practice: Pinkwashing and the Israeli Pride Parade, a case study by Rabeea Eid. Arabic version + English version
- Puar, Jasbir K. (2007). Terrorist assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer times. Durham: Duke University Press.
- Pappe, Ilan. (2007). The ethnical cleansing of Palestine (Arabic translation by Ahmad Khalifa). Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies.
- Shoufani, Elias. (2003). Summary of the political history of Palestine: from the dawn of history to 1949, (third edition). Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies.
- Bishara, Azmi. (2010). From the Jewishness of the State to Sharon – a study in the contradiction of Israeli democracy, (second edition). Cairo: Dar Al-Shorouk. [In Arabic].
- Vanden Boer, Dorien. (2016). Toward decolonization in tourism: Engaged tourism and the Jerusalem tourism cluster. Jerusalem Quarterly, (65). Pp. 9-21.
- Cohen-Hattab, K. (2004). Zionism, tourism, and the battle for Palestine: Tourism as a political-propaganda tool. Israel Studies, 9(1). Pp. 61-85.
- Kassis, Rami. (2004). The Palestinians and justice tourism. CONTOURS-BANGKOK THEN HONG KONG, 14(2/3). Pp. 18-21. 22.
- For more, visit the program website.
- The organization is subject to prosecution for its activity in providing information on violations of the Israeli occupation. For more information, see Al-Na’ami, Saleh. (2017, November 9). Israel reveals the list of boycott organizations that are targeted for legal prosecution. The New Arab. [In Arabic].
- Who Profits. (2017). Touring Israeli settlements business and pleasure for the economy of occupation. Who Profits.
- Shaked Zahi, Israeli tour guide. (2010). Tel Aviv gay parade Israel – the first part 2010 (video). YouTube.
- Havruta – Religious Gays. (2012). Pride parade in Jerusalem Tel Aviv 2011-Havruta -a proud religious community (video). YouTube. [In Hebrew].
- Bacchi, Umberto (2013). France’s first married gay couple at Tel Aviv LGBT parade 2013. International Business Times.
- Yarekzi, Dana. (2014, June 13). Tens of thousands at the pride parade in Tel Aviv “a celebration of freedom”. Walla. [In Hebrew].
- Creative, Fireman. (2013). First LGBTQ boarding pass trip to go for the 2014 Tel Aviv gay pride parade. Jcca.
- Sadeh, Danny, and Kotler, Amit. (2016, March 3). The new weapon of the Ministry of Tourism: Drag queens. Ynet. [In Hebrew].
- Mako. (2017, May 16). Tourists on the way: The first proud hotel in Tel Aviv. Mako. [In Hebrew]
- Melnitsky, Gili. (2017, June 8). New predictions: tourists of the pride parade will spend at least 100 million dollars. The Marker. [In Hebrew].
- Mako. Ibid.
- Rubinstein, Tanya. (2017, June 6). Lesbian and military celebrations in the Tel-Avivian bubble. The Sting.