After sending our letter to IGLYO member organizations urging them to vote NO to holding the General Assembly conference in Tel Aviv, we received some questions and inquiries that we addressed and answered thoroughly below.
Our work focus is primarily against homophobia/promoting LGBTQ issues, we can’t expect all of our members to have the same opinion about political issues such as the Israeli/Palestine issue.
Every institution consists of members that approach issues differently and have different viewpoints. However, this does not mean the institution should not be held accountable for its choices, especially when it chooses to work with an organization that explicitly operates on behalf of an occupying military power. Does working against homophobia excuse you from your responsibility not to be complicit in human rights violations? Did LGBTQ groups take a neutral stand on South African apartheid because it is outside their mandate? No one is asking your coalition to adopt a joint policy on Israel/Palestine. What we are asking for is for you to refrain from being complicit in Israel’s violations of international law that are well documented by the UN, the International Court of Justice, the Goldstone Report, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports, etc. Doing no harm is the most fundamental responsibility of all rights-advocacy groups, queer or straight. Organizing a conference in Israel despite its massive, ongoing violations of human rights is anything but neutral; it is a form of complicity. To be neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
Second, homophobia works in tandem with other forms of oppression, such as sexism and racism – a lesson queer activists should know very well at this point in our history. In our case, homophobia works in tandem with the ideology of the Israeli state, which dictates levels of citizenship along unapologetically racist lines.
If we boycott Israel then why not the US for occupying Iraq, Afghanistan, or other oppressive regimes?
Every struggle has its own strategies towards social justice. BDS is a strategy, not a goal, and it cannot be taken and adapted randomly. It depends on the context, the local voices of the people who are on the ground, their strategies in fighting their own battles, and the grounds on which solidarity is built. If there were a call from the Iraqi or Afghanistani civil societies for a boycott against the US and other oppressing regimes, conscientious groups around the world should certainly respect that and do their best not to undermine it. The Palestinian BDS call is supported by 170 civil society groups, organizations and unions. Boycotts reflect a moral quest for justice as well as a very realistic struggle for real change, for freedom, justice and equal rights. The BDS Palestinian call is inspired from the success of the BDS campaign that ended the apartheid regime in South Africa. The question that should be asked is whether or not IGLYO would have held its GA in apartheid South Africa back then?
Participating in IGLYO’s GA in Tel Aviv and being there will bring more attention and challenge Israeli state policy.
Israel welcomes anyone violating the Palestinian boycott regardless what they say about Israel’s policies. With its enormous influence over the media, it can spin and twist this around to present it as support for its policies – that’s what re-branding Israel campaign is all about.
Besides, we, Palestinians, have the right to decide how people can help us bring end the Israeli occupation, if challenging Israeli state policy in any meaningful way within Israel were a viable option, the numerous policymakers and human rights organizations that have visited Israel on delegations, meetings, missions, in the past 60 plus years would have impacted the state’s actions. If challenging Israeli state policy in an international court were a viable, meaningful option, then the leaders who perpetuated the massacre in Gaza and the flotilla massacres would have been held accountable under international law. Instead, we have seen increases in settlements when negotiations are taking place, massacres when diplomats are in the region, and massive detentions when pressing legislation supposedly affecting the “rights” of the Palestinian people are on the table. At this point in history, the growing international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement is the only thing that has effectively challenged Israel’s apartheid policies, and is putting pressure on the state of Israel to abide to the international law and the UN resolutions.
Israeli queers have the right to be part of the process as well, and it would be just as controversial to have it in a neighboring place (Lebanon, Palestine, etc).
Israeli queers truly supporting the struggle to end Israeli occupation and apartheid understand that complicity in these violations is not the answer. Boycott from Within, the Coalition of Women for Peace, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), among others, are Israeli groups that support BDS and call on international organizations, coalitions and individuals not to undermine the boycott, as a most effective, non-violent form of struggle to end injustice. Israeli queers, in general, have the right to be part of the process, and no one asked to exclude them from the process. We are stating that holding the IGLYO General Assembly in this LOCATION is about choosing to partner and cooperate with the oppressor.
We can’t “run away” from difficult issues, and we can’t ignore member organizations’ rights, as the case with IGY, because their government is in war.
Not having a conference in Israel cannot possibly “take away rights” from anyone! It only supports the struggle to regain rights lost to Israel’s oppressive system. IGLYO can still work with Israeli queer groups, but why must it do so in a way that makes it complicit in pinkwashing Israel’s crimes and harm other struggles?
It is difficult to see how taking a decision which is consistent with the vision and social justice-oriented mission of the Member Organizations of IGLYO would constitute as “running away” from a difficult issue. It is also difficult to see how IGY’s ongoing active engagement with an institution that oppresses people constitutes “a right” as a member organisation. Indeed, do member organisations have the “right” to create a discourse that oppresses queer people and work with institutions that oppress queer people? Was IGLYO created to protect the “rights” of homophobic organizations? Of course not.