We, Palestinian Queers for BDS (PQBDS) and Pinkwatching Israel, are appalled by the Equality Forum’s decision to highlight Israel as the featured nation of their 2012 Summit in Philadelphia this May. While attempting to celebrate the purported advancements of LGBT civil rights within Israeli society, the Equality Forum is partnering with the Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism in promoting the Tel Aviv gay tourism agenda. Even more disturbing is the Equality Forum’s willingness to provide Israel with a platform to market itself as a state that protects human rights. We call upon the Equality Forum leadership to reverse their complicity in Israel’s propaganda campaign.
The State of Israel realizes that its crimes have been exposed to the world. Israel is one of the largest violators of United Nations resolutions and has committed major atrocities against countless innocent civilians. Palestinians—both queer and straight—who live in Israel suffer from significant discrimination and displacement and are denied fundamental rights merely because they do not belong to the Jewish ethno-religious group. Additionally, those Palestinians who live in the Israeli-occupied territories of the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank have faced decades of a brutal apartheid regime. Israel also denies millions of Palestinians who live in exile or in refugee camps the right to return to their ancestral homes as enshrined by United Nations Resolution 194.
Rather than end its ongoing ethnic cleansing and military occupation, Israel has instead pumped millions of dollars into the “Brand Israel” campaign which includes state propaganda aimed at altering its image around the world. A central pillar of this has been “pinkwashing,” or the shifting of discourse away from Israel as an apartheid state to Israel as a so-called gay haven.
In response, queer Palestinian and Arab grassroots organizations and initiatives, including alQaws, Pinkwatching Israel, and PQBDS, have worked tirelessly to highlight the myriad forms of persecution that we face, including Israel’s denial of our basic rights such as freedom of movement.
Rather than stand in solidarity with queer human rights activists who are resisting Israeli state hegemony, the Equality Forum has designated Michael Oren as its keynote speaker. In addition to being a propagandist for war crimes, Oren is the Israeli ambassador to the United States. This is akin to the Equality Forum inviting a white South African ambassador as a keynote speaker during the apartheid era. We condemn the Equality Forum’s direct links with the Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.
PQBDS and Pinkwatching Israel also denounce the decision of the Equality Forum to aggrandize Israel by rendering invisible the gay-rights violations within Israel as well as the oppression of queer and straight Palestinians. The Equality Forum is flaunting its disregard for decades of Palestinian and Israeli anti-occupation activism, including the 2005 Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions call. As a result, many people of conscience are joining the chorus criticizing the Equality Forum, including Sherry Wolf and Uri Horesh.
If the Equality Forum chooses to proceed with this agenda of Israeli state-sponsored propaganda and to promote gay tourism in an apartheid state, then we request that speakers and participants—who are genuinely committed to equality, social justice, and human rights—boycott the 2012 Equality Forum Summit.
Palestinian Queers for BDS