ITB, Take Apartheid and Pinkwashing Out of Your Fair

10 Mar

While the International Tourism Fair in Berlin (ITB) claims to have an ethical commitment towards promoting socially responsible tourism, it is a disgrace that they fail to see the contradiction between that responsibility and hosting “Tel Aviv Gay Vibe” an Israeli government led campaign to promote gay tourism to the city of Tel Aviv.

While Israel continues its illegal occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, and continues its discrimination against Palestinians in Israel, imposition of an inhumane siege on more than 1.5 million people in Gaza, and continues to deny more than 5 million Palestinian refugees their UN-sanctioned right to return to their homeland, it is the International Community’s social responsibility to hold Israel accountable for these violations, not reward it by supporting it’s economy and whitewashing it’s image.

After Israel’s brutal attack on the Gaza Strip, and the Mavi Marmara Massacre, the ugly truth of Israel as an apartheid and a criminal state became even more obvious to the world. To remedy it’s image, Israel intensified its worldwide public relations campaign to re-brand it and whitewash it’s crimes. An essential part of this PR campaign is dedicated to re-brand Israel as a gay friendly country, and as the gay haven of the Middle East. Those who encourage and support Israel’s pinkwashing efforts are complicit in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians.

On the same level, dealing with Israel as a tourist attraction while ignoring these facts would not only be complicit in Israel’s war crimes, but also provide direct economic support for its ongoing crimes, racism, and system of apartheid. Instead of promoting economic support for Israel, pinkwashing and whitewashing it, the international community should adhere to the Palestinian call for boycott divestment and sanctions of Israel[1] which was also adopted and supported by Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.[2]

It is ITB’s responsibility to prevent and reject its platform being used to promote a state implementing apartheid policies, and stop Israel from pinkwashing its war crimes and unethical treatment of over 10 million Palestinians. Take apartheid and pinkwashing OUT of tourism.

Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions


An open letter to Queer academics, artists, and activists

23 Feb

Dear queers, academics, artists and activists,

Some of you might be planning a visit to Israel to participate, and maybe even support, queer, cultural or academic events. Some of you might be visiting for religious or personal reasons, or perhaps simply out of curiosity. While an invitation to Israel might seem flattering and exciting, we hope that – before taking a stand and booking that flight – you read the following open letter, written by Palestinian queers, activists, academics and artists, to queers, activists, academics and artists around the world.

We are determined to inform every person wishing to travel to Israel on the political and social realities of life in Israel/Palestine. “Occupation,” “Palestinians,” “Gaza,” “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” “boycott,” and “refugees” are not terms you would come across in flyers, itineraries, and travel brochures promoting Israel; yet, these words define the daily lives of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. As Palestinians and as queers, these words have shaped our history and continue to determine our future.

Some of you might feel that boycotting Israel would be too one-sided for such a complex conflict. You might think that it is too controversial. Some of you are probably wondering whether this boycott movement is actually effective. To start the conversation, we put together background information on BDS and Israel/Palestine; and we also encourage you to get in touch and explore with us any questions or issues you might have with BDS. Our aim is for every person to have a historically-informed understanding of Israel/Palestine, and for every queer, academic, artist, and activist to support the Palestinian civil society’s call for BDS.

1) I don’t know much about the BDS campaign and cultural and academic boycotts.  What are they?

In April 2004 a group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals met in Ramallah to launch the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) to join the growing international boycott movement. In July 2004, the Campaign issued a Call for Boycott addressed to the international community urging:

  • A comprehensive and consistent boycott of all Israeli academic and cultural institutions until Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem;
  • A removal of all its colonies in those lands;
  • Compliance with United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees’ rights;
  • Dismantlement of its system of apartheid.

This statement was met with widespread support, and has to date been endorsed by nearly sixty Palestinian academic, cultural and other civil society federations, unions, and organizations, including the Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities’ Professors and Employees and the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) in the West Bank. 1

On July 9, 2005, the clear majority of Palestinian civil society called upon the international civil society organizations and people of conscience from around the world to start imposing a broad boycott and divestment measurements against Israel, inspired by the successful Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaigns against apartheid in South Africa.2 The goal was to send a message to Israel and pressure it to meet its obligations, recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination, and fully comply with international law. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) has been endorsed by over 170 Palestinian parties, organizations, trade unions, and movements representing the majority of the Palestinian people. Given the breadth of its participants and endorsers, BDS movement is the most significant nonviolent movement against Israeli apartheid.3

Following these calls on June 27th 2010, a group of Palestinian Queer activists issued a call, calling upon all LGBTQI groups, organizations and individuals around the world to Boycott the Apartheid State of Israel.4

  1. But if I am in solidarity with the LGBTQ communities, how can I boycott queers?

We believe that, as Queer communities, we must pay close attention to any grave human rights violations on our way to support the LGBTQ struggle, especially in a context where the country in question that oppresses, discriminates, and implements an apartheid system. We should question the ethics and the values of Queer organizations or groups that voice fervent support for and participate in an apartheid state’s institutions. Human rights should not be compartmentalized, and the human rights of a certain group should not be more important than others’. We, as Palestinian queers, cannot ignore the struggle and the rights of the Palestinian people.  To us, the two struggles go side by side.

For 62 years, the Israeli occupation and expanding apartheid system has denied the Palestinian people their basic human rights. Palestinians in the West Bank have been living under a brutal military occupation manifested by illegal Israeli colonies, checkpoints, and a system of walls, barriers and roads accessible solely to Israeli settlers. Palestinians living inside Israel are continuously facing discriminatory policies. There are currently over 25 laws which specifically target them as non-Jewish and reduce them to second class citizens of Israel. Palestinians in the Diaspora and in UN administered refugee camps are by default denied their UN-sanctioned right to return to their lands. Finally, over 1.8 million Palestinian in the Gaza Strip are living in an open air prison under an illegal siege, described by many prominent international experts as “slow genocide.” Israeli oppression, racism, and discrimination does not distinguish between Queer Palestinians and Heterosexual Palestinians.

3) What events should I boycott?

After over sixty years of occupation and apartheid, the damaging effects of Israel’s wars in Lebanon, the invasion of Gaza in 2009, and the overwhelming growth of the BDS movement, the Israeli government re-initiated an old/new massive PR campaign called ‘Brand Israel.’ The purpose of the campaign was to whitewash Israel’s decades of war crimes and portray it as the only democratic country in the Middle East.

More recently, pinkwashing became a major component of this campaign. Israeli foreign affairs ministry, Israeli academic institutions, international Zionist and pro Israel groups, and some Israeli LGBTQ organizations/groups worked to capitalize on the modest successes of the Israeli LGBTQ community and pander to anti-Arab, Islamophobic biases by painting Palestinian society as maliciously homophobic. Indeed, a central theme in their pinkwashing campaign, which included numerous cultural events, tourism efforts targeting LGBTQ groups, and cultural products, was that Israel is the only gay haven in the Middle East and the only place Palestinian queers feel safe. Thus, pinkwashing in this context is a mean of galvanizing support for the apartheid system and military occupation – all in the name of gay rights.

Most Israeli LGBTQ groups, Israeli academic institutions, Israel support groups worldwide, whether officially part of the ‘Brand Israel’ campaign or not, are often supporters complicit in the Israeli war crimes, and the effort to pinkwash these crimes and should be boycotted. According to ‘The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – PACBI’ and their general overriding rule, virtually all Israeli cultural and academic events, groups and organizations (i.e. universities, museums, film festivals etc…), unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and therefore boycottable.

4) Can you be more specific? What is boycottable?

The following situations are boycottable:

  • All Israeli cultural and academic institutions (i.e. universities, museums, film festivals etc…), unless proven otherwise, receive state funding and are, thus, complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and should be boycotted. This means that events organized by any of those, or cooperation with them should be avoided.
  • Any group/organization that actively participates in Pinkwashing Israeli war crimes should be boycotted
  • Any group/organization that is part of the ‘Gay tourism in Israel’ project to promote TLV and Israel as the gay haven of the Middle East.

5) So, what can I do? And How Palestinian Queers for BDS can help me?

It is always legitimate to ask your host to provide information about the event/product: Who are the organizing partners? Is the event funded and/or commissioned even partially, by an official Israeli body or a complicit institution? What is goal of the event and its vision? You can learn a lot from raising these “obvious” questions.

Secondly, if your hosts do not provide (or do not know) the needed information, ask them to direct their inquires to PQBDS. Most Israeli queer groups and organizations are not familiar with BDS and are not aware they are part of systematic oppression. Encouraging them to make direct contact with us will not only help you to collect the needed information, but will also help raise awareness among these groups about the importance of BDS.

Thirdly, PQBDS are willing to help and guide you personally through this process,. We will be more than happy to provide the necessary information, make contacts with relevant parties, and respond to you regarding whether the event meets the boycott’s guidelines.

Please consider us the “go-to person” for ANY question you may have regarding BDS, especially queer BDS situations.

We look forward to your questions and inquiries. Our email is:


[2] To read the official call: Palestinian United call for boycott,







US TOUR: Palestinian Queers Talk Politics 5-18/2/2011

14 Jan

Dear Friends,
In February 5th Palestinian queer activists from “alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society” and “Aswat – Palestinian Gay Women” will be touring the US in a series of public conversations. The schedule is listed below and in the  poster. So come, listen, connect and spread the word.

Saturday, February 5th, 2011- Minneapolis, 3-4:30.
Creating Change Conference (sponsored by the National LGBT Task Force)- afternoon Town Meeting “Palestinian Queers/US Queers: What is Our Relationship?” at The Hilton Minneapolis, 1001 Marquette Avenue South.
Moderated by Sarah Schulman, author of 16 books on LGBT and AIDS subjects and US Tour Coordinator.

Sunday, February 6, Chicago 2 – 4pm.
Jane Addams-Hull House Museum 800 South Halsted Street, on the Campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Moderated by Lynette Jackson, a queer, feminist and human rights activist and professor of African History and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago

February 8th, Cambridge, Mass, 6:30 pm.
Harvard Kennedy School (Sponsored by the Human Rights and Social Movements Program at the Carr Center for Human Rights
Policy) Starr Auditorium, 4th floor, Belfer Building, corner JFK and Elliot Streets.

Moderated by Afsaneh Najmabadi, Francis Lee Higginson Professor of History and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

February 10th- New York City, 7 pm.
City University Graduate Center (Sponsored by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies) 34th Street and 5th Avenue, 9th Floor Skylight room.

Moderated by Katherine Acey, founding Executive Director of the Astraea Lesbian Justice Foundation and queer Arab activist.

February 11th- Philadelphia, 3 pm.
University of Pennsylvania, LGBT Center 3907 Spruce Street.

Moderated by Heather Love, Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and Amy Kaplan, Edward W. Kane Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.

February 15th, 7pm-9pm
Mission High Auditorium
3750 18th Street at Dolores (Parking Available)
San Francisco, CA 94114

February 16th, 7pm-9pm
Pro Arts Gallery
150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612 (Accessible off Broadway)

February 16th, Afterparty 9:30pm
2022 Telegraph Ave (between 20th St & 21st St)
Oakland, CA 94612

February 18th, NYC
Meeting with People Of Color Queer Groups at The Audre Lorde Project. Organized by Jasbir Puar.


Palestinian Queers for BDS Call upon all Queer groups, organizations and individuals around the world to Boycott the Apartheid State of Israel

28 Jun

Palestinian Queers for BDS

Call upon all Queer groups, organizations and individuals around the world to

Boycott the Apartheid State of Israel.

June 27th 2010

As Palestinian Queers, we see the Queer movements as political in their nature; and ones that analyze the intersections between different struggles, evaluate relations of power and try to challenge them. We firmly believe that fighting for the rights of oppressed and marginalized queer minorities cannot be separated from fighting against all forms of oppression around the world This is evident in the proud history of the queer movement worldwide, which has joined numerous global socio-political struggles against manifestations of oppression, imperialism, injustice, and discrimination wherever they exist. In continuation to this proud history, we Palestinian Queer activists, call upon the LGBTQI communities around the globe to stand for justice in Palestine through adopting and implementing broad boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until the latter has ended its multi-tiered oppression of the Palestinian people, in line with the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for BDS [1]

For 62 years, Israel’s oppressive regime of colonization, occupation and apartheid has systematically and consistently denied the Palestinian people of their basic human rights.Palestinians living in the West Bank have been subjected to a brutal military occupation manifested by Israel’s illegal colonies, checkpoints, andthe apartheid wall. Palestinians living inside Israel continue to face systematic, legalized apartheid policies which discriminate against them in all walks of life, rendering them second class citizens, at best, inside Israel. The majority of Palestinians in the Diaspora continue to be denied their UN-sanctioned right of return to their homes The 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza face the most brutal oppression of all as they live in an open air prison after years of the illegal Israeli siege on the Gaza strip, one that was described as ‘slow genocide’ by prominent international law experts.

This Israeli ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people does not differentiate between Palestinian Queers, and non-Queers. Not only Palestinian queers face these injustices on a daily basis and undergo the Israeli oppression like any other Palestinian, but also our name and struggle is often wrongly used and abused to “Pinkwash” Israel’s continuous crimes against the whole Palestinian population. In the last years Israel has been leading an international campaign that tries to present Israel as the “only democracy” and the “gay haven” in the Middle East, while ironically portraying Palestinians, who suffer every single day from Israel’s state racism and terrorism, as barbaric and homophobic.

Thus, we Palestinian queer activists call on Queer groups, organizations and individuals around the world to stand for justice and in the face of Israel’s pinkwashing efforts through joining the global campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it fully complies with international law, and ends its occupation, colonization and apartheid. We call on you to:

  • Endorse the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for BDS, spread it in your Queer community.
  • Reject all invitations to speak at and collaborate with Israeli universities and institutions, in accordance with the guidelines for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel set by PACBI [2]
  • Campaign against all activities aiming to Pinkwash Israel’s crimes and oppression of the Palestinian people.
  • Organize in your respective communities to initiate BDS campaigns, or join existing ones.

    [1] Palestinian United Call for Boycott

    [2] Pacbi – Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Arab Queers say NO to Pinkwashing at the USSF

16 Jun


We, the undersigned queer Arab organizations, are appalled by the US Social Forum’s decision to allow Stand with Us to utilize the event as a platform to pinkwash Israel’s crimes in the region. Stand with Us is cynically manipulating the struggle of queer people in the Middle East through its workshop entitled “LGBTQI Liberation in the Middle East”.

Stand with Us is a self-declared Zionist propaganda organization which describes itself as “an international education organization that ensures that Israel’s side of the story is told in communities, campuses, libraries, the media and churches through brochures, speakers, conferences, missions to Israel, and thousands of pages of Internet resources”.

Stand with Us has no connection with the LGBT movement in the Middle East apart from ties to Zionist Israeli LGBT organizations, yet it claims to speak for and about our movements. It has no credibility in our region, and as organizations working in and from the Middle East, we condemn its attempt to use us, our struggles, our lives, and our experiences as a platform for pro-Israeli propaganda.

Since Israel’s brutal wars on Gaza and Lebanon in 2006 and particularly after the recent unprovoked attack on the flotilla of activists going to Gaza, the Israeli government has found itself increasingly marginalized by international condemnations and weakened through the growing success of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. To remedy this, it has launched a massive PR campaign using organizations such as Stand with Us to convince the world that Israel is not a brutal settler-colony state, but rather a free democracy where human rights in general, and LGBT rights in particular, are respected and upheld. Stand With Us deceptively uses the language of LGBT and women’s rights to obscure the fact that institutionalized discrimination is enshrined within the state of Israel.

Our struggle is deeply intertwined with the struggle of all oppressed people, and we cannot accept that we are being used as a tool to discredit the Palestinian cause. Stand with Us would have everyone believe that the Palestinian cause is an unworthy one because of the homophobia that exists within Palestinian society, as if homophobia does not exist elsewhere, and as if struggles for justice are predicated on some sort of inherent “goodness” of the oppressed, rather than on the principles of freedom, justice, and equality for everyone, everywhere. Stand with Us would have us all compartmentalize our beliefs, lives, and identities so that solidarity with the queer struggle would preclude solidarity with others.

While Stand With Us is quick to point out the oppression of queer Palestinians under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, it conveniently forgets that those same queers are not immune to the bombs, blockades, apartheid and destruction wrought upon them daily by the Israeli government, and that Israel’s multi-tiered oppression hardly makes a distinction between straight and gay Palestinians.

We refuse to be instrumentalized by anyone, be it our own oppressive governments or the Zionist lobby hijacking our struggle to legitimize the state of Israel and its policies, thus providing even more fodder for our own governments to use against us. If you want to learn about our movements and struggles, engage with us, rather than with those who will use us as pawns in Israel’s campaign to pinkwash its crimes.

The inclusion of Stand With Us at the USSF is an egregious oversight on the part of the forum. We ask the forum to justify this inclusion given that it violates its own principles of anti-racism, uniting oppressed communities, prioritizing marginalized voices, and opposing US foreign policy. The USSF should be held accountable to its own standards. We look forward to hearing its plans to address the situation.

Lebanese Protection for LGBT

For Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society

Palestinian Gay Women

Palestinian Queers for BDS

27 Apr

Letter of Support to Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Berkeley

[Occupied Palestine – April 27th, 2010] We Palestinian Queers living in Occupied Palestine (48 territories, West Bank and Gaza Strip), Salute the students of UC Berkley for their courage and tremendous efforts in passing this historic resolution to divest from companies that are directly linked with Israeli war crimes against Palestinians (For more information about this read here).

We noticed lately that whenever the Palestinian struggle is discussed in the West, especially when the BDS campaign is involved in a debate, our identity as Palestinian LGBTIQs is abused. Our name as Palestinian Queers and our struggle to gain recognition and establish our rights are used to support the falsity that Israel is the only “gay haven” in the Middle East and justify their claim that “oppressed Palestinian queers” are one more reason not to support the Palestinians.

In this letter we would like to remind those who give themselves the right to speak in our name that we have a voice and can speak for ourselves. Thus we would like to assert that we, Palestinian Queers, as an integral part of the Palestinian society, believe that the struggle for sexual and gender diversity is interconnected with the Palestinian struggle for freedom. That we believe that the BDS campaign is an effective way of resistance that represents the majority of the Palestinian people: the refugees in exile, those in diasporas, Palestinians who live under the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and the subjugated Palestinian citizens of the Israeli state. Furthermore, we condemn the malicious use of our name and of our fight for our rights as queers, to deny us our rights as Palestinians, and to use it against our national struggle for freedom and Justice. We would also like to assert that we stand wholeheartedly on the side of the students of UC Berkley working on overturning the president’s veto and divesting from companies that profit from Israel’s war crimes.

In solidarity and hope that the senate will take the right decision Palestinian Queers for BDS