Last weekend, the Brecht Forum in New York hosted a panel called “Creating Solidarities: A Conversation with Members of the First U.S. LGBTQ Delegate to Palestine.” Speakers—including filmmaker Barbara Hammer, Queens Pride House co-founder Pauline Park, the Global Justice Institute’s Darnell Moore and Jasbir Puar, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Rutgers—discussed their recent experiences on a trip to the Palestinian territories.
Why’d they go? In a word: Pinkwashing.
According to Puar (right), “the occupation of Palestine is one of the most contentious issues in queer organizing today.” She and others spoke of Israel’s evil plan to broadcast its record on LGBT rights in order to “cover up its occupation of Palestine.” Puar did clarify that Israel was hardly the only nation to pinkwash, but it seems to be the one LGBT activists focus on almost exclusively.
Later, when Moore broached the subject of gay rights in Palestine, it was noted that in a region already defined by binaries: Jew/Muslim, man/woman, adding another binary of sexual identity would be dangerous. In fact, the delegation was told to hide their sexual orientation from their Palestinian hosts.
But the audience was told homophobia is irrelevant in Palestine as “it doesn’t take away from the fact that there is an occupation. We can’t judge a country by its attitudes towards homosexuals,” said Puar.
As one audience member pointed out protections for minorities, including gays, is a requirement to join the European Union. When an audience member further pressed Jasbir as to why Israel was being picked on as pinkwashing when other countries do the same, Puar (left) replied, “My critique of Israel stems out of my critique with the United States. The United States is a settler state too. Absolutely!”
So pinkwashing is really about the U.S. and not Israel? We’re confused.
Panelists also made much about their fears of being in Israel proper: Puar said her friends told her she’d never be allowed in—she even made a fake Facebook account to obscure her identity—but the professor sailed through Israeli security because “I looked so ineffectual and miserable.” She told the audience how it “was such a relief to get to Ramallah” where sadly she had no cell phone reception because the Israelis wouldn’t allow it.
Park’s biggest worry was passing through Israeli checkpoints and having her belongings confiscated, but she breezed right through security as well.
So the problem for these activists is that there was no problem?
The debate about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and both nation’s records on LGBT rights won’t be resolved any time soon. In fact, a Homonationalism and Pinkwashing conference is already scheduled for April 2013 at the City University of New York.
Photos: CUNY, Andrew Ratto