This week, Israeli director Yariz Mover’s documentary The Invisible Men screened at The Other Israel Film Festival, after showings in Seattle, Washington D.C. and Princeton, NJ. The film, examines the plight of Louie, Faris and Abdu, three gay Palestinians living under the radar in Israel.
In the film 32-year-old Louie has lived in Tel Aviv for nearly a decade, after his father came at him with a knife when he learned his son was gay. (He still bears a scar on his cheek.) Then there’s the more in-your-face-gay Abdu, who was outed in Ramallah and tortured by Palestinian security forces as an alleged spy. Faris, 23, also fled the threat of death in the West Bank. All three walk a fine line, outcasts wherever they go with asylum in Europe their only hope for freedom.
From its release, Invisible Men was caught in the crosshairs of the anti-pinkwashing movement—progressive queers who see positives depictions of gays in Israel as a coverup for the country’s treatment of Palestinians. It’s become a hot-button issue as both the government and private groups try to make Israel appealing to LGBT tourists and improve the country’s image on human rights. The group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid has called for a boycott of Invisible Men, which was partially funded by the Israeli government.
The reality is probably more complicated than either side wants to admit: Ostracized by their community and families, many LGBT Palestinians face lynchings if they return home. But if they remain in Israel illegally, they do so as fugitives from the law.
But whatever intentions its producers had, is the film itself guilty of pinkwashing? Daily Beasts’ Sigal Samuels attended the screening in New York:
…within the first few seconds of the documentary, director and narrator Yariv Mozer equated Israel’s policy of deporting gay Palestinians to the Occupied Territories with “sending them to certain death.” He bemoaned the fact that these men, many of whom sneak into Tel Aviv seeking refuge from violently homophobic families, are then “constantly hunted” in Israel as “illegals.”
As the film went on to depict checkpoints, barriers, and the thousand indignities visited upon Palestinians every day, it became increasingly hard to see how this film could rightly be accused of pinkwashing.
In an interview with The Times of Israel, Mover (right) made his opinion about the pinkwashing accusations pretty clear:
I just don’t see the connection between gay rights and the occupation. The facts are that Israel is undoubtedly much more tolerant towards gay rights and against homophobia incomparably to the situation in the Palestinian occupied territories, as in the whole Arab world. Unfortunately, the Palestinian conservative society does not respect human rights in general, and that includes for example women rights and of course gay rights.
What do you think? Is it impossible to discuss gay rights in Israel without also considering the treatment of Palestinians? Or are the two separate issues. Sound out in the comments section below.