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Gay Palestinian Doc “The Invisible Men” Accused Of Pinkwashing

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.


  • 12 Comments
    • Cam
      Cam

      “”
      many LGBT Palestinians face lynchings if they return home. But if they remain in Israel illegally, they do so as fugitives from the law.”
      _______________

      Israeli law lists anti-gay discrimination as a reason to apply to stay there legally, funny how the article fails to mention that.

      and

      “”
      progressive queers who see positives depictions of gays in Israel as a coverup for the country’s treatment of Palestinians.”
      ____________

      No, actually it’s Palestinians who are desperate to hide the fact that Isreal is far ahead of them in civil rights and want to cover up the MASSIVE abuses where gays are killed and imprisoned in Palestine. Isreal recognizes gay adoption, foreign gay marraiges, gays serve in the military.

      As long as gays continue to be killed in Palestine and women are not treated as equals I couldn’t give a shit what they have to say about Isreal. Gays speaking up for them are like beaten women defending men who abuse women.

      Nov 16, 2012 at 3:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MK Ultra
      MK Ultra

      Human rights are human rights, whether they are womens’, gays’, minorities’…The one true fact is violation of human rights goes on from ALL sides in the Middle East, and foreign ones too.
      As someone who has a vested intterest in propaganda, I don’t buy any of it coming from the Middle East, including Israel’s pinkwashing.
      There’s much more going on there than any of us know.
      ITs very much like a reality show. Not too much reality, and usually someone behind the camera, pulling the strings.

      Nov 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • greygardenz
      greygardenz

      This is some déjà-vu for me; I had this same conversation with QuAIA protesters in Vancouver before seeing this film. They agreed that the film seemed critical of Israel, but objected to State Funding and comments made by the director. Having seen the film, I did find it very critical of Israeli policies and I had a hard time seeing how it could be accused of pinkwashing.

      I generally tend to agree with QuAIA (full disclosure), and I am frustrated now to see Mozer’s quote above. I have no doubt that Israeli society is probably more gay-friendly than Palestinian society in general. I live in Canada, which has more gay-friendly laws on the books than Israel and is one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world. But these laws don’t give any government carte-blanche to pursue repressive policies with other groups, and they certainly don’t fully eliminate prejudice.

      This film illustrated Israel’s very poor acceptance of gay Palestinian refugees, based on their Palestinian nationality. That is the connection between gay rights and the occupation, and I’m frankly confused that he’s made a film demonstrating this yet says he doesn’t see the connection. There is also the issue of one historically oppressed group offering solidarity to another, despite our differences. I would like it if Mozer’s comments had a more forward-thinking and less patronizing tone.

      Nov 16, 2012 at 7:48 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Freddie27
      Freddie27

      This documentary seems to reflect the undeniable fact that LGBT people are freer in Israel than anywhere else in the Middle East, while also deploring the deportation of these men back to Palestine by Israel. I am still horrified as a human being by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the indignities endured by everyday Palestinians from security checks to the Wall to aggressive settlers and the children and pregnant woman who have been murdered in Israeli airstrikes this week.

      Nov 17, 2012 at 3:30 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • erics
      erics

      @greygardenz: Exactly. Its weird to see him make a documentary showing the ways being Palestinian and being gay intersect and present distinct injustices and struggles, then cursorily reject any connection and justify that rejection with a bunch of racism.

      Nov 17, 2012 at 4:38 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Daniel-Reader
      Daniel-Reader

      So why isn’t Queers Against Israeli Aparteid located in Palestine if Palestine is such a wonderful place for the human rights of gay people?

      Also, if you mention Israel’s better treatment of women is that considered vagina-washing? :D

      Nov 17, 2012 at 8:24 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Leftytgirl
      Leftytgirl

      In response to Daniel-Reader:

      “So why isn’t Queers Against Israeli Aparteid located in Palestine if Palestine is such a wonderful place for the human rights of gay people?”

      It’s amusing to observe that apologists for Israel’s hasbara campaigns have no better defense than to project an imagined narrative onto their opponents, since apparently they can’t answer any of the actual criticisms.

      I don’t know any critics of Israel’s pinkwashing campaign who claim that life for queers or trans people is simple or easy in mainstream Palestinian society. Indeed, life for the average gay Israeli Jewish man in Israel is indeed probably easier than the life of the average gay Palestinian man in Palestine.

      But that probability doesn’t do anything to justify the fact that Israel aggressively occupies and colonizes Palestinian land. It doesn’t do anything to justify the fact that Israel falsely claims that Hamas militants “hide in hospitals” and then uses that as an excuse to bomb hospitals in Gaza (note that Israel has presented essentially zero evidence to back up these claims, which were debunked in the Goldstone report anyways), killing civilians including many children in the process.

      It also doesn’t do anything to justify the fact that those few Palestinian queers who seek refuge in Israeli society are quite often exploited by Israeli security forces, who for example have recruited them to act as spies on their Palestinian neighbors (which btw has the effect of exacerbating the problems that queers face in Palestine in general, since it tends to breed mistrust and paranoia).

      And just to be clear, queer Palestinians are not granted formal asylum in Israel, because Israeli law prohibits *any* Palestinian from becoming a citizen (even if their family had previously lived on the land claimed by Israel for generations).

      Nov 17, 2012 at 11:29 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Leftytgirl
      Leftytgirl

      Also, Daniel, your reference to “vagina-washing” comes off a bit creepy and misogynistic.

      It’s also cissexist, considering that not every woman has a vagina.

      Nov 17, 2012 at 11:38 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hotboy1423
      hotboy1423

      @greygardenz: you hit it right there bud, israel is gay friendly , obviously like everywhere , there are gay bashers . I live in montreal and is one of the most gay friendly city in the world . However, there is sometimes some homophobic ppl that say stupid comments. What i can say about the connection of occupation and civil rights is that police will find any reason to bash palestians because of hate towards them . Them being gay overshadows the fact that they are gay PALESTINIANS! Case closed

      Nov 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID
      PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID

      gay palestinians are oppressed, ostracised, and brutally murdered by fellow palestinians; AND invaded, dispossessed, oppressed, and killed by israelis too — unless you’re telling me their missiles are programmed to avoid the lovely dark gays, or babies that might have grown up to be gay.

      Nov 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      @Leftytgirl: said…


      It’s amusing to observe that apologists for Israel’s hasbara campaigns have no better defense than to project an imagined narrative onto their opponents, since apparently they can’t answer any of the actual criticisms.

      I don’t know any critics of Israel’s pinkwashing campaign who claim that life for queers or trans people is simple or easy in mainstream Palestinian society”
      ________________

      No better defense? And what better defense is there than “They kill you legally there if you are gay.”

      You anti-Pink Washers are anti-gay bigots plain and simple. If one country said that women should be slaves and sold, and another country said women have equal rights, I wouldn’t give a shit HOW the country with full rights for women acted towards the country that kept them in slavery.

      Trying to deflect from the fact that gay plaestinians are arrested, tortured and often killed there by minimizing it and saying “Oh gee, life is probably easier in Isreal” is the height of anti-gay hate and bigotry. Comparing murder to being a legal citizen?

      Until Palestine stops arresting gays I don’t give a shit any more than I care how guards in a prison are treating some guy who murdered and raped multiple children.

      If they want me to care then stop killing people just like me.

      Nov 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Veritas universalis est
      Veritas universalis est

      To “Cam”, who said :
      “I wouldn’t give a shit HOW the country with full rights for women acted towards the country that kept them in slavery.”

      Really, Cam? Raping and killing a whole nation (Palestine)for over 66 years is hunky-dory so long as a few of them (gay Palestinian asylum seekers) are spared so you can ATTEMPT to use that as the justification for your own malfeasance? If you are a gay-rights defender, you embody the very kernel of why anyone abuses anyone else: because they fail to see beyond their own pet issue. You, like them, fail to see past your own nose.

      Yes, gays do most certainly appear to have it much grimmer in the so-called West Bank or Gaza, or, indeed, just about anywhere in the Arab world than in Israel (which, BTW, has no universal law that awards equality to LGBT people either, which would not justify Norway or South Africa or Argentina, where this is closer to being the case, invading Israel), but that does not in any way mean that whatever Israel does to non-gay Palestinians is justified or somehow doesn’t matter.
      Kudos to you for defending LGBT rights, but your sense of outrage and indignation rings hollow when you cavalierly dismiss the right to life and dignity of ALL Palestinians and all people everywhere.

      Jan 19, 2014 at 2:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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