In recent years, whenever the Palestinian issue comes up or we talk about Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ human rights, attacks or massacres of Palestinians , the topic quickly turns to the LGBTQI+ issue. The questions or arguments raised by those aligned with Israel to queers like me (regardless of where we live) are all similar to each other. Statements such as “You are defending Palestinians who will drown you in a spoonful of water,” “HAMAS calls for the massacre of LGBTQI+ people,” “Palestinians are bigots and homophobic” or threats such as “If you love Gaza so much, why don’t you go there,” and “Palestinian jihadists will throw you off the roof” are repeated ad nauseam. The “antithesis” of these discourses is, of course, endless praise for Israel.
If you find it difficult to understand why the LGBTQI+ issue becomes an argument against objecting the massacre of Palestinians, it would be useful to look at Israel’s “pinkwashing” strategy, which has found a strong response in the West and anti-Muslim and anti-Arab societies. While Israel spends billions on this strategy based on the claim that it is “the most gay-friendly country in the Middle East,” this claim has rapidly spread in the West through showcasing the Tel Aviv Pride, Eurovision, and gay tourism. The sole purpose here is, of course, not limited to proving how gay-friendly Israel is. Pinkwashing is also part of a strategy to dehumanize Palestinians.
Since October 7, queers like me, who have been speaking out against Israel’s genocide in Gaza, have been subjected to these questions, accusations, and threats. Both thinking that it would be good for all of us and in order not to continue this discussion within the boundaries drawn by Israel supporters, I asked a number of people I know: Why do you support Palestine? I compiled their answers for Velvele English.
PS: If you want to take part in the next compilation, you can send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us why you support the Palestinian struggle as a queer person.
Ahmet Can Yılmaz
The violence that started on October 7 emerged as a result of 75 years of occupation practices. Over the past decades, the Palestinian diaspora in particular has not excluded LGBTQI+ movements in its relations with other social movements; on the contrary, a deepening relationship has developed between these two poles in the academy over time. The threshold of Hamas, which the international community interprets as a depiction of demonic evil, and its parallel innocent Gazan civilians, has recently been crossed by the occupying Israeli state, both in terms of action and rhetoric. The level of barbarism which the occupying violence has reached and the unexceptional application of its violence repertoire clearly show what pure terror is. That’s why I think we have now gone beyond the “terrorism-security” dichotomy, the so-called rules of war, or human rights frameworks. However, we are still faced with a new version of the questions that are considered a prerequisite for finding the opinions of opponents worth discussing (and that sometimes pave the way for people to social death): “Do you condemn Hamas’ rockets?” or “Would you say you disapprove of Hamas’ violence?” are some examples. These questions represent the hypocrisy of the “civilized world”, which has been unable to find a solution to the occupation of Palestine for decades. Since the institutions and activists representing LGBTQI+ subjectivity were adept at understanding the nature of the oppressor-oppressed relationship, they did not have difficulty in finding the right approach and did not fall into the trap of the terror-security dichotomy. In the Anglo-Saxon-centered political arena, they largely stood in solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Afterall, they have been turning Israel’s “LGBTQI+ friendly” policy, which is one of the pillars on which it bases its illusion that it is the only democracy in the Middle East, upside down with the pinkwashing conceptualization since 2010s.
I find the “Israel-Hamas war” rhetoric of those who know closely the Middle East politics of the imperialist coalition, of the media that represent them, and of their spokespeople both sad and ridiculous. This rhetoric appears to have collapsed as occupying violence escalated from October 7 onwards. Although counter-violence brings with it a debate regarding its methods and leadership, it does not deserve an approach that masks Palestinian resistance against the occupation. In recent days, videos similar to the torture scenes in Abu Ghraib have begun to appear before us from the West Bank, where Hamas and its rockets are absent. Those who embrace the Israel-Hamas war rhetoric are expected to find a formula for this as well. Diluted definitions of “terrorism” and brutality seem to me to be nonsense, as if counter-violence is not something imposed on Palestinians (whether Hamas or not), something that surrounds them and even defines Palestinian subjectivity. Lastly, from Bashar Murad’s interview, which I read in Velvele a while ago, “The army (IDF) does not ask the people it attacks whether they are queer or not.” (Translated from Turkish to English: İlker Hepkaner)
Palestine is a queer issue they say… For me, as a leftist and a queer white French person, Palestine was always an important topic, a symbol of decolonial struggle particularly important in the French colonial context. It later occurred to me that it was a queer issue.
It is a queer issue because queers, better than anyone else.can deconstruct Israel’s pinkwashing but also because queer, at its core, is decolonial, antiracist, anticapitalist, antimilitarist, for the end of oppressions, for the freedom of all the oppressed, for liberation. Queer is a fight for liberation.Queers should rise against facism and for a free Palestine.
Like many of us in the West, my understanding of Palestine began with accounts of supposed terrorism, always with no context or balance. As time went on, the glaring holes in reporting became too clear and I set about learning as much as I could—a pivotal moment being lucky enough to see an exhibition by Emily Jacir in Dublin showcasing Palestinian books and artefacts that were destroyed in the creation of Israel to whitewash the past. The historical accounts of the Nakba and the destitution of Palestinians have haunted me ever since. This current escalation, the loss of 8,000 lives and the pain endured by millions, cuts right to my heart and I am ashamed of our Western leaders, our biased media, and the silence and apathy that I see from the vast majority of people I know. Watching genocide happen in real time is bad enough—just imagine being in their shoes. The very least we can do is use our voices for the innocent souls that simply want to live normal, happy lives. Surely they deserve that.
I was raised in a conservative family, exposed to Islamist propaganda. For example, I was taught the awareness of the rightful cause of the Palestinian people in my childhood. I was raised on this awareness. That part of my life was spent in protests about Palestine. Palestine was often on the agenda of our family gatherings. But I wasn’t properly informed and it took me time to realize that. They always told me that this is a Muslim issue, that all the injustices they face are because they are Muslims. But this is not the case. Falling bombs and occupation forces do not discriminate based on religion, nor does gender or orientation. After realizing this, my motivation to support became much more different. This is ultimately a people’s struggle for liberation, just like the struggle of queer people for liberation from the system that exploits them and violates their rights. Palestinians are being massacred because they are Palestinian, apart from their all other identities. But we can also say that this is also an intersectional issue. This is a feminist issue, this is also an issue of the queer struggle, this is a humanity issue. I know that queer people’s support for the rightful struggle of the Palestinian people is crucial in this regard. Because the occupiers tell Palestinian queers that their society is hostile and unchanging, that their identity is a contradiction, and that they can only exist as powerless victims who need Israel to save them. Pinkwashing promotes the myth of the queer refugee in Israel, making it seem as if a colonizer can also provide liberation to the very people they colonize and displace. We shouldn’t forget that pinkwashing is a method of manipulation and it is colonialist violence. Being able to prevent, and even destroy this narrative is one of the crucial things we can do as queers to support the end of this occupation because the occupying state builds its violence and occupation on these propagandas and narratives. This is exactly why I will never remain silent about Palestine and will not allow them to use my identity to justify their occupation until Palestine is free from the river to the sea.
As a trans and indigenous woman, I know the dehumanization of Palestinians very well and experience it myself. I condemn the genocide perpetuated by Israel in Gaza and stand with the Palestinian people. I believe that anyone who uses the fact that I am a queer trans feminist to overshadow this genocide is complicit in Israel’s crimes. I want to underline that all LGBTQ+ people and feminists who are subjected to this should be careful against this conscious strategy.
Leil Zahra Mortada
South of Lebanon
Israel, which is a European settler-colonial project, weaponizes our identities as queers to justify it is ongoing dispossession of the Palestinian people, and its ongoing attempts to ethnically cleanse the land of its indigenous population with the complicity of the world’s warmongers and capitalist extractivist powers. As queers, we have a responsibility to reject this weaponization and to wholeheartedly support the Palestinian struggle for liberation. I am also mobilized to support Palestine by my commitment to anti-colonial struggles worldwide, from Western Sahara to Wallmapu, from Kurdistan to Aotearoa and beyond. My fight against the Israeli Apartheid is rooted in my dedication to the fight for justice and freedom. From uprisings against despotic regimes like Syria, Russia, Iran and Bahrain to the struggle against prisons and European border violence, to combating all forms of racism and speciesism, to the abolishing of police, cis-het-patriarchy, and white supremacy. I view all of these causes as interconnected and inseparable, from each other and from the Palestinian fight for liberation—from the river to the sea.
It is a frustrating feeling to witness how the entire world is watching the genocide in Gaza. The hypocrisy of the West is just a bitter reminder how nothing has changed in the world. While Israel calls Palestinians as human animals and defines this war as a war to defend the children of light against the children of darkness; while the West shows “full support” of such genocidal politics, it feels like we haven’t moved a single step forward since the war on terror. Following the horrible events unfolding in Gaza from Germany, where I am currently located, is also very uncanny. Germany has turned into a state of censorship, oppression, and cruelty, which reminds me very much of Turkey, my home country. Similar to the dangers of talking about Turkey’s taboo topics such as the Armenian Genocide and the Kurdish Struggle, it is increasingly becoming difficult in Germany to have a critical stance on Israel’s politics. The monolithic public voice in media and politics that supports Israel reminds me so much of the Turkish propaganda machine around the Kurdish struggle. We as queer migrants from Turkey know the signs and codes of increasing authoritarianism.
It is extremely hard to witness all of this from Berlin, Germany. I am now literally able to understand much better how the Holocaust took place here. The majority of the society doesn’t care about the genocide happening which we can watch live from our phones. There is no news about the thousands of Jews protesting against or criticizing the state of Israel. Instead all the solidarity demonstrations for the Palestinian people are labeled anti-Semitic. Meanwhile Neo Nazis got second place in the local elections in Hessen. Germany refuses to deal with its own deep anti-Semitism and with all its institutions, from media to schools and universities, uses this situation to demonize everybody who is in solidarity with Palestine and make them responsible for the anti-Semitism in the society. It is very sickening to see. Me and many friends, Muslims and Jews, currently feel trapped and scared because of the state politics .
On the other side, as always, it’s a gift being part of the queer and trans community. We find moments of breathing by coming together as Muslims and Jews at demonstrations or grieving events, and we just hold each other. Only solidarity will keep us alive.
As a queer person, the place they want me to position myself in is, of course, on the side of liberal(!) Israel. That’s because Israel, which organizes “incredible” pride events attended by hundreds of thousands of people, portrays a magnificent image and promises queers (especially cis-gays) a HEAVEN in the “hell of the Middle East.” But we all know that Israel is doing this on a huge cemetery that is constantly growing. It should not be overlooked that in every place where parties are held, on every beach where people swim, in every hotel where people stay, Palestinians once lived and were forced out of their homes by being beaten, tortured, and killed. As a queer person, I refuse to be instrumentalized to cover up these despicable crimes and to be a part of this delusional freedom created by Israel, which turns the lives of Palestinian queers into hell with threats and blackmail. On the other hand, I do not agree with the myths that “Palestinian people are LGBTQI+phobic, misogynistic and reactionary” that are imposed on me while I stand in solidarity with Palestine. This is again a weapon used by occupying Israel to close the doors of solidarity with the Palestinians. The Palestinian people are a society in which queers, women, children, socialists, anarchists, Christians, and atheists live. The language that codes them as “radical Islamist cis-het men” and dehumanizes them is the language of the occupier. My sexual orientation cannot justify Israel’s massacres of Palestinians and the occupation. That’s because I don’t want anyone in the world, even homophobes, to be the victim of such horrific violence. Moreover, if we wanted to punish homophobes violently, we would have to start from the “Civilized West,” which has a terrible record in this regard. Against this hypocrisy and manipulation of us, queers, with pinkwashing, I will -outright- continue to stand by Palestine and against Israel’s occupation and violence. Today and always! (Translated from Turkish to English: İlker Hepkaner)
(an italian in) Brussels, Belgium
“They say you cannot be openly queer in Palestine.”
LGBTQ+ people’s rights are being used as a straw man argument to fuel hatred on Palestinian people and their struggle to survive a genocide. More than ever we should stay on Palestinians’ side because our rights shall not be manipulated to justify, in a twisted and perverted way, oppression, dispossession, displacement and the killing of an entire people.
I’ve always supported the Palestinian cause, I couldn’t not. As an Irishman, I know full well the weight of colonial violence and what it can do to a country, especially when that violence is coming from the largest imperialist powers in the world. What sickens me, as a gay man, is the Israeli weaponization of sexuality, the way they have pinkwashed themselves into fooling people that they’re progressive and accepting, and the way they push the homophobia of some in Palestine as a means of undermining support for Palestine. I don’t care if Hamas or Fatah don’t support queer rights, there are still queer Palestinians worth fighting for, and even if there weren’t, my humanity supersedes my queerness.