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January 3, 2022 11:47 am

Accusing Israel of ‘Pinkwashing’ Negates the LGBTQ+ Palestinian Experience

avatar by Jordana Marciano


People take part in an annual gay pride parade in Tel Aviv, Israel June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Corinna Kern

A recent review in The Concordian by Aysha White covered four short films at the “Queer for Palestine” film festival held in mid-November in Montreal.

Showcasing the lives of queer Palestinians is a laudable goal, and telling their stories can help give encouragement and hope to LGBTQ+ Palestinians.

Unfortunately, maligning Israel, as these filmmakers have done, will do nothing to advance the Palestinian cause, or help gay Palestinians.

The film festival “used art to combat the violence of Israeli apartheid and pinkwashing,” wrote White, describing “pinkwashing” as “a form of propaganda that portrays (in this context) the Israeli government as being inclusive to the queer community (in contrast to the Palestinian government), though that isn’t necessarily accurate to reality.”

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But White is very wrong. Indeed, for gay Palestinians, the situation is quite dire.

There are LGBTQ+ Israelis and Palestinians, but only in Israel can sexual minorities enjoy the freedom to congregate openly, to express their identity without state-sponsored persecution, and to live in peace and security with same-sex partners.

Sexual minorities in Israel, Jews and Arabs alike, enjoy rights that their Palestinian neighbors are denied daily by their Palestinian leaders and society. White is entitled to her own opinions, but she isn’t allowed her own false and inaccurate facts.

There is no doubt: the biggest oppressor of queer Palestinians is the leadership itself, whether Hamas or the Palestinian Authority (PA). Hamas, which rules Gaza, bans homosexuality as an illegal practice. In reality, the punishment can sometimes be severe, with some families executing gay relatives.

Even under the “moderate” PA, there are no Pride parades. Queer organizations are banned, and members are regularly arrested. According to a spokesperson for the PA, such activities are prohibited because they are “unrelated to religions and Palestinian traditions and customs, especially in Nablus.”

If the organizers of this film festival believed in the human rights of these beleaguered Palestinians, they would speak out against the true culprit: Hamas and the PA. Instead, they’ve revealed they only care about “human rights” when Israel can be blamed.

Just as then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an audience at Columbia University in  2007 that “we don’t have any homosexuals like in your country,” Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are attempting to oppress their way into a new reality, where authoritarian regimes can invent their own facts.

It may surprise the “Queers for Palestine” filmmakers, but in the Arab world, Israel has been seen as a safe refuge for LGBTQ+ travel precisely because of its openness and legally enshrined tolerance. By repeating the same baseless anti-Israel allegations that Palestinian leaders have been employing for decades, the “Queers for Palestine” filmmakers are causing irreparable harm to the group they claim to be helping.

Jordana Marciano is a Hasbara Fellow at Concordia University.

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