Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Don't Boycott World Pride!

A pro-Palestinian coalition is calling for the boycott of the second World Pride, to be held August 6-12 in Jerusalem. (The second World Pride was originally scheduled for last year, but was cancelled because it coincided with the Ariel Sharon-led pullout from Gaza.)

On its website, the coalition states in an open letter:
As you know, many groups have joined the movement to boycott Israeli goods and to divest from Israel in protest of the ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands, the construction of the apartheid wall in the West Bank, and the destruction of Palestinian olive trees, homes, and villages. We believe that the goal of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) liberation is best served by supporting local community organizing while also supporting the liberation struggles of all oppressed peoples.

We support the work of Jerusalem Open House (the local sponsor of World Pride in Jerusalem) in fighting queer oppression, and we understand and respect that LGBTIQ people and organizations within Israel and Palestine will decide for themselves how to relate to World Pride. However, we ask LGBTIQ people from other countries to boycott travel to Israel and not to attend World Pride 2006 in Jerusalem.
I agree with the intent behind the coalition's statement, but I believe the idea of boycotting World Pride is ridiculous, half-baked, and hyprocritical.

First off, boycotting World Pride will only hurt the gay movement, and will not help the Palestinian one. Two wrongs don't make a right, and weakening two movements doesn't make them stronger. I understand why Palestinian groups want to boycott Israeli goods and discourage tourism to Israel: by divesting in Israel, you take away from its economic, and political, power. But divestment only works when it targets the people in charge - rich businessmen, lawmakers, celebrities, etc. In no country in the world does the gay community hold any significant power.

Gay people in Israel, as in every country, are fighting for their human rights, and supporting gay Israelis does not mean supporting Israel. By boycotting World Pride, it merely makes the movement seem smaller and more inconsequential. Lawmakers might not notice 100 gay people marching in the streets, but they will definitely notice 100,000.

Furthermore, because gay people do not hold power, and are not supported by the government, boycotting World Pride will not help the Palestinians. In fact, the boycott might make the lawmakers of Israel happy, which is the opposite of the boycott's intent.

Movements are strongest when they're symbiotic - I'll help you if you help me. The idea behing the boycott - I'll help you in places only that help me - is not a positive step, for it stratifies the movements in importance, really meaning "I'll help you, but only as an afterthought."

If the coalition truly believes in "fighting queer oppression" and supports Palestinian liberation, then it should encourage Palestinian activists to attend World Pride. In turn, the gay movement should encourage its members to attend Palestinian rallies. That is symbiosis, leading to two stronger movements which are more likely to reach their goals.

Secondly, the boycott is hypocritical. Many of the supporters of the boycott are American Palestinian groups, including the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in San Francisco (ADCSF) and Queers for Peace and Justice. This month, the ADCSF marched in San Francisco to protest for immigration rights. Queers for Peace and Justice marched in New York in 2003 to protest Israeli occupation.

The boycott does not want people going to a gay march in Israel because Israel hurts Palestinians. By this logic, since the United States does not endorse gay rights, boycott-supporting groups should not be participating in marches in the US. But they do. And that, my friend, is hypocrisy.

I'm going to do my best to go to World Pride and support gay people in the Middle East and around the world. And I will support the Palestinian cause. I rather support both than neither.

(On a related note, I liked this article in the World Net Daily. I love articles that try to appear non-homophobic, but obviously are. They make me laugh.)

Update June 17:

According to Pink News, an orthodox rabbi is arranging a "modesty parade" to counteract World Pride. It will take place on August 9, two days before the Pride parade, and is organized by Shofar, an orthodox group advocating a "return to religion". A quote:
[The anti-gay parade] will celebrate 20 years of the group, the website states, "Two days before the date on which the vile souls are planning their World 'March of Abomination,' thousands of Jews whose souls have been saved and have chosen God's path will hold a 'Modest march' or incredible proportions.

"It's very occurrence will denunciate the abomination and defilement, will vomit out its participants from among us, and will set fire to their infection. Thousands of Jews from Israel and the world, to whom the purity and sanctity of Jerusalem is important, will demonstrate the extraordinariness of the was of the Torah chosen by thousands."
It's virulent, but a bit poetic, don't you think?

The article also mentions that a counselor for the National Religious Party filed a petition with Israel's High Court of Justice to have World Pride cancelled because it "harms the city's unique Jewish character."


Anonymous Rasha said...

Hi Al-Fil,

While I understand your dismay at the boycotts of Jerusalem World Pride, I think some of your reasoning is questionable. Firstly, for me, holding world pride in jeruslam is akin to holding one in Baghdad's green zone. It is occupied land and it is in a state of war. Secondly, Jerusalem Open House, the organizers of WP, have consistently refused to engage with issues related to the occupation, even in the most basic form of tieing in the theme of "love without borders" as a statement against the ubiquitousness of Israel's imposed borders around the Palestinians. You said: "Movements are strongest when they're symbiotic - I'll help you if you help me" - true, except JOH refuses to denounce the occupation. Symbiosis only works when two groups recognize how their struggles are interconnected, and not just a scratch my back and I'll scratch yours type of business deal. The theme is laughably hypocritical because of this, and because of the fact that most Palestinians cannot even attend due to restrictions on their freedom of movement. The boycott is not directed at Israeli gays and lesbians, it is part of the boycott of and divestment from Israel (if you buy an israeli product, you are supporting the israeli economy, and if you advocate for 100,000 people to travel to Israel for whatever reason, you are supporting the Israeli tourist economy. WP is big bucks, and therefore it does pit the rights of two groups against each other - I want to support the gay movement but at the same time do not want to give any of my money to Israel). Your comparison of boycotting American prides is faulty: the issue is holding World Pride, an international event, on occupied land. Also, and this is the dilemma all human rights activists go through, and to which there is no one clear cut answer: are the consequences of this particular action at this time and in this place worth it? What about the possible backlash against Palestinian gays who already have no support whatsoever and are abused by both the Palestinian and the Israeli systems? What if that backlash spills over to neighboring Arab countries? What about possible Islamist backlashes? Is JOH ready to even consider that, or take any sort of responsibility? When asked about this before, they brushed it off and said that nothing will happen. This remains to be seen, and more importantly, this is a risk they are taking on behalf of others from a position of privilage and protection. World Pride will do nothing but hurt any nascent gay movement in the Arab world and inflame public opinion against it, the reasons why are self-explanatory.

June 25, 2006 3:22 AM  

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