a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Israel-Part One.

Posted on: November 25, 2011

 On Thursday the New York Times published an op-ed about Israel’s Pinkwashing.  The article is based mostly on Israel’s use of LGBTQ rights as a mirror for the open-minded acceptance of LGBTQ Israelis by the government.  Reading this article, after only being back in the U.S for 24 hours was…eye-opening.  The complexity of the trip I went on still cannot be put into words.  I had an extraordinary time, but it was also incredibly difficult in many ways. 

Several parts of this Op-ed that resonated with me based on spending almost two weeks in Israel, on a LGBTQ trip to Israel, and meeting with LGBTQ leaders in the Israeli and Palestinian community.  The ones that struck a cord, being the only person of color, on the trip are the following:

“…the co-opting of white gay people by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political forces in Western Europe and Israel. ”

“These depictions of immigrants — usually Muslims of Arab, South Asian, Turkish or African origin — as “homophobic fanatics” opportunistically ignore the existence of Muslim gays and their allies within their communities. They also render invisible the role that fundamentalist Christians, the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Jews play in perpetuating fear and even hatred of gays. And that cynical message has now spread from its roots in European xenophobia to become a potent tool in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“What makes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies so susceptible to pinkwashing — and its corollary, the tendency among some white gay people to privilege their racial and religious identity, a phenomenon the theorist Jasbir K. Puar has called “homonationalism” — is the emotional legacy of homophobia. Most gay people have experienced oppression in profound ways — in the family; in distorted representations in popular culture; in systematic legal inequality that has only just begun to relent. Increasing gay rights have caused some people of good will to mistakenly judge how advanced a country is by how it responds to homosexuality.”

While in Israel we met with several dozen LGBTQ  individuals representing organizations in Israel, but only one Palestianian organization and only one organization that focused on Transgender rights.  We were lucky to have  met with a member of the Knesset, whose feelings about the government’s public acceptance of gays and the actuality of homophobia, hatred and discrimination in Israel are often at odds. 

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the whole thing.  That said, I applaud Sarah Schulman for her no-nonsense, frank and honest depiction of the actual situation for LGBTQ Israelis.  While we met with Haneen from Al Qaws, I urged our group, predominantly made up of white men, to put themselves in her shoes.  It’s easy to sit in the comfort of America, with our privilege and cast judgement and opinion about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.  It’s not so easy to listen to the experiences of others, especially experiences that are contrary to what we’d like them to be.  Listening to Haneen wasn’t hard for me.  Listening to her experience as a Palestinian in Israel sounded strangely similar to how I walk through the world as a black person.  Similar to how black people were marginalized, questioned, stopped, harassed, and treated as second class citizens in the U.S not even 60 years ago.  It was easy to put myself in her shoes.  I ask that if you are reading this and you want to send me an ugly comment to put yourself in those shoes first.

6 Responses to "Israel-Part One."

You’re not really addressing if the substance of Schulman’s article is correct or not; which it obviously isn’t.

Also, you contradict yourself in the same paragraph by saying you’re both “privileged” and “marginalised”?

Hi Steve,
Thanks for your response. In my experience being in Israel on a trip with LGBTQ individuals from the U.S (our priviledge) we sat down with and talked to individuals from LGBTQ groups all over Israel from Jerusalem, to Haifa, to Tel Aviv and Palestine. Having just returned from this trip less than a week ago, Schulman’s article does in fact, in my opinion, address the real issue of Israel’s pinkwashing of LGBTQ rights vs. the plight of an entire people who lack the same rights. I do have priviledge, as an American coming to Israel to talk LGBTQ rights without actually living them. The marginalization that I experience every day as a black person in the U.S doesn’t contridict that privilege. Every person of color in the United States are marginalized.

A proper response to Ms. Schulman’s weak piece in the NYT:

I read Jay’s piece today and agree with everything that he said. That said, there were pieces of Schulman’s piece that ring close to home for me, based on spending 10 days in Israel with LGBTQ American Jews. I hope you’ll stick around Mark.

[…] you want to read about my first trip to Israel, check out this post, this one, this one and this […]

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