Struggle over Middle East reaches into world LGBT movements
Published Jul 27, 2006 12:18 AM
Imagine a group of individuals standing on
the deck of an imperialist gunboat, under the shadow of cannons aimed and
readied to fire at a country—formerly or currently colonized. The group is
shouting at the targeted government, “We demand your surrender too, but
for progressive reasons!”
That’s the position of those based
in the imperialist U.S., Britain and France who are directing their political
fire against the popularly elected Palestinian and Iranian leaderships, based on
what they say are violations of gay rights in those countries.
political campaign has ratcheted up. July 19 events in some two dozen cities
worldwide called for regime change in Iran. And the annual “World
Pride” march —incongruously themed “Love without
Borders”—was scheduled to take place in occupied Jerusalem on Aug.
10, making Israel appear to be a bastion of liberty in the Middle East.
But Israel—the apartheid, theocratic imperialist power threatening
the entire Middle East—was blasting the population and infrastructure of
Gaza and pounding Lebanon with U.S.-supplied bunker buster bombs, while the U.S.
Navy Central Command was positioning its war armada off Lebanon’s
On July 21, the Israeli government canceled the pride march. The
stated reason was that the widening war was drawing troops and police who would
be needed to guard the march. The unstated reason is that the Israeli coalition
government needs to cement unity with its own theocratic base. The Israeli
ruling coalition faced a motion of non-confidence from two religious parties
within its government on July 10 that demanded the cancellation of the march in
Taking aim at Palestine
The July 19 events were
taking aim at Iran—drawing handfuls of individuals in some cities, scores
in others—at the same time that the Palestinian and Lebanese people were
at ground zero of the bombs and bullets. This widening Israeli assault in the
region—a proxy war waged in the economic, strategic and military interests
of U.S. finance capital—is also aimed at Iran, as well as Syria.
call for anti-Iran events on July 19 was issued by OutRage!, a British gay human
rights group, and the Paris-based International Day Against Homophobia.
On the day of the July 19 anti-Iran events, Peter Tatchell, an OutRage!
leader, issued a political statement from London in which he argued against the
progressive movement boycotting “World Pride” in Jer u salem, which
had not yet been canceled.
Tatchell claimed that opposition to the
Jerusalem march was coming from groups based in Western countries—a criti
cism more accurately leveled at his July 19 anti-Iran organizing.
Israelis laid siege to Gaza, Tatchell said his organization would actually
prefer that the march be scheduled in Palestinian Ramallah rather than Jeru
salem. But he added that news coverage of the Jerusalem “World
Pride” event would “give comfort and hope to isolated, downcast
queers throughout the Arab world.”
He concluded, “Imagine the
hope and confidence such news will give to isolated, vulnerable LGBT people
across the Middle East,” and that the event “might help trigger the
creation of LGBT movements in repressive, homophobic Middle Eastern states,
Voices from within Palestine and Lebanon sent
a very different message.
Voices from Palestine
is a lesbian, bisexual, trans gender, queer and intersexual (LGBTQI)
organization in historic Pales tine. It is called
“Aswat”—which translates from Arabic to English as
“Voices.” Aswat works with LGBTQI groups and individuals in the
Aswat raised its voices early on regarding the Jerusalem
In the English portion of its web site, Aswat states clearly that
as Palestinian LGBTQI’s living directly under military occu pation, and as
part of a national min ority in Israel, “[W]e are opposing this attempt to
hold the international pride parade in Israel, particularly in Jerusalem, the
heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the pride parade will be at a time
for the gay and lesbian community to cele brate, Palestinians in Eastern
occupied Jeru salem will continue to suffer under intensified checkpoints,
increasing racism, house demolishing, confiscating IDs and expanding of Israeli
“Therefore, ASWAT—a Palestinian gay women
group—decided not to take part in the World Pride 2006.”
promotional DVD for the Jerusalem events had promised “great
parties” and stressed that “out” gay and lesbian soldiers can
fight in the Israeli Army. The propaganda DVD denounced the Palestinian
Authority for its alleged treatment of its same-sex-loving population and
claimed that the Palestinian resistance—the Intifada—made it harder
for lesbian and gay Palestinians to “escape” to Israel. (The
Coalition to Boycott World Pride)
Aswat emphasized that these are soldiers
in an occupying, oppressive army. “This is an insult to our struggle for
freedom and tolerance. In Israel, violence and hatred are articulated through
homophobia and xenophobia, and this very same violence is evident in racism,
occupation and war crimes.”
In a recent interview, Aswat co-founder
and group coordinator Rauda Morcos explained, “We are focusing on our work
within the Palestinian community. We believe we need to have our allies within
the community before having them around the world. This is very important
because without the support of our community, we cannot exist. The other thing
we are focusing on is deliberating the change that is happening within the
Palestinian community without comparing that to what is happening in the world.
Each community has its own ways, its own scale, its own time, and our time has
started, and we’re happy with that.”
When asked how
Palestinians viewed her as an “out” lesbian, Morcos concluded,
“I think Aswat’s existence proves there are seeds of change. I think
we are on the agenda—of the Palestinian social agenda. I think we’re
there, and I think it’s very important that the change has to happen. I
think it wouldn’t happen without Aswat, and it wouldn’t happen
without the support within the community and without having supportive media in
our community.” (gay.com)
Lebanese support for
The group Helem (translated into English as
“dreams”) describes itself in the English-language portion of its
Arabic website as a non-profit organization in Lebanon, working on various human
rights issues, including LGBTIQ equality.
As part of its emergency action
under Israeli bombardment, the website explains that the Helem center is helping
to provide shelter, food and other supplies to the refugees who have poured in
from the southern suburbs of Beirut and the south of Lebanon.
The organization states, “Helem supports the global
movement to boycott Jerusalem World Pride 2006 as part of the international
boycott of, and divestment from Israel. Helem strongly condemns holding World
Pride in a city beleaguered by violence and conflict, and where the words
‘Love without Borders’ belie a reality of separation, ubiquitous
borders, destruction of homes and livelihoods, land theft, gross human rights
violations and the apartheid policies of Israel.”
that, “the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders should not
be placed in competition with the long struggle of the Palestinian people,
including Palestinian LGBT people, for self-determination, for the right to
return to their homes, and the struggle against apartheid and the occupation of
Progressive opposition to the week of “World
Pride” events in Jerusalem had been building around the world. The
march—expected to draw tens of thousands—would have violated the
widening call to boycott Israel, infused the settler state’s tourism
economy with cash, and politically promoted the Israel settler state as a
“democracy” in the Middle East.
Faisal Alam, a gay Muslim of
Pakistani descent who co-founded Al-Fatiha—an international gay Muslim
organization—wrote that the Israeli occupation of Palestinians is so
brutal that, “With this in mind, I cannot support an event that will
seemingly ignore the suffering of Pales tinians—both queer and
straight—in the Occupied Territories, the West Bank and Gaza.”
The Coalition to Boycott World Pride, which described
itself as “individuals and groups working for the liberation of all
oppressed peoples,” stressed that “LGBT, intersex and other
queer-identified people, should not be placed in competition with the long
struggle of the Palestinian people, including Palestinian LGBTIQ people, for
self-determination, for the right to return to their homes, and the struggle
against apartheid and the occupation of their lands. We urge all people who seek
peace and justice to support the travel boycott of World Pride Jerusalem as part
of the boycott of Israeli goods, and the call to divest from Israel.”
Turn the political guns around!
This political struggle
regarding Iran and Palestine takes place within the context of a burgeoning
battle between imperialism and the countries of the Middle East that are
resisting its demands to surrender their sovereignty and right to
Those who argue that Islam is the problem and that
pressure from the imperialist democracies—who have historically arrayed
their forces under the banner of Christianity—is the solution are lining
up with the oppressor in this war, not the oppressed.
It was colonialism
and later imperialism that imposed anti-“sodomy” laws—a term
that comes from the Bible, not the Quran—from Africa to the Middle East,
from Asia to the Americas, in its effort to restructure social relations in
these countries to its economic interests.
The French Mandate imposed
anti-sodomy laws in Lebanon; the British Mandate made it law in
Imperialism is not going to bring democracy as a form of state
rule to the Middle East or Central Asia or any other part of the world it seeks
to dominate economically.
In the imperialist centers, democracy is a form
of class rule by the capitalists over the vast laboring class. But even in a
democracy, state repression—particularly against nationally oppressed
peoples within the imperialist citadels—is cruel. And challenge to
capitalist rule can shift the form of state quickly to a more iron-fisted rule,
as the rise of fascism in Germany, Italy and Spain
Imperialist super-exploitation around the world requires a
much more brutal form of state dictatorship than democracy. The Iranian people
remember. They lived under a fascist “regime change” by the U.S. and
Britain that installed a king—the Shah—on the peacock
Imperialism is not looking to bring “progress” to the
oppressed. Washington cheered the restoration of semi-feudal social relations in
Afghanistan after drowning in blood a democratic revolution there that had been
supported by the Soviet Union. And the CIA has brought medieval torture
techniques, employing anti-gay and anti-trans humiliation and violence, to its
makeshift prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq.
For decades, U.S. imperialism
has waged a war to annihilate the left-wing leaders of resistance movements in
the Middle East and Central Asia, creating a void that the Islamic forces are
So now, imperialism—which had relied on some of these
same forces to crush communist resistance in the region—has turned to
Islam bashing as its justification for economic and military warfare against any
government and people who resist its rule, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Iran to
Like the German Homosexual Eman cipation movement, which was
derailed when it supported is own ruling class on the eve of World War I, any
progressive movement that does not fight its own imperialist bosses and oppose a
war for an empire built on super-profits surrenders its independence and kneels
before its own oppressor class.
The gay liberation struggles in the U.S.
during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s gained power from organizing against the
Korean and Vietnam wars.
It is too late to expose the pretexts and
“justifications” for imperialist war after the fact. The movement
for sexual, gender and sex liberation needs to turn its political guns around
now on the real enemy of the world’s people—imperialism!
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