Categories: LGBTQ2S+ liberation

No queer liberation without a free Palestine!

By Alice Y.

LGBTQIA2S+ solidarity with anti-colonial movements has existed for some time. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Gay Liberation Front, a group fighting for civil rights in the United States, had famously borne the flags of North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front in demonstrations and processions — an act done explicitly in support of the Vietnamese resistance. 

The Palestinian Aswat — Palestinian Feminist Center for Gender and Sexual Freedoms — expressed solidarity with the Cuban Five during their unjust imprisonment. In 2006, Helem — an LGBTQIA+ rights organization in Lebanon — helped inspire the boycott of Pride celebrations taking place that year in Jerusalem. 

In turn, working-class political organizations have recognized the need to show solidarity with queer peoples. Huey P. Newton of the Black Panther Party issued a statement of support for the gay liberation movement in his party’s newspaper on Aug. 21, 1970. Likewise, the Young Lords Party formed an internal gay caucus.

Queers for Palestine

In 1971, Youth Against War & Fascism,the youth wing of Workers World Party, formed its own Gay Caucus — now the LGBTQIA+Caucus. WWP’s Chairperson Sam Marcy made the following statement soon after: “The degeneration of monopoly capitalism into state monopoly capitalism carries to an extreme all the forms of oppression which the capitalist system, in the previous epoch, had engendered and developed. 

“As the crisis of the social system becomes more and more apparent, the need of the ruling class to unload its burden on the most oppressed sections of society becomes more evident. Only by dividing, only by fragmenting and continually pitting different elements of the oppressed masses against each other, can the capitalist establishment maintain its sway over all society, and hope to survive.” (workers.org/2006/us/lavender-red-80/ )

Capitalism fosters division

Capitalism survives on the exploitation of queer people, in addition to oppressed nationalities, migrants, women, gender-oppressed people, disabled people and others. The continuous push to divide the working class and pit oppressed sections of society against each other is the innate tendency of a social order driven by, not divorced from, capital. 

There is a central tendency of the owners of capital to influence society in such a way, wherein groups of people are first oppressed and then prevented from uniting with other oppressed groups. This divide proves advantageous for the maintenance of political and economic power and the hoarding of capital. 

This also prevents the oppressed masses from building power and realizing that their oppression is shared and cut from the same cloth. For oppressed groups to be in solidarity and unity with one another is to hold a knife to the throat of those who possess a monopoly on power. It is for this reason that there has been an active and painfully enduring effort to strengthen these divides. Once we are united and are conscious of our oppression, the paper-thin lie of division will crumble. 

Within the context of the Palestinian genocide, it is of the utmost importance for the LGBTQIA2S+ community to demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinians. We must do so, not only as individuals, but also as members of our community. 

It is also important that we thwart and repudiate any attempts at pinkwashing — a deliberate endeavor designed to blur the lines as to who our friends and enemies are, such as by presenting Israel as “queer-friendly” and ignoring the oppression of Palestine. Pinkwashing is not a brand new phenomenon. It will exist as long as claims around queer rights or their suppression can be misused to delegitimize liberation movements whose aims are antithetical to that of imperialism. 

Bogus rationale for pinkwashing

An article published on Oct. 27, 2023, “The Contradictions of ‘Queers for Palestine’” by Billy Binion in Reason Magazine is a good example of the talking points of Israel and its demagogues. The overarching idea of the article can be summed up in its writer’s own words: “‘Queers for Palestine’ is about as convincing as ‘minks for fur coats.’” This offensive statement implies that the struggle for queer rights is at odds with the liberation of Palestinians. At the heart of this argument is the idea that queer rights are entirely absent within Palestine. 

Although “less than perfect,” the author claims that Israel is one of the most tolerant societies for LGBTQIA+ people. Binion’s reasoning negates the processes of colonization, of the specific history of Israeli occupation, and of queer history. How can it be that one of the most “tolerant societies for queer people” is currently slaughtering Palestinians, including queer Palestinians, at an unprecedented rate? 

Is it true that Israeli munitions are somehow capable of differentiating queer Palestinians from the others? Is it true that Israeli bomber pilots are somehow tasked with taking tallies of queer people before deploying firebombs on schools and hospitals? And as for the shutdown of electricity, medical and food aid — does Israel maintain a separate border crossing for special aid trucks that deliver supplies specifically to queer people? A society that is said to be “tolerant” of queer people cannot have slaughtered masses of them. 

Binion mentions that LGBTQIA+ Palestinians occasionally must leave (leave where?)  and seek asylum in Israel. This is the author’s supposed coup de grâce supporting their argument. What is not mentioned, however, is that nearly all those same Palestinians are met with imprisonment and abuse by the Israeli authorities, specifically because they are queer. Additionally, Israeli intelligence will often blackmail queer Palestinians living in the West Bank into working with their police. 

Binion’s rhetoric and the sentiment that his words evoke is indicative of a greater general tendency among colonists. In “Wretched of the Earth,” Franz Fanon writes in great depth of the constant need for the settlers to impose their logic onto the colonized. Fanon was an Afro-Caribbean psychiatrist, activist and Marxist who joined the National Liberation Front in Algeria fighting French colonialism. The idea that the native is “backward” and is of lower moral quality than the settler is constantly being reinforced by the psychosocial forces of the occupier. 

Israeli propagandists do precisely this when they proclaim that LGBTQIA+ people would be “summarily executed” — in Binion’s words — if they were to demonstrate in Palestine. Firstly, if one calls into question the moral character of the Indigenous population, we must then question the unstable grounds upon which the settler poses such a question. 

Secondly, social phenomena are not random. If it is true that the governing authority in Gaza is explicitly against queer rights, it was settler forces that led to the creation of such a sentiment. British Mandate Criminal Code Ordinance, legislated in 1936, criminalized same-sex activity in the occupied territory of Gaza. 

Colonialists imposed anti-LGBTQIA2S+ bigotry 

It is the colonialists who first brought or exacerbated anti-queer sentiment and legislation into territories they occupied. This was true of Puerto Rico, Mexico and Cuba, where the Spanish colonists and their Catholic monarchs imposed great penalties on previously free sexual and gender expression. 

It is true again of Palestine. The colonialists – in the wake of a Palestinian liberation movement – to manufacture public consent for their genocide, have resorted to preying on supporters of queer liberation — a liberation movement that itself existed due to the oppression of the colonists. To quote internationally renowned trans author and revolutionary Leslie Feinberg, “The white supremacist ideology replaces the colonial claim of ‘bringing civilization’ into imperialist claims that they are ‘bringing democracy.’ But Washington and Tel Aviv have brought ruthless reactionary occupations to the Middle East.” (workers.org/2007/world/feinberg-0419/ )

It must be understood clearly who our friends and who our enemies are. If we are to advance in our struggle for queer liberation, it must be hand in hand with our siblings in Palestine — nothing short of it. We must push for the victory of the Palestinian resistance against its occupiers. We must push for a full decolonization of Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. To do anything less is concessionary, not only for the Palestinian struggle and the struggle for all nationally oppressed groups, but for our struggle as queer people. 

Insofar as Palestine remains under the yoke of the Zionist regime, we must strive to break that yoke. Insofar as the burdens of a moribund system are unloaded bomb by bomb and bullet by bullet, there can never be peace. There can never be freedom for LGBTQIA2S+ people without a free Palestine. 

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