In 2005, Palestinian artists and civil society called for a boycott of the Israeli government due to its appalling disregard of international law and human rights. Since then, people of conscience worldwide have heeded the call. We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Palestinians against the Zionist colonization of Palestine. In addition, we stand against the use of queer identity as a...
In 2005, Palestinian artists and civil society called for a boycott of the Israeli government due to its appalling disregard of international law and human rights. Since then, people of conscience worldwide have heeded the call. We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Palestinians against the Zionist colonization of Palestine. In addition, we stand against the use of queer identity as a shield with which to deflect criticism of ethnic cleansing and apartheid policies.
The Consulate General of Israel to New England is touted as both a “Community Sponsor” and “Top Supporter” of the Boston LGBT Film Festival. Through this partnership with the Israeli government, the Boston LGBT Film Festival is taking a side in the conflict. Whether intentional or otherwise, the festival’s cooperation with the State of Israel undermines its claim to supporting justice, equality and dignity for all people. Moreover, when the LGBT film festival collaborates with the State of Israel, it lends credibility – in the name of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals – to a government censured worldwide for its nearly 65 years of ongoing colonization and ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The festival’s complicity in the pinkwashing of Israel’s crimes offends our conscience as queers and as human beings.
Furthermore, Israel’s claims about being a safe haven for queer people bear little relation to the truth. Queer Palestinians are not welcome in Israel, and special permits are issued only under very special circumstances to allow Palestinians into Israel. Being queer, however, is not one of these circumstances. Moreover, Israeli police are constantly engaged in profiling people who look Palestinian by checking ID cards. If queer Palestinians are apprehended by police, they serve prison sentences and endure deportation; many report humiliation and beatings while in prison. For queer Palestinians, Israel is anything but a haven of freedom and inclusivity.
And what about rights to life and dignity for Palestinians under the thumb of Israel’s colonial domination? Subject to the omnipresence of Israel’s gay-inclusive, colonizing military, Palestinian movement is controlled and monitored by hundreds of Israeli checkpoints and obstacles throughout the West Bank. In Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, Palestinians face the threat of home demolition and increasing violence at the hands of Israeli settlers. Palestinians who live within the borders of 1948 Israel contend with institutionalized racism in the form of at least 70 discriminatory Israeli laws. Israel’s Great Apartheid Wall – dividing Palestinian families, communities, and land – emerges as the symbol writ large of Israeli colonization and ethnic cleansing.
If there is an authentic desire to understand the experiences of LGBT people in the Arab world, the film festival can take leadership from organizations of Palestinian queers such as Aswat, alQaws, and Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. But showing a film funded by the Israeli Consulate is a clear violation of the guidelines for the international BDS movement – that is, the movement to boycott, divestment from and sanction the Israeli government for its egregious abuses of human rights. The Boston LGBT Film Festival’s decision to accept sponsorship from the Israeli government is therefore a collaboration with the Israeli project of colonization and its oppression of the Palestinian people.
In so doing, the festival is taking the wrong side in an historic moment that marks the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. Just this week 2,500 Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike - many of whom have been on strike for over 70 days. Millions of people of conscience worldwide support them and the BDS movement.
It’s a shame that the Boston LGBT Film Festival has been unwittingly hijacked as a vehicle for Israeli propaganda, thereby contributing to the erasure of Palestinian history and people. We appreciate the Festival's Communication Director's willingness to learn more about BDS. We look forward to future meetings with the Festival Committee and to the opportunity extended to include a member of our community in pre-screenings to insure next year's festival is a celebratory queer space for everyone.
Salma Abu Ayyash, Diego Millan, Dr. Emily King, Susan Barney, Bhavin Patel, Rev. Jason Lydon, Kade Crockford, Dr. Heike Schotten