Dear LGBTQ organization/group/activist,
We Palestinian queer activists from alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian society, Aswat — Palestinian Gay Women, and PQBDS (Palestinian Queers for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions), are writing to you to express our disappointment with the International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organization’s [IGLYO] decision to hold its General Assembly for 2011, this December, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Even after we contacted IGLYO expressing our deep concerns about the problematic political implications of holding the conference in Israel, they published an ‘Open Letter – 2011 GA‘ emphasizing that they are unwilling to reconsider, and even more, defending their decision and misleading LGTBQ member organizations into normalizing and providing a cover to the Israeli apartheid and oppression of the Palestinian people — IGLYO didn’t only decide to hold their General Assembly conference in Tel Aviv, but they also accepted Israeli government money, participating in a world wide campaign to re-brand Israel and pinkwash it’s crimes. We are therefore calling upon you to help us communicate to IGLYO why their action is unjust and unbecoming of an organization devoted to furthering the rights of queer people and human rights in general.
Israeli policies and occupation do not distinguish between queer and straight. All Palestinians—queer and straight— must deal with the effects of the apartheid wall, checkpoints, and illegal settlements and settlers violence, not to mention living under Israeli military law that strip them off their rights as civilians. All Gazans, including queers, live under medieval and illegal siege in the de-facto open-air prison that is the Gaza strip. And like all Palestinian citizens of Israel, queers are subject to institutionalized discrimination in laws, education, and throughout their public and private lives.
While civil society and organizations should not necessarily be held accountable for their government’s actions, the host organization, Israeli Gay Youth (IGY), is tied directly into the Israeli government’s propaganda and pinkwashing campaign. First, as one of the largest gay organizations in the country, IGY works closely with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to recruit young queers in the army— the same army that occupies and enforces blockades on queers and straights alike in the West Bank and Gaza. IGY, then, is not just a gay organization, but a homonationalist promoter of the same structures Palestinian queers have been fighting against. Secondly, IGY is funded in an official capacity by 15 different municipalities, further violating the BDS guidelines and showing IGY’s complicity with state structures in Israel.
IGLYO’s decision to hold its General Assembly in Tel Aviv, Israel, funded by the Israeli government, not only violates the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions 2, a campaign aimed to pressure Israel into ending its occupation of Palestinian land, emulating the successful anti-apartheid tact’s, but they also actively participate in Israel’s “pinkwashing” campaign, which aims to re-brand Israel as a haven for queers while drawing attention away from its numerous crimes against the Palestinian people. By giving this multi-million dollar campaign another “success,” IGLYO is helping whitewash Israel’s violations of international law, including its illegal occupation and racist policies.
As an organization whose mission is to “combat all forms of exclusion, discrimination, and persecution 2,” it is disheartening that IGLYO is ignoring the oppression of Palestinians, queer and straight alike, despite the fact that IGLYO’s board is well aware of the Palestinians suffering under the Israeli occupation. It seems exclusion, discrimination, and persecution is acceptable when it comes to Palestinian bodies.
Thus, we queer Palestinian organizations have urged IGLYO to move its General Assembly out of Israel. Therefore, we ask you to support our call on IGLYO by doing the following:
§ Ask IGLYO to move their General Assembly out of Israel by signing this letter, or write your own letter to IGLYO’s Board of Directors. Send your letter to: Board@IGLYO.com
§ Endorse our ‘Call for Action’ – send us your group / organization name to: firstname.lastname@example.org
§ Visit IGLYO’s website and leave a comment on their ‘Open Letter – 2011 GA‘ . Tell them why they should move their conference out of Israel.
§ If you’re a European youth and/or student queer, you may not be aware that you’re most likely a member of an IGLYO member-organization. Please visit our Facebook page and scan the list of IGLYO member-organizations. If you find that you are a member of a member-organization, please don’t hesitate to send your organization a letter, urging them to demand IGLYO move the 2011 GA conference to a different venue.
§ Spread the word – post our call on your website / blog, and send this call to as many LGBTQ activists, groups, and individuals.
§ Visit our website to stay updated on the campaign, and contact us if you have any questions. Write to: email@example.com
With your support, we hope to push IGLYO to truly become an organization that values the rights of all queers, including Palestinians, and to stop it from becoming a pawn in Israel’s attempt to promote its supposed queer-friendliness at the cost of Palestinian rights.
Palestinian Queer Groups: alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society
Aswat – Palestinian Gay Women
Palestinian Queers for BDS