Monday, July 18, 2016

Here We Go Again

"Pinkwashing?" Let's lose the facile labels and try a real, civil conversation.

On July 14th, 2016, the Pride flag was raised at City Hall in Halifax, NS.  For the first time in recent memory, I wasn’t there for the flag-raising.  I heard about it, though, from members of the LGBTQ community, members of the Jewish community, and allies who have no connection to either community other than that they support both.  And what I heard angered me, saddened me, and left me feeling very, very tired.  Since Thursday, I have responded to articles posted to Facebook.  I have shared my own status updates with pictures I took at the Pride March in Jerusalem.  Although I wanted to address the subject – the very messy subject – in a more substantive way, it has taken me this long not simply to gather my thoughts, but rather, to find the energy to once again educate people who have often consciously chosen not to be educated.  It is easier to accept a more dramatic narrative, perhaps, especially when that is the one you hear first.  It is easier to believe what you hear if the Jewish community does not stand up and speak out – because if we do not speak out, could it be that we have no defense against the charges constantly leveled against us?  (If you know your history, you may recall that the last time Jews sat quietly and hoped simply to be left alone to live their lives, 6 million were murdered.  Saying nothing has not proven to work for us.)
And what are my credentials for opening my mouth about this?  I’m a Jew.  I’m a Halifax Jew. I’ve actually been to Israel, unlike many who protest against it.  I have been an ally to the LGBTQ community my entire life –before I was a mother, and certainly before I knew that my daughter was gay.  I have been called a Nazi, and I have been spat upon and told that Hitler didn’t use enough gas, by people who support the idea that Israel is oppressing Palestinians.  That behaviour alone has nothing at all to do with Israel’s domestic policies and its right to self-determination: it is Jew hatred, plain and simple.

I know – as many who disagree with Israel do not seem to understand – that no group is a monolith – so you won’t hear me say “all” of any group.  Not “all Jews,” not “all Christians,” not “all Muslims,” not “all lesbians…”  We could go on there, but I think you get the drift.

Following the flag raising, a petition was created by Queer Arabs Halifax (you can read it here: https://www.change.org/p/halifax-pride-there-s-no-pride-in-pinkwashing-petition-to-halifax-pride-to-ban-tel-aviv-tourism?recruiter=48993661&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLink) in which they assert that “Tel Aviv Tourism ostracizes and alienates Arabs and people of colour;” and further, that “Tel Aviv Tourism participates directly in pinkwashing for a state that engages in armed conflict where human rights and international humanitarian laws are being violated.”

So let’s talk first about that.  Pinkwashing, you say?  What’s that when it’s at home?  Simply, it refers to the charge that a country highlights its welcome to members of the LGBTQ community in an effort to deflect attention from what those who make the charge term human rights abuses.  Oddly enough, that charge has only ever been levelled at Israel.  Perhaps the Queer Arab group is unaware of Israel’s record on human rights in general, but specifically regarding LGBTQ Israelis.

When
What
1998
Decades-old policy prohibiting any type of sodomy was repealed.
1992
Workplace discrimination against LGBTQ persons prohibited.
1993
Israeli Defense Force approved policy that LGBTQ members could serve in any capacity.
1994
Supreme Court ruled in favour of spousal benefits for same-sex couples.
1997
Defense Minister announced that same-sex partners would be recognised as family members.
2000
Legal age of consent for LGBTQ persons lowered from 18 to 16.
Supreme Court ruled that lesbians could become the legal adoptive parents of their partner’s children.
2004
LGBTQ couples qualify for common-law marriage.
LGBTQ couples qualify for full inheritance rights.
2005
LGBTQ couples granted full adoption rights.
2006
Israel recognised same-sex marriage performed abroad

It is abundantly clear that Israel has a history of working towards not simply tolerance or acceptance of its entire LGBTQ population, but rather, full equality.  If you check the records of many other western nations, you will not see this steady progression.  And if you check the records of other countries in the Middle East, you simply will not see this at all.  In fact, it is not “pinkwashing” to state what is true.

Some Historical Context
The Jewish people have been indigenous to the land of Israel for more than 3,000 years; in fact, Jewish communities existed in the land more than 1,500 years before Islam appeared there.

More than 150 years ago, many Jews began returning to Israel, and by 1860, Jerusalem had once again become a majority-Jewish area.  In 1920, the international community recognised the indigenous rights of the Jewish people and endorsed the restoration (not the creation!) of this Jewish homeland.

The Jewish people accepted that others also now lived on that land and supported the UN’s 1947 recommendation to partition the land so that Palestinian Arabs could establish the first Palestinian state.  That didn’t go so well.  Arab leaders – then, as now – refused to accept any Jewish state and have historically dismissed any compromise that allowed for a sovereign Jewish nation in the Middle East.  Instead, they launched a war with disastrous consequences for their own people and have continued a policy of violence and aggression towards Israel.  After the 1948 war, more than 850,000 Jews fled rising persecution or were expelled from other Arab and Muslim countries.  In fact, between 1949 and 2000, as the Jewish population dropped dramatically throughout the Middle East, the Palestinian population increased from about 180,000 to 1,215,000 (Note: fails the definition of genocide.)



What About the West Bank?
The West Bank figures strongly in any protests about Israel.  Israel’s efforts to find peace have been soundly rejected, in 1937, 1947, 2000, and 2008, largely because agreement would mean accepting the right of Israel to exist as a nation.  Israel has both the right and the obligation to protect its citizens, and so it does maintain a West Bank presence – if terrorist did not continue to endanger, assault, and murder Jews, there would be no need for it.  There is no evidence that the Palestinian Authority wishes to prevent such terrorism – to the contrary, there is incontrovertible proof that Palestinians celebrate the murder of Jews (http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Palestinians-celebrate-terror-attack-in-Tel-Aviv-Saudis-strongly-condemn-456344); and further, that they teach hatred of Jews even to small children.


If this is Israel’s peace partner, how is it that Israel alone is held responsible for the fact that there still is no peace?

Israel entered the West Bank after it was attacked by Jordan in 1967.  It was obligated by UN Resolution 242 (1947) to administer the area until peace (or at least d├ętente) was reached.  While it took more than a decade for much calming to occur in the area, by way of agreement with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994, the PLO still refuses peace. 

What about Gaza, though, and those illegal settlements?
In fact, the settlements, which account for less than 1% of the total West Bank area, while they are a hot topic, are legal and supported by Israel’s legal, historic, and security interests in the area.  The settlements do not violate UN Resolution 242, nor any agreements made under the Oslo Accords.  Nonetheless, Israel hasn’t authorised new settlements since 1993 and agreed to freeze building in existing settlements in 2010.

Remember that there were no settlements when Palestinian leaders launched attacks against Jews in 1920, or when Israel was attacked in 1948 and 1967.  In a further effort to reach peace, Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, evacuating all Gaza settlements.  You need only pay slight attention to the news to see that this did not bring peace.  Following the disengagement in 2005, terrorist attacks and hostility actually increased, as Israel faced barely a day without being bombed by Hamas.  In fact, Hamas, whose charter is explicit in its wishes for Israel and for Jews, has fired tens of thousands of rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians since 2005.  Children’s playgrounds in the Israeli city of Sderot, which is at the border with Gaza, must have bomb shelters due to the frequency of attacks.  The Hebrew writing on the structure tells children to enter as soon as they hear a red alert.  This obscenity on a children’s playground must exist because Hamas targets children and other civilians.  They have launched attacks at kindergartens, hospitals, and yes, playgrounds.


Israel inspects shipments to Gaza, which infuriates Palestinians and their supporters; however the UN’s Palmer Report confirms that the weapons blockade is legal.  Both the Red Cross and the World Health Organisation have said repeatedly that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and acknowledge the weekly delivery of thousands of tons of aid – and yes, this aid is inspected for weapons, because history has proven that there are continual attempts to get weapons into the area to use against Israel.
Gaza is ruled solely by Palestinians and shares a border with Egypt, over which Israel has no control.  Israel does control its own borders, of course, along with its airspace and coastline, to protect its citizens.

Well, what about that awful wall?  The apartheid wall?
The security barrier was a direct response to campaigns of violence against Israel in 2000. The 2nd Intifada killed more than 1,000 Israeli men, women, and children. People of every tradition and ethnicity were targeted by the attacks, and Palestinian leaders have since admitted that the barrier has obstructed suicide bombing missions.

BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions
The BDS movement has hijacked social justice language to promote the elimination of Israel and to question its right to exist as a sovereign nation.  It promotes misinformation and outright lies to isolate and delegitimise the nation.  Even its cofounder, Omar Barghouti (who received his university education in Tel Aviv, Israel) states clearly, “We oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.”  Because the BDS movement insists that Israel itself and much of the land surrounding it are part of a nation called Palestine, it denies the right of Israel to remain in the land where Jews have lived for more than 3,000 years.  You are encouraged to read the booklet “Explaining BDS,” which you can find at www.standwithus.com/booklets/ExplainingBDS

The unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood was an effort to circumvent any meaningful negotiations to peace, which would have had to occur with Israel.  The move violates all international treaties the PLO signed with Israel, as well as UN Resolutions 242 and 338, which call for negotiations.
Does this look like expansion to you?



A Few Words About the Hamas Charter
It is worth being very explicit about this.  Make no mistake about it: Israel’s “peace partner” does not want peace.  The slogan shouted by Palestinians and their supporters in the diaspora, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” means only one thing.  The only thing between the river and the sea is Israel.  For Hamas, only the utter destruction of Israel will help it meet its goal. 

The Hamas Charter is easily available, and here are a few examples for you that may shed some light on why this peace process has failed every time.
From the preamble: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

Article 7:  “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees.  The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me.  Come and kill him.”
Article 13:  “Initiatives and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement.”

What do you support if you support the demands of Queer Arabs Halifax?
Pride has always been political.  It has also always been – or tried to be – inclusive.  And it has done so in a climate that was sometimes very hostile. The demands of Queer Arabs Halifax to exclude one group are dangerous: they say that the group ostracises them and other people of colour, when in fact, as has been said, they would be safer in Tel Aviv than they would in any other Middle Eastern country.  And what about the effects of such an exclusion on Queer Jews? Jews already face plenty of hostility, even in beautiful Halifax.  The message here is that it’s ok to exclude Jews, and that flies in the face of the message of inclusion of Halifax Pride.


For anybody to align themselves with a group that supports the delegitimisation of a sovereign nation, that supports the annihilation of Israel, and that also has a long history of LGBTQ persecution is to align themselves with hate.  This is not the Halifax I know.  This is not the Pride I know.