by Rebecca Alpert and Katherine Franke (originally published in Tikkun Magazine)

This week we were scheduled to speak at the Constitution Center as part of the Equality Forum’s 2012 LGBT Summit. Instead we, a rabbi and a law professor, have withdrawn our appearances at the event, disturbed that the Equality Forum, a major mainstream gay rights group, chose Israel as the conference’s “featured nation” and gained sponsorship for the 2012 Summit from the Israeli Embassy and Ministry of Tourism.

poster

Why boycott a conference that is celebrating the gay rights record of Israel when Tel Aviv was just voted “the world’s best gay city”? Lesbians and gay men have been openly serving in the Israeli military for years, same-sex couples’ marriages have been recognized by the state for some time, and Israel has much better sexual orientation discrimination laws than we do. The Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, often notes: Israel “provides shelter to Palestinian homosexuals seeking safety from Islamists in the West Bank,” claiming Israel is a “gay mecca.” Ambassador Oren was mistaken when he said that Israel gives asylum to gay and lesbian Palestinians. Israel does not grant asylum to any Palestinians, regardless of their sexual orientation, and in fact won’t even let an Israeli who marries a Palestinian share their Israeli citizenship with their spouse. Tel Aviv may have a great gay scene, but most Palestinians will never see it since, regardless of their sexual orientation, they are not allowed to pass through the checkpoints and the Wall to enter Israel from the West Bank.

The Equality Forum’s partnership with Israel comes as a key moment in the process to create a just end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and a fair resolution to the claims both sides have to land and sovereignty in this region. Just last week, the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, added Israel to a list of countries that restrict the freedom of domestic human rights groups, and the Israeli government has stepped up the pace of settlement construction to unprecedented levels, despite an international consensus that this encroachment into Palestinian territory violates clearly established international law. It is in this context that we have decided to boycott an event that peels off and celebrates Israel’s good gay-rights record rather than locating it within the larger problems that plague Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. The one cannot be separated from the other in our view.

Tel Aviv may have a hot and hunky gay bar scene, but the tolerance or acceptance of homosexuality is not as common elsewhere in the country. Israel, like the United States, is a complex place, and is increasingly religiously conservative. A recent report documents that almost half of the out gays and lesbians serving in the Israeli military have been sexually harassed by other servicemembers, and a member of the Knesset who is also an Education Minister recently said that gays “are not people like everyone else,” and that “their lifestyle harms the Jewish people.” If you talk to gay and lesbian Palestinians, Israel’s reputation as a “gay mecca” in the region becomes more of a myth. Since 2000 Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, has had a policy of blackmailing Palestinians who are gay or who are perceived to be gay and threatening to out them unless they become informants against their own people. For this reason, gay people in Palestine have a reputation as collaborators with Israel—as a result some of the homophobia gays and lesbians in Palestine experience is the direct product of the occupation itself.

Palestinian gays and lesbians have urged the gay community in the United States to become more aware of how we have become an unwitting partner in Israel’s efforts to improve its much-criticized human rights record—especially with respect to the Palestinians. Through a policy that some have called “pinkwashing,” Israel has self-consciously sought to rebrand itself as less religious, less militaristic and less hostile, and in so doing wants to deflect attention from the International Court of Justice and UN Human Rights Council’s findings that many of Israel’s policies with respect to the Palestinians violate international law. Through events such as the Equality Forum’s celebration of Israel this week they have enjoined the U.S. gay rights community to become cheerleaders for Israel. It’s one thing to express our solidarity with gays and lesbians in another country such as Israel, it’s quite another to become pawns in that country’s foreign policy strategy.

While it may seem natural for gays to side with Israel—after all they have such good gay rights laws—this support reflects a major weakness of so many human rights movements that tend to prioritize their own struggles without considering the ways in which all forms of discrimination are linked. In Israel/Palestine, gay rights and human rights more broadly are necessarily connected to one another, and treating one domestic minority well does not excuse or diminish the immorality of the state’s other rights-abridging policies. Had South Africa enacted good gay rights laws during the Apartheid era no one would have seen that as excusing their treatment of black and colored people.

To uncritically celebrate Israel at a conference organized around notions of equality and liberty, and have Michael Oren serve as the keynote speaker at the “international equality dinner,” is taken as a slap in the face by our queer brothers and sisters in Palestine as well as by the queers within Israel who are actively seeking a just resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. By avoiding any programming that offers a balanced view of the human rights record of its “featured nation” the Equality Forum lost an important opportunity to be a leader in the international gay human rights movement, and instead allowed itself to be used as a part of Israel’s larger efforts to deflect criticisms of its human rights record.

Katherine Franke is a professor at Columbia Law School, where she also directs the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. In addition to her scholarly writing on sexual harassment, gender equality, sexual rights, and racial history, she writes regularly for a more popular audience in the Gender and Sexuality Law Blog. Rabbi Rebecca Alpert is an associate professor of religion and women’s studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was ordained as a rabbi at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1976 and served as dean of students there for ten years.

Katherine Franke’s Equality Forum talk, presented by video, is available here.

14 comments

  1. Gender & Sexuality Law Blog » Blog Archive » Why We Boycotted …: Lesbians and gay men have been openly serving… http://t.co/EaiKh8tR

  2. Why featuring #Israel as an ideal #gayfriendly nation is questionable: http://t.co/IcoPPusz #LGBTQ

  3. Why featuring #Israel as an ideal #gayfriendly nation is questionable: http://t.co/IcoPPusz #LGBTQ

  4. Why featuring #Israel as an ideal #gayfriendly nation is questionable: http://t.co/IcoPPusz #LGBTQ

  5. Israel has a policy of outing Gay Palestinians if they do not become informants http://t.co/8HSWIgiB

  6. […] Gender & Sexuality Law Blog » Blog Archive » Why We Boycotted the Equality Forum: Gay Rights B…. […]

  7. Why visitors still make use of to read news papers when in this technological
    globe everything is presented on web?

    Review my web-site – landscape design phoenix

  8. Hi! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you
    using for this site? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and
    I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  9. Cheers. Terrific information..
    Thanks. Ample facts.

  10. Hello, yeah this post is actually fastidious and I have learned lot of
    things from it on the topic of blogging. thanks.

  11. What i don’t understood is in fact how you are now
    not really a lot more neatly-appreciated than you may be now.
    You are very intelligent. You already know therefore significantly in terms of this topic, produced me for my part consider it from a lot of numerous angles.

    Its like women and men don’t seem to be fascinated until it’s something to do with Woman gaga!
    Your individual stuffs great. All the time deal with
    it up!

  12. Jе vais te dire qque ce n’est pas inexact ..

    My web site film de baise

  13. Very good article! We are linking to this great article
    on our site. Keep up the good writing.

    Visit my weblog home addition floor plans software

  14. Unquestionably believe that which you said. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the web the simplest
    thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people consider worries that they plainly do
    not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side effect ,
    people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more.
    Thanks

    my webpage … property guru malaysia

Add a comment


Comments are subject to moderation and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of
Columbia Law School or Columbia University.

FEATURED POSTS

CATEGORY CLOUD

"Homeland" Security Abortion Rights Adoption adultery Affordable Care Act Alien Tort Claims Act Amicus Brief Asylum Bankruptcy BDS Bullying Census Politics Children Citizenship Civil Unions Columbia Law School Compulsory Marriage Condoms Contraception Contraception Mandate Cordoba House Criminal Law Cures for Homosexuality Defense of Marriage Act Disability Rights Discrimination Divorce Domestic Partnership Domestic Violence Domestic Workers Don't Ask Don't Tell Economic Justice Education Egypt Elections Employment Discrimination ENDA Estate Planning Events Family Law Fellowships femininity Free Speech Gender and Technology Gender Identity Discrimination Gendering the Economy GSL Online Haiti Hate Crimes Health Care Hilary Clinton Hillary Clinton HIV HIV Discrimination Hobby Lobby Homelessness Homophobia Housing Human Rights Identity Politics Illegitimacy (sic) Immigration Reform In-ing Incest India International Law Islamophobia Israel Justice Sotomayor King & Spalding Labor Trafficking Land Reform Law School Legal Profession Legal Scholarship Lesbian & Gay Parenting LGBT Parenting Marital Status Discrimination Marriage Masculinity Medicaid Michelle Obama Migration Military National Security Obama Administration Obama Appointments Outing OWS Palestine Parenting Pinkwashing Policing Politics of the Veil Polyamory Popular Culture Pornograpy Pregnancy Presidential Politics Prisons Privacy Products Liability Profanity Prop 8 Prosecutorial Discretion Publications Public Rights/Private Conscience Queer Theory Queer vs. Gay Rights Race and Racism Racial Stereotyping Rape Religion Religious Accommodation Religious Exemption Religious Freedom Restoration Act Religious Fundamentalism Reproductive Rights Reproductive Technology RFRA Romania Rwanda Sartorial Commentary Schools Sex Discrimination Sex Education Sex Stereotyping Sexting Sex Trafficking Sexual Assault Sexual Duplicity Sexual Harassment Sexual Health Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Sexual Orientation Discrimination Sex Work SMUG Sodomy Law Reform Sports Supreme Court Surrogacy Technology Title IX Trafficking Transgender Uganda Uncategorized Violence Women and Poverty Women of Color Zimbabwe

Academic Calendar  |  Resources for Employers  |  Campus Map & Directory  |  Columbia University  |  Jobs at Columbia  |  Contact Us

© Copyright 2009, Columbia Law School. For questions or comments, please contact the webmaster.