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Let's separate gay life and politics

Let's separate gay life and politics

First of all, happy Pride month, an internationally recognized occasion meant to celebrate the impact and accomplishments that LGBTQ people have had in the world. Tel Aviv Pride was held earlier this June over in the Middle East, and Xtra recently published an article as a follow-up called “Pinkwashing and Israel,” by Mya Guarnieri. I take issue with the author’s association of LGBTQ life in Israel to the unrelated topic of the conflict between Israel-Palestine – an apple to an orange – all under the accusatory banner of “pinkwashing.” Guarnieri has constructed an argument based on poor logic that rejects the achievements of the LGBTQ Israeli community, while offering no real solutions for peace in the process.
 
Obviously both LGBTQ rights and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are both important discussions worth having, and like all other sociocultural issues neither will see progress without a constructive dialogue. However, arguments like Guarnieri’s are based on logical fallacies. Is this an article about LGBTQ life in Israel, or about a deeply complex conflict between two populations of people over the entitlement of land? Use of the term “pinkwashing” suggests there are certain pro-Israel powers that be who conjure up LGBTQ news stories exclusively for the purpose of diverting attention away from the Palestinian conflict – as if Pride is just some sleight of hand meant to distract from/deny “demolitions” in Al-Arakib. Everything pink in Israel is apparently just propaganda, part of a larger communications strategy of indoctrination designed to manipulate public perception and conceal the West Bank behind a giant rainbow flag.
 
Israeli nation-branding is most definitely a conscious effort by some designed to shape opinions of the country (something travel and tourism departments around the globe have in common), and Israel’s progressive gay rights are often used in that effort as an effective PR tool. However, what Guarnieri and others are so quick to dismiss is that those gay rights in question are indeed real and true. The process of branding a product (in this case Israel) is meant to highlight its best qualities – the appealing attributes and ideals of a product that will then inspire consumers (in this case the people of Israel/the world) to develop an emotional connection to it. Using liberal gay rights or fun images from Tel Aviv Pride is an extremely smart and successful way of branding Israel as an amazing international gay destination – but remember Guarnieri, it’s actually an amazing international gay destination. Those attributes and ideals of the brand are true. You can’t sell a pig just by branding it a cow . . . it has to actually be a cow.
 
I had the opportunity to visit Israel earlier this month, both for the Tel Aviv Pride festivities as well as part of a larger tour of the country. I’ll say this with certainty: the rumours are true. Pride celebrations were incredible, comparable in look, feel, size and sentiment to all major Canadian events I’ve attended in years past. Tens of thousands came from literally all over the world to party out and proud, in the streets and on the beach. As with other Prides, it was an occasion to mark one’s own self-affirmation of a queer identity along with an appreciation for the positive support of the host city/country for the LGBTQ community. I think the state of Israel has one of the most impressive gay rights records in the world, let alone the Middle East. The list includes workplace and anti-discrimination laws, the recognition of gay marriages performed abroad, benefits rights for same-sex partners, adoption rights, surrogacy rights, protections for gay military personnel and more.
 
Guarnieri's article pays no real heed to the fact that LGBTQ people and our allies may actually just be sincerely proud of Israel, and that’s what the waving of the flag earlier this month was about.
 
Perhaps for once we should look beyond the conflict and celebrate LGBTQ life in Israel, without reducing the achievements of our allies abroad to some sort of marketing attempt to cover up Palestinian unrest. Just as gays and lesbians know what it’s like to have critics reduce our identities to unfair stereotypes, Israelis have a right to be known for more than just conflict. Moreover, they deserve – as do the Palestinians – to not be subjected to simplistic, black-and-white condemnations like “apartheid.”
 
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a difficult and important issue well worth discussing, where both sides have experienced tremendous violence and loss. I make no claim to be an expert in this area, but clearly neither is Guarnieri. There is a serious disconnect when a writer casually links a country’s gay rights reputation to the rest of its government’s foreign or domestic policies, an empty attempt at making being anti-Israel a queer value. Is Toronto Pride some sort of veiled cover-up for Canada’s complicated relationship with its aboriginal populations? LGBTQ rights should not and are not being used as whole or complete indicators of human rights in Israel. They’re meant as indicators of LGBTQ rights. Apples and oranges that live under the same fruit umbrella, but are different and distinct.
 
Let’s instead spend our time considering where Israel still has to go – perhaps in developing thoughts on why Pride parades are different in Tel Aviv vs Jerusalem, or looking at why transgender people are not yet able to serve openly in the military, or even a further exploration of LGBTQ rights for Palestinians. For now, I think we’re focusing far too much energy attacking the impact and accomplishments of our fellow gay community members in Israel, which ultimately only serves to reinforce walls of separation, both real and imagined. 

Dan Fricker is a gay Canadian writer with an appreciation for both sides of the coin.
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Comments

Only in Toronto
No, there is something wrong with Toronto and its gay politics. It's better to just ignore Toronto, avoid Pride here altogether, and attend Pride events in other cities. Most cities in the world know how to hold a Pride that is a self-affirming celebration of being gay -- without the hateful politics. It's only in Toronto that this shit happens.
Regan
QuAIA doesn't and hasn't ever dominated Pride, its those who've been trying to silence and/or ban Toronto queers from Toronto Pride because they don't share the same point of view who have been dominating Pride. There was no fuss the first year QuAIA marched before the efforts to silence and/or ban them from participating in Pride began. I imagine QuAIA will be around as long as Israeli apartheid continues but I don't expect the efforts to silence/ban them will continue. Mainly because I think those leading the charge against QuAIA realize that their efforts to silence them have done far more to spread QuAIA's message than QuAIA ever could have done on their own. But the QuAIA debate did a very good thing by reinvigorating the political aspect of Pride.
QuAIA's domination of Pride
Rich, QuAIA will dominate each and every Pride to come. They're not going away.
Michael
I very much agree with you that much more attention needs to be paid to the situation of first nations people in Canada, land claims, land theft, pervasive anti-aboriginal racism and so on. Its very unfortunate that the debate over QuAIA and censorship at Pride has been so overwhelming in the past couple of years, hopefully that will end now after the DRP has made its decision. But the reality is that the vast majority of human rights issues that have been addressed by queer activist groups in Pride over the past 30 years were ignored by the majority of people attending Pride long before QuAIA who only came to dominate discussions because of the concerted efforts made to silence them at Pride, without that they would have been as ignored as every other queer activist group usually is by most people. It seems the majority focus solely on the party aspect, the beautiful people on the corporate floats, or on the groups that addressed issues of immediate interest of queers in Toronto. If anything I believe that the QuAIA debates have helped bring political and human rights issues in general back into focus at Pride, hopefully lasting well into the future long after QuAIA has stopped being an issue. I'm not aware of any queer group that addresses issues related to first nations people in Canada, but if there aren't any and its something you feel passionate about you yourself can start such a group to help educate or advocate for aboriginal rights in Canada. It only takes one person to start any activist group. Such a group focused on aboriginal issues and rights would surely grow and develop over time as there are many interested even if they're not currently actively doing anything about it. I'm sure members of existing queer activist groups of whatever sort would be happy to help a new queer activist group get started. The more people involved in activist groups the betetr for all.
Well said!
"There is a serious disconnect when a writer casually links a country’s gay rights reputation to the rest of its government’s foreign or domestic policies, an empty attempt at making being anti-Israel a queer value."

The above is a very eloquently written sentence that says it all. Islamists are using gay people to further their own pro-Muslim cause which cannot be any further from what is good for gays. Wake up, people!!

The Muslim agenda has conquered feminism, and now it's going after gay opinion.
Thanks Dan
great piece, to be honest, I don't see the palestinians walking for the rights of aboriginals here in Canada, they walk for their rights, ill walk for mine. And if ill bring in other issues to my PRIDE, it will be relevant issues like progression in Israel, not regression in Palestine. The fact of the matter is, ill walk for them here, they will kill me there, I rather celebrate. Have a good day, thank you dan, Israel, keep up the good work re: LGBTQ rights, wishing you peace and a quick resolution to this conflict.
Politics
Thanks to Ryan and Bob for pointing out my misreading of what Fricker is saying about the place of politics in Pride. I guess my point was simply that Pride should actually address important political issues, whether they are expliciltly queer (gay or trans rights, lgbt immigration issues, et cetera) or otherwise political. If there's a group of queers who start an environmentalist group interested in raising awareness about the tar sands, they should have a place in Pride. There's a host of other issues here at home and abroad that are being overshadowed by the rather divisive debate over QuAIA and Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and queer settler colonialism in Canada is one of those issues. It strikes me that people are so willing to talk about occupation and territory in Israel/Palestine, yet are pretty unconcerned with aboriginal land claims, occupation, and boundaries at home.
At last
I am not jewish, nor am i a supporter of Israel, or the palestinians, I am so annoyed by the issue, but this piece hits the issue spot on, Pride is for everyone to advocate for gay rights not for gays to advocate on any issue, last i checked, gay people arent banned from anti-Israel demonstration, so wait for your turn QUAIA, pride is about GAY RIGHTS! if you want to bring up the palestinians... DO SO by advocating for their rights to be gay @ home...
Next
I read one sentence and scrolled to the bottom before I fell asleep.
Thanks
Thank you for this piece. I hope that many others read it.

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