Editor’s Note: Yesterday Gay City News reported that the LGBT Center of New York City would bar lesbian author Sarah Schulman from reading and discussing her new book, the subject of this review. Hundreds of people from around the world have already signed a petition urging the LGBT Center of New York City to end their policy of censorship and allow Ms. Schulman, a veteran activist, decorated scholar and author of 18 books, to appear there.
Schulman believes in queers to solve the world’s problems.
Israel/Palestine and the Queer International is a queer memoir from Sarah Schulman in which she uses her journey as a lesbian American Jew overcoming ignorance to illuminate the most “encouraging progressive development in grassroots global politics of our day”: the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. What excites her about the campaign—which aims to end the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the “Apartheid Wall”; to recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and to respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194—is the playing, and need to play:
It has been many years since I have become aware of a political movement with so much potential for progressive change. Not since ACT UP in the 1980s—also a movement of severely oppressed people facing hugely distorting mythologies with no right. And just as ACT UP was able ultimately, to change the world, I see that kind of radical potential in the Palestinian queer movement today.
I understand what it means to be indigenous to a land and to feel the spirit of our ancestors calling on us to return in the face of ethnic cleansing and colonization.
Ever since my childhood, I have always felt a deep connection with Native Americans. At the Ramallah Friends School, a Quaker institution established in Palestine over a century ago, we learned about our shared history as indigenous peoples who have faced ethnic cleansing by European colonists and the importance of nonviolent resistance for freedom and dignity. Many Palestinians and those in solidarity with our struggle had hoped that Joy Harjo would be principled in heeding the calls of another subjugated people. We have been profoundly dismayed by her recent decision to accept funding from Tel Aviv University, an Israeli state institution, and to not only perform there on Monday but also to serve as a Writer-in-Residence. Soon after hearing this disappointing news, Native American peers of Harjo, including Robert Warrior, called on her to boycott the event. The Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) sent an open letter to Harjo imploring her to honor the boycott. A USACBI petition generated over 2,000 signatures within 36 hours. Harjo disregarded these requests and announced that she would proceed with the performance. Her statement expressed sympathy for Palestinian and Jewish suffering without acknowledging that many American settlers—like their Israeli counterparts—had also faced persecution in Europe, and that Jewish and Israeli voices have been invaluable to the BDS movement. Harjo crossed the picket line. She helped provide legitimacy to an institution that sits above the ethnically cleansed Palestinian village of Shaykh Muwannis while supporting the Israeli military occupation which is illegal under international law.
A leaked internal report regarding the protests targetting Frameline has exposed clandestine arrangements between the film festival management and Israeli government officials. The report includes a series of emails that show Executive Director Kenneth C. Price colluding with Israeli consul general Akiva Tor to counter protests by anti-occupation activists targeting the 35-year old film festival. Frameline, the longest-running LGBT film festival, accepts payments from the Israeli government as sponsorship for programming Israeli films, an exchange that violates the international boycott of government-sponsored cultural and academic events from Israel. Independent Israeli artists and their work are not targeted by the call to boycott.
The private emails reveal an intimate personal relationship between Mr. Price, who has been with the San Francisco-based festival since 2008, and Mr. Tor, including discussion of film programming months before the films were officially announced. While Mr. Price was publicly defending Frameline’s practices regarding the 2011 protests to The Bay Area Reporter by insisting, “Frameline is an arts and culture organization, and we don’t take political points of view,” his private messages show the opposite is true. In the emails, not only does Mr. Price make no attempt to divest from political bias, but that he specifically reaches out to Mr. Tor and others for assistance in fending off the attacks from QUIT. Frameline’s efforts included encouraging a vigorous public relations campaign and Mr. Price’s personal attempts to censor MUNI advertisements purchased by QUIT to raise public awareness about the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine and Frameline’s complicity.
On Wednesday, November 23, 2011 I published an op-ed in the NY Times,(Israel and ‘Pinkwashing’). This 900 word piece attempted to contextualize Pinkwashing. Here is a more detailed documentary history of Brand Israel, Israel’s campaign to re-brand itself in the minds of the world, as well as the development of pinkwashing as a funded, explicit and deliberate marketing project within Brand Israel.
According to the Jewish Daily Forward, in 2005 The Israeli Foreign Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry concluded three years of consultation with American marketing executives and launched “Brand Israel,” a campaign to “re-brand” the country’s image to appear “relevant and modern” instead of militaristic and religious.
“Americans don’t see Israel as being like the US,” explained David Sable, CEA and vice president of Wunderman, a division of Young and Rubicam that conducted extensive and costly branding research for Israel at no charge. His conclusion was that while Israel, as a brand, is strong in America, it is “better known than liked, and constrained by lack of relevance.” Sable elaborated, Americans “find Israel to be totally irrelevant to their lives and they are tuning out…particularly 18-34 year old males, the most significant target.” Brand Israel intended to change this by selecting aspects of Israeli society to highlight and bringing Americans directly to them. They started off with a free trip for architectural writers, and then another for food and wine writers. The goal of these “and numerous other efforts” was to convey an image of Israel “as a productive, vibrant and cutting-edge culture.”
It was with some shock that I discovered my name on a list of ‘LGBT anti-Israel hate organizations’ on a Facebook ’cause page called ‘Queer Support for Israel.’ First, I do not hate Israel — though I have serious issues with the brutal, illegal and immoral Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Second, I’ve been called many things in my life, but I’ve never been called an organization, nor am I one. Third, I couldn’t find any identifiers on the page to indicate who put me on this list of supposed ‘Israel haters.’
Only later did I discover the source of this ‘information’ about me: a ‘public relations professional since 1994′ named Scott Piro who advertises the professional services he provides as including social media, public relations and copywriting to “an eclectic range of clients” — including Caroline Kennedy, Sarah Ferguson (the Duchess of York, presumably), Merrill Lynch, and Tylenol, among others.
Editor’s note: Raafat Hattab’s work will be screened at “Queer/Palestinian: Critical Strategies and Subjectivities in Palestinian Queer/Women’s Filmmaking”. October 20, 7 pm, Yale University. October 21, 4-6, Hagop Kevorkian Center, New York University, 50 Washington Square South.
Raafat Hattab رأفت حطاب is a genderqueer Palestinian performance artist from Jaffa يافا. He uses his own body, family history, and language in his work. There is also a strong element of costume. We met in 2006, when I lived in South Tel Aviv and he showed me warm hospitality in his family home in Jaffa. I co-curated his video and live art in 2008 in Ottawa, Canada at Saw Gallery, in “Radical Drag: Transformative Performance” a highly successful group show about artists complicating drag in political ways. In much of his work, Raafat performs in a non-traditional drag as an MTF persona, ‘Arouse Falastine’ (The Bride of Palastine) عروس فلسطين. The Bride of Palestine is a traditional Palestinian reference to the ancient port city of Jaffa.