Friday, July 25, 2014

Queer Liberation is a Contradiction to Zionism

At the time of this writing, the Palestinian death toll in the most recent act of aggression by Israel has reached 844. Most of those who have died are civilians.

This is not the first time Israel has massacred Palestinians nor, sadly, will it be the last.

Every time open warfare breaks out in Gaza, I am stunned by the eruption of outrage and anti-Zionist sentiment among my community. It is heartening to see radical organizers and every day queers leap up in collective anger and sorrow; I feel like I have surrounded myself with the right sort of people. I'm probably correct on that score.

Pro-Palestine noise brigade action. Seattle, 7/24/14

What always baffles me, however, is when I see queers support Israeli apartheid and aggression. Homonationalism is definitely a thing, and it seems to rear its ugly head with vigor every time Israel decides that, based on some pretext or another, it needs to go and kill hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians. Whatever it is that causes some LGBT Americans to identify with the Israeli state's aggression, when war breaks out in the Holy Land, queer voices immediately start to squabble and denounce each other in a fervor to either defend Israel's right to empire or Palestine's right to existence. 

It's confusing to me when queers support Israeli aggression. To them I want to say: don't you know your own liberation is tied with the freedom of the Palestinian people?

Queer liberation was born out of desperation and frustration. A literally riotous movement espousing the necessity of the freedom of our bodies and our ideas, we burned cop cars and disrupted the heterosexual world's status quo in order to fight not just for the right to live without oppression, but (as the AIDS epidemic struck) also simply the right to live. Institutional oppression has long been our enemy; why do our fellow queers now side with the institutions that used to destroy us, and still do, every day?

 Thousands march from Ramallah to Jerusalem in protest on Thursday. They were met with live fire and at least two protesters were killed.

Palestinian resistance is a queer necessity. I say this not just because there are LGBT Palestinians suffering under the yoke of Israeli apartheid and the fear of murder at the hands of the IDF, though we must remember our siblings in Gaza. Can you imagine being HIV-positive in Ramallah, where basic medical supplies and water are in short supply?

I do not say this just to imply that there are intersectional identities that tie us to Palestine, even though there are. Queerness intersects with race in complicated, deep ways that continue to fracture our communities, and you can't scan Israeli opinion without the overt and very real racism at the heart of Zionism slapping you in the face, burning like scalding water thrown in your face.

I say this because until empire is ended, we are not truly free.

Gaza has been transformed into an open air prison, with death raining down from the sky. Much like the massive prisons in the US that incarcerate queer and trans* people of color, Palestinians have their movement restricted and are short of the basic necessities vital to meeting their fundamental human needs. Much like the continued murder and brutalization of trans women in our streets, Palestinian women are exposed to the degradation and death which comes hand-in-hand with Israeli apartheid and aggression. As we snatch and incarcerate people for the simple crime of having HIV, Palestinian youth are kidnapped and tortured in retaliation for perceived slights against the Israeli state.

A Palestinian youth is arrested in Beit Hanina.

To LGBT people who support this Israeli genocide of the Palestinian people I say: you make me weep. Have you forgotten that the equality you have striven for was itself based in the genocide of the people who lived here before us? That still live among us, forgotten? The ability of white American gays to marry came at a great cost, and not just measured in the efforts of LGBT Americans. Our own privilege and freedom was bought in the blood and tears of slaves and indigenous people, hauntingly mirroring the occupation and invasion of Palestinian's homes and lives. How soon we forget.

As long as empire exists, what meaning does our own equality hold? Does it even have any? How can I gloat in my own supposed freedom while people are getting phone calls from the IDF telling them their homes will be destroyed in ten minutes? How are you liberated when empire culminates in children dying, burning, in a cloud of white phosphorus?

My liberation, as privileged as it is, is worthless in the face of this aggression. As the death toll in Gaza mounts, and as white western colonial powers make ineffectual statements or none at all as these murders take place, our western efforts for equality seem empty. Israel itself supposedly prides itself on gay equality; what tragedy that these seeming lands of queer freedom stand idly by while this massacre continues. At what cost have we made these institutional gains, if it means we will instead turn about and strengthen the institutions of oppression that continue to enslave and murder?

We are not truly liberated until empire ends, my friends. I am not liberated, even in the white privileged, male socialized, and American entitled fortress that protects me at the cost of others' freedoms. You are not liberated, fellow queer, as long as people are brutally slain simply because they are guilty of the crime of being imprisoned in Gaza.

No-one is liberated, least of all ourselves as queer and trans* people, until Palestine is free.


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