Monday, June 20, 2011

Our Queer Family In Palestine

No, this is not a follow-up to 'Our Mutual Friend', written by some edgy experimental heir to Charles Dickens. It's a phrase taken from a flyer distributed by Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (yes, that's really their name), at a demonstration in front of the Castro Theater on Friday.

Why was QUIT protesting at the Castro Theater? I'll let them try to explain that themselves:

 In case you cannot read it, the cute little pink umbrella says "Israeli pinkwashing does not make me wet!". 'Pinkwashing', a term shamelessly stolen from breast cancer activists, is the new hip term in the BDS movement, for 'mentioning that Israel has a sterling human rights record on LGBT issues'. This is so true that they can't stand it, and must create little derogatory terms suggesting that allowing same-sex partners adoption rights, sending transgendered Israelis to represent the country at major music festivals, and acknowledging same-sex marriage from out of the country are all things Israelis have done simply to change the subject, and try to cover up their unspeakable evil.

Hey, we're not here to ruin anyone's good time, the flyer continues. We just want the same freedom to go out and have fun for all queers. But our queer family in Palestine doesn't have it. Many of them live under military occupation, and all of them live under a rigid system of discrimination and segregation very similar to apartheid South Africa.

This is the passage that makes me consider this otherwise fairly innocuous flyer perhaps the most chutzpahdik piece of writing that I've ever seen in a world full of terrible lies about Israel. Even coming from QUIT, this is a remarkable piece of chicanery. The deception comes in two layers. First is the expected one, which involves  throwing out words like 'military occupation', 'segregation' and 'apartheid', mischaracterizing and spinning the situation of Palestinians living under their own governments in disputed territories.

Second, however, is an almost breathtaking lie of omission. Apparently, you see, the reason our 'queer family in Palestine' is not getting to go out and have a fun day at the Palestinian Gay and Lesbian Film Festival*, is because of the Israelis.

Not because sex between men is a criminal act in Gaza. Not because there is no legislation either by the PA or Hamas to protect gay and lesbian Palestinians. Not because government-sanctioned and enacted violence against LGBT Palestinians is common in both the West Bank and Gaza. Not because gay Palestinians are routinely accused of being collaborators with Israel, a charge that carries the death penalty. Not because gay Palestinians have been pressured into becoming suicide bombers to expiate their shame. Not because in order to live as an out gay man and survive, many young men have made their way illegally into Israel, the luckier ones finding support and shelter within the gay community there.

No, it's not because of this nightmare of socially sanctioned hate and violence against queers of all stripes that 'our queer family in Palestine' isn't having a lovely time marching in the Ramallah Pride Parade*. It's because of Israel.

QUIT's website and print propaganda contains no mention whatsoever of any sort of oppression of LGBT Palestinians by anyone except the ever-convenient Israelis.

They clearly believe that mention the LGBT Palestinians dead at the hand of the PA police, murdered by their own families, or living on the street in Tel Aviv, trying to stay alive and find a place to belong, would be too morally complex and inconvenient to their narrative.

They are betraying those they pretend to claim as family.

*The Palestinian Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and the Ramallah Pride Parade do not exist, except in the blogger's overactive imagination. May they someday exist, in a region filled with peace.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

This Sums It Up

Over at Divest This, some crystal clear words on why the anti-Israel BDS movement differs from other economic sanctions. It's right-on. These words in particular, addressing economic sanctions against Iran sum up what's wrong with the BDS movement:

My friend goes on to add that, unlike the BDS campaign targeting Israel, “the movement to boycott Iran, to divest from Iran and to sanction Iran does not contain within it the demand that the country itself be dismantled. It does not insist that the Persian people have no right to their own state. It does not want to force Iran to merge with another country in which Persians would be a minority. It does even not deny the right of the Persian people to call their state an Islamic republic. It certainly does not claim that the existence of an independent nation of Iran is, under any circumstances, illegitimate.”

The South African Mail and Guardian Suspends Intern for Online Anti-Semitism

The thing that most intrigues, or maybe turns my stomach, about this, is that it is an example of the way the anti-Israel narrative has been permitted to usurp and override the histories and issues of, well, everyone else.

During the First Durban Conference, that UN gathering on racism that turned into a single-minded attack on one country, and one country alone, I recall seeing a picture of two ladies from Brazil, in indigenous Brazilian dress, holding signs denouncing Israel. Indigenous people in Brazil have a lot of problems. I dare say that Israel is not responsible for any of them. But what were these women doing, in front of the cameras of the world, in their beautiful woven dresses? Denouncing Israel, to advance another people's agenda at the cost of their own.

At the same conference, a man who was there to discuss the often dreadful discrimination against, and difficult situation of, the 'scheduled castes' of India, once known as 'untouchables', complained that the Palestinians and their supporters took over everything. His group would hold a demonstration, and the next thing they knew they would be surrounded by Palestinian flags. The struggle of a wretchedly oppressed social group shoved aside--to make room for the neverending, ever-expanding, Palestinian narrative.

And now we have a young South African man who may not be old enough to remember the days of apartheid himself, but his parents and grandparents certainly do. And his first response when asked about it is to effectively deny his own experience, his own people's fight for freedom, and to accede--even actively promote--the ahistorical, dishonest appropriation of the word 'apartheid', and what it meant in South Africa--and to give away his birthright of liberation to the anti-Israel movements.

Ngoako Matsha may be posting anti-Semitic drivel on Facebook, but I'm not angry with him. I feel bad for the kid. He's been brainwashed into giving away what's rightfully his--and he's not even getting a nice bowl of lentil soup out of it.

The Mail & Guardian has suspended an intern, Ngoako Matsha, for an anti-Semitic comment posted on social media platform Facebook. Matsha has been a trainee at the M&G since February 2011, but was commenting in his personal capacity.

In response to a posting by Facebook member Benji Shulman, requesting that users suggest a "basic decent history of apartheid", Matsha posted "Petty apartheid is building tall walls to separate Israel from Palestines." Shulman responded, posting, inter alia, "Thanks for that peace of pseudo-politics but I need something that will stand up to logical argument." Matsha made the following statement in response: "You racists! No wonder Hitler killed all the Jews, because you’re all a bunch of racists."

At 10.23am on June 15, as he was arriving at eTV for an interview with Jeremy Maggs, M&G editor-in-Chief Nic Dawes was informed of the comment by Twitter user @SteveMagid. He immediately spoke with Matsha’s supervisor, who spoke to Matsha and confirmed the authenticity of the comments. By 1.15pm, Dawes had returned to the M&G offices, spoken to Matsha and informed him of his suspension, and that he would be subject to a disciplinary hearing.

In an email sent to staff at 14.12pm, Dawes wrote that "The remarks made on Facebook discussion are fundamentally at odds with the most fundamental values of the Mail & Guardian, the Constitution, and basic human decency. Justifying the Holocaust in this fashion is hate speech and is completely unacceptable in any forum."

The M&G editorial code of ethics clearly stipulates that hate speech is unacceptable. Said Dawes, "I was deeply disappointed and angry when I learned of these remarks via Twitter, and when their authenticity was confirmed by Matsha. Obviously it was appalling to see the Mail & Guardian associated in any way with the hatefulness of anti-Semitism, but more importantly these comments were an awful violation of our most deeply held beliefs, and would have required serious action even if they had never been made public."

The M&G has just completed a series of editorial workshops, at which the outline for a social media policy was discussed, and where it was made clear that the basic foundation would be that an employee would say nothing on social media platforms that he or she would not be willing to see published. Clearly, Matsha's anti-Semitic comment would not be acceptable to the M&G in any forum whatsoever.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Denial of History Continues

Over at Palestinian Media Watch, Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook have a page up about a recent claim on TV by a Palestinian 'researcher and specialist on Jerusalem', that the Crusaders wrote the Psalms. They write:

As part of the continuing Palestinian denial of Jewish history in Jerusalem, a Palestinian researcher and specialist on Jerusalem has claimed that the well-known verse of the Hebrew psalm, "If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill," is not a Jewish source at all. He said that the words were uttered by a Christian Crusader, and have only recently been "borrowed" by Jews and "falsified in the name of Zionism."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Israel in the Gardens

Courtesy of the Younger of Zion. Be sure to watch or forward to the very end--that's when the littlest 100% Palestinian bear got picked up and carried off to bed.

Israel in the Gardens 2011--Release Your Inner Camel

The inflatable camel was with Hillel, and I took a picture of it because it said 'Release your inner camel' on the side of it, and I had never considered having an 'inner camel' before. Also, the camel is a Bactrian. Middle Eastern camels are dromedaries. I discussed this with the Hillel guy, who explained that this was the only inflatable camel on the market. We agreed that it was a Bactrian that had made aliyah.

Welcome to Israel in the Gardens, 2011, a cultural fair featuring Israeli rock, face painting, kids making spice blends, folks selling earrings, and approximately a bazillion people in line for The Flying Felafel. Targeted for hate and protest by Bay Area Women In Black and their peace-loving friends. Let the good times roll!

We, the Mighty Morphin' Zionist Defenders were ready to go. We had t-shirts. We had flags. We had Caterpillar hats. We had khaffiyot yisraelit. We were ready to go. All we lacked was a dance partner.

Here is a lady being wanded, prior to entering the event. I've been to a lot of cultural fairs in my day. Let's just say that at the Scottish Games in Santa Rosa they don't wand you and search your bag when you come in. Same way they don't have security guards outside First Methodist on Christmas Day, but they do for Rosh Hashanah services. But I am grateful for our excellent security teams, because while needing them sucks, needing and not having would suck much more.

Anyway, our dance partners began to arrive...

 BAWIB is always punctual, dreary, and carrying signs that are correctly spelled, although not always fact-checked.

They had great shopping malls in the Warsaw Ghetto, I remember reading about that. Or perhaps what we have here is sheer denial of reality, combined with the pathetic belief that invoking the Holocaust will make the actual situation on the ground irrelevant.

Meanwhile, things were going nicely on the other side of the barricades:

Happy Zionists with a banner


Our waltz with BAWIB was coming to a close. As I've mentioned, BAWIB is quite punctual. If they say noon to one, they show up at noon and leave on the stroke of one. We were not going to be left without dance partners, however. The replacement shift was already getting ready across the plaza, and they were working on...something.

What it was wasn't entirely clear. At this stage it consisted mostly of red and black balloons. They began to add green ones, but were having trouble controlling them. An occasional balloon drifted up to the sky.

As BAWIB marched off into the distance, the first members of the replacement shift arrived. Younger. More excitable. Bearing flags and signs printed by International A.N.S.W.E.R.
Perhaps it's just as well they had the signs printed by A.N.S.W.E.R., since it turns out that they can't spell very well. One would almost think these people were members of the Tea Party.

I couldn't get a clear shot of this man's sign, but it reads "Israel: 63 Yrs. of Ethnic Cleansing & APATHEID". The all-caps was important, but apparently the evil West Bank settlers stole the R.

"Paletinian Ethnic Cleansing". What, is spellcheck a Zionist conspiracy? Don't they PROOFREAD these things? (BAWIB may be hateful, but their signs are always spelled correctly.)

Sadly, the third example of spelling issues that I wanted to post did not come out legibly in the photos. The young man below and one of his friends were both wearing jackets with photographs printed on the back, and a heading accusing "Isreal" of horrible crimes.

By this time there were quite a lot of people in their little area in the street, yelling and screaming. What were they yelling a screaming? I'm glad you asked. They were yelling and screaming "Intifada, intifada, we support the intifada." They were shouting "Falastin Arabiye!" (Palestine is Arab). They were shrieking "From the river to the sea! From the river to the sea!" And they were screeching "Ba ruh, ba dam, nafdeek ya Falastin." (With spirit and blood we will cleans you, Palestine.) And the old crowd favorite "Khaybar, khaybar ya yahud, jaysh Muhammad saya'ud." (Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Mohammed will return.) You know. Peaceful slogans like that.

And then the piece de resistance showed up. You will recall the mysterious balloon item mentioned earlier? Well, this is what it looked like fully assembled.

In case you can't tell, I am pretty sure it was supposed to be a Palestinian flag. It didn't turn out perfectly, but heck, who am I to judge? My side didn't have any balloons at all. We were struck into silence by the sheer threatening force of all those balloons. For a couple of seconds. Then the Israeli guys behind me started screaming, "Balloons! Balloons! Ooooh, can I have a balloon? I want a balloon!"

More yelling. Several people gave us the finger. And then, as the SFPD became politely insistent, the group took their balloons and their signs and their whistle and bullhorns and moved across the street, ultimately leaving behind two young men who wanted to act out. They acted out. They chanted. One of them pulled up his sleeves to show us that he had the words "100% Palestinian" tattooed on his forearms.

It was as this point that the most wonderful thing I had seen all day, inflatable camels included, happened. A young woman detatched from the crew across the street, came back, and grabbed one of the young men (the one shown above), and pushed him in the right direction. The other guy wasn't moving, so she wrapped her ams under his, and hoisted him off his feet.

The cheering from our side (also the hooting) was deafening, and for a moment I thought the young woman was going to put him down and come back to the barricades to yell at us, but she gritted her teeth and carted him off, over the center divider, and across the street.

My inner camel felt good about the whole thing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ah, They're Just Afraid of Getting Their Behinds Kicked, As In 1967

At YNet: Israelis Banned From Turkish Race

Now, this is not QUITE as drastic as it sounds. My first guess was that if you were an Israeli citizen they were officially banning you from being a Turk. Not quite. It's a bicycle race.

A group of Israeli cyclists was banned last weekend from the 2011 Cycling Tour of Isparta in Turkey, after the Syrian and Iraqi teams threatened to withdraw from the competition.

The Turkish cycling association is organizing this year a series of international tours to promote its cyclists in Europe and win a ticket to the Olympic Games.

Israel participated in the first tour, the Cycling Tour of Turkey, but the Syrian team avoided facing the Israelis and the Iraqi team withdrew after the first stage, after learning of the Israeli participation.

Some people might have said that if Syria and Iraq wanted to take their bikes and go home, it would have been reasonable to let them, rather than ban the team that wanted to compete, and were willing to ride with people of all nations. But that would just be silly.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Guest Posting At AnarchoZionist

Hey, check it out! Over at Anarchzionist's place, the Balabusta in Blue Jeans rants about circumcision bans and cartooning bigots.

Trouble at Rafah

When I first heard that Egypt was 'opening' the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, I assumed that would last a few weeks, then there would be trouble, and the gates would be quietly closed again.

Today, Gazans stormed the gate, as Egyptian troops and Hamas fighters struggled to keep control. A couple of notes on CNN's take on this:

First, CNN writes: The Rafah Crossing had been subject to frequent closures by Egypt after the Islamic militant group Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

The closure of the border had been part of an embargo policy by Egypt and Israel aimed at cutting off Hamas, but the embargo created an economic hardship on the Palestinian territory by limiting shipments of goods in and out of the country.

I'll have to check on this, because I may simply be fooling myself, but I have an idea that this sort of language 'closures by Egypt', 'an embargo policy by Egypt and Israel' were not commonly used until after the fall of the Mubarak regime, when the excuse that somehow Egypt was just doing this on Israel's behalf could no longer be used. I may malign the press. I'll try to check into this.

Secondly, CNN states that (i)t is the first kink in cross-border travel after Egypt reopened the crossing with Gaza last week, a symbolic move that signaled the Cairo government's greater support of Palestinian aspirations.

However, even before this, border control was going to remain tight:

The rulings indicate that women, children and men under 18 and over 40 years of age are permitted free passage from Gaza to Egypt; men under 40 will be required to apply for a visa which must be granted by the authorities for entry. A great majority of Gaza's population is under 40. According to a Palestinian official, a total of 23 people were turned away due to Egyptian security concerns. It was expected that by day's end, 1000 Gazans will have left to cross into Egypt.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The "New Egypt" Looks Just Like The Old Egypt

After years of hostility, it looks as though the new Egyptian government may finally simply not allow Jewish worshippers into Egypt for a hilula at the grave of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira.

"After the January 25 revolution, which toppled over the Hosni Mubarak regime, the Jews will not be allowed to enter Demito any more and endanger the public morals and hurt the feelings of its 5,000 residents," Moustafa Rasslan, a lawyer, said.

He called on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has been ruling the country since February 11, to enforce a 2001 court ruling that compelled the Culture Ministry, responsible for the site where the annual gathering takes place in late December and early January, to cancel the Abu Hasira celebrations all together.

"If the SCAF does not enforce the ruling, Damito residents will not allow the Jews come to their village to attend the week-long Abu Hasira Mulid (festival), where they used to behave in a way that contradicts Islamic traditions and public morals under the very nose of security officials of the ousted regime," he said.

Yeah, those guys up there look like a pretty raunchy bunch. Terrifying, really.

A few days after Mubarak went down, a young man yelled at me (as a representative Zionist) on the Berkeley campus that now that Egyptians were free, they were 'free to hate you'. He was, of course, quite correct. Foolish of me, I suppose, to hope that for once a people might gain freedom without attacking the Jews first thing.