This reaction shouldn’t come as a shock. People around the world have long practiced boycotts in various forms. In the United States, we have seen the famed Montgomery Bus boycott to fight for African Americans rights, the grape boycott to achieve farm workers’ rights, boycott of and divestment from South Africa to help end apartheid, and the recent boycott of Arizona to protest the anti-immigrant SB 1070. With each of these movements, Americans have recognized the ability to shape decision-making by putting our money where our mouths are and withdrawing our complicity with injustice.
As queer women, we will now boycott Chick-fil-A, just as we would any other service or food provider that is comfortable being associated with such bigotry. But Chick-fil-A isn’t the only focus of controversy and boycott in the queer community today. LGBT Palestinians, along with other parts of Palestinian civil society, have called for a boycott of a country that tries to portray itself as a gay haven, but is increasingly seen as an apartheid state. This time, however, Christine Quinn is on the other side of the debate, “outraged” by the idea of a boycott of the state of Israel.
This debate came to a head in the Village last year when the LGBT Community Center denied queer activists a space that had previously been approved for an event using the word “apartheid” to describe Israel. At an open forum inside the Center to address the tensions that followed, a handful of community members touted Israel’s image as a gay-friendly state in a sea of Arab homophobia, an image the Israeli government and Zionist organizations have carefully crafted. This argument, often relayed with a significant level of fraudulence, has been dubbed “pinkwashing” by those inside and outside the queer community.
Many others at the Center’s forum noted Israel’s abysmal human rights record and its implications for queer Palestinians living both inside Israel and in the occupied Palestinian Territories. As members of Palestinian Queers forBDS have often said, “there is no magic door [in Israel’s wall] for gay Palestinians to pass through.”
As in other struggles for social justice, we must follow the lead of communities most directly affected by the oppression we are trying to fight. In this case, we must listen to LGBT Palestinians who are increasingly joining the larger Palestinian movement for a campaign of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and basic human rights standards. This movement makes three very simple demands: an end to the military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights; equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and implementation of the internationally-recognized right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and their land.
Instead of abiding by this boycott, our government gives billions of dollars of aid to Israel each year and tax-exempt status to organizations that fund the forcible removal of Palestinians from their homes by Jewish extremists. Christine Quinn notes that Israel “need[s] our continued support.” Unfortunately, Quinn is correct; it is U.S. support that in large part enables Israel to continue to treat Palestinians as second- and third-class citizens (and non-citizens) in their own land.
As two queer women who regularly travel to the region, one Jewish American and one Palestinian American, we are all too familiar with the disparity in treatment that we face. This inequality, like the bigotry of Chick-Fil-A’s president, should be faced down with a withdrawal of support until the injustice in question is rectified.