“Israeli Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid! Don’t ‘Let it B’! Boycott Tel Aviv Pride 2017!”
Israel’s Tel Aviv Pride 2017 claims to celebrate diversity, but underneath the rainbow Israel is hiding 69 years of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. While this year’s official theme is acceptance of the bisexual community, with the slogan ‘Let it B,’ the annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade is really nothing more than an exercise in international diplomacy. Israeli government agencies work hand-in-hand with Israeli LGBTQ organisations to promote Tel Aviv as a liberal haven in order to distract international attention from its daily violations of Palestinian rights. The Tel Aviv Pride Industry does not stand on its own. Each year, international journalists, LGBTQ organizations, the gay party and business circuit, gay travel organizations, artists, drag queens, and filmmakers are invited not only to promote and attend Tel Aviv Pride, but moreover to give legitimacy to Israel’s ongoing oppression of Palestinians.
Israel discriminates against its Palestinian citizens (25% of Israel’s population) with over 50 laws, which render them second class citizens. For half a century Israel has maintained a military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, denying Palestinians basic human rights. Israel is also committing a “slow genocide” against the 1.8 million Palestinians living under an illegal blockade in Gaza and continues to construct its illegal Apartheid Wall. Israel censors dissent and critique incarcerating thousands of Palestinian political prisoners; and denies Palestinian refugees their UN-sanctioned right to return to their homeland.
Pinkwashing – as Palestinian queer and solidarity activists call it – is part of Israel’s cynical PR strategy called Brand Israel, which aims to divert attention from Israel’s crimes against Palestinians. The acceptance of LGBTQ people and LGBTQ rights, rather than equality and justice for all the people in the land, functions as the yardstick for Israeli democracy. To lure tourists to Tel Aviv Pride, the government claims “one of the novelties about Tel Aviv, is its tolerance and acceptance of the LGBT community,” while it is deliberately concealing its continued ethnic cleansing of nearby Jaffa. After Brand Israel failed to change Israel’s tarnished image due to the successes of the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) in exposing the brand, Israel developed a new propaganda strategy. ‘Tel Aviv Global’ aims to build an identity for Tel Aviv that is separate from Israel’s larger political context. Its “gay” image is central to these efforts. Israel’s leading gay tourism agency, Outstanding Travel, promotes Tel Aviv as a place of an “unlimited amount of freedom,” while taking tourists to the militarily occupied Golan Heights to prepare for a day of pride celebrations.
If you go to Tel Aviv Pride, your identity, body and money will be used to hide the everyday reality for Palestinians of occupation, apartheid, and colonialism. Tel Aviv Pride seeks to turn you, in the words of Tel Aviv Municipality LGBT spokesman Yaniv Weizman, into “an ambassador for Israel.”
This is why Palestinian queer activists call upon international LGBTQ communities and tourists to boycott Tel Aviv Pride. As Palestinian queer activists and BDS activists, we ask international journalists, LGBT organizations, artists, tourists, drag queens, companies, travel agencies, and filmmakers to boycott Tel Aviv Pride and related events such as TLV Fest. We ask you to reject any invitation by the Israeli government and Israeli LGBT organizations to join, sponsor, or report on the pride parade. We ask you not to lend your platform, voice, or body to the promotion of a criminal and settler colonial state. We call upon you to Boycott Tel Aviv Pride and Gay Tourism to Israel. We call upon you to respect the 2005 Palestinian Call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) until Israel:
Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantles the Wall;
Recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;
Respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
Until such demands are met, traveling to Israel for Tel Aviv Pride or gay tourism provides direct economic, political, and moral support for Israel’s ongoing crimes against humanity, its racism, and its system of apartheid. You are not wanted because you are gay, but because your gayness can be used as a tool to give face to false promises of tolerance and progress resulting in the oppression of Palestinians.
“Israeli Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid! Don’t ‘Let it B’!
Boycott Tel Aviv Pride 2017!”