by Gili Ostfield
For those who were in Tel Aviv this past weekend, there was certainly no shortage of events to attend. The city’s week-long LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Pride celebration culminated in the annual parade on Friday afternoon, with no small number of floats, marchers, and spectators. Hailed as the best gay destination in the world on www.gaycities.com, Tel Aviv boasts a fun-filled parade and beach party much in contrast to nearby Jerusalem’s annual March for Pride and Tolerance protest.
The Tel Aviv parade showered rainbows and glitter, trumpeted club music, and featured sparkly dancers of all genders and sexualities. It truly was an event for thousands of LGBT people and their allies to show their pride and openness in an accepting city. It certainly acts as a symbol of which Israel should be proud.
The other event drawing large numbers of people to the streets was Saturday evening’s demonstration “No Social Justice Without Ending The Occupation”. Approximately a thousand people gathered to march from Rabin Square to Gan Meir, where a rally followed. The protestors marched in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians, to say (as noted in event advertisements) “Dismantle the settlements! Your war is not our war. Your occupation is the destruction of Social Justice and Human Rights.”
Aside from the crowds of marchers on blocked-off main roads of Tel Aviv, what do these two events have in common? Is there really any significance in linking the two? The past year’s wave of “pinkwashing” accusations would seem to indicate so. The term gained popularity following Sarah Schulman’s November 2011 New York Times article “Israel and ‘Pinkwashing’”, in which she condemned Israel’s campaign to present itself as a beacon of human rights thanks to progressive and queer-friendly Tel Aviv, while masking the human rights violations of the occupation.
Presumably, the coincidence of the two events was exactly that. Nevertheless, Tel Aviv residents took to the streets this weekend for a broader take on human rights than usual, providing perhaps some relief in light of the recent incendiary events taking place against the African migrants. However, it is still a far cry to tout Israel as a haven of human rights. The turnout at the march against the occupation was predictably just a fraction of that of the Pride celebration. It may be useful to know how many of the marchers had taken part in the Pride parade, but aside from a few people still wrapped in rainbow flags, it remained unclear.
Moreover, there was a significant faction of the LGBT community missing from Friday’s parade. Palestinian LGBT supporters attended a different event, put on by queer Palestinian organization Al-Qaws, which was detailed in the article “Palestinians in Israel reject Pride Week but offer alternatives” on +972. In a protest against the “pinkwashing” campaign, Palestinian organizations discouraged the LGBT community of Palestine from taking part in the Israeli parade but still offered it a chance to wave its rainbow flag.
It isn’t a far leap to expect supporters of LGBT rights to extend that support for other groups targeted in human rights violations. While the Pride parade is certainly a day for joy, celebration and belting the lyrics of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”, it should also be a day for reflection, compassion and solidarity. Tel Aviv may well be a haven for members of the LGBT community to be themselves, and it certainly should be proud of that, but with such a status comes responsibility. The LGBT community thus has a duty to join the effort to grant basic human rights to all in a pluralistic manner.