BDS activists demand cancellation of French LGBTQ interfaith trip to Israel

A number of LGBTQ activist organizations from across the world have called upon three French religious organizations to cancel an upcoming interfaith delegation to Israel because it violates the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions. Asserting itself as a “vanguard of a dialogue among spiritualities for reciprocity and solidarity with local LGBT movements,” Beit Haverim, David and Jonathan, and HM2F are French LGBT groups of Jews, Christians and Muslims respectively whose tour next week is partly sponsored by the City of Paris.

Writing at Pinkwatching Israel, the activists explain:

The organizations claim that the trip is “non-political,” but a brief look at their program clearly shows the political dimensions of the trip. Meeting with an Israeli MK, an official from the municipality of Tel Aviv, and French Cultural Attaché in Israel to discuss “cultural relations between Israel and France” are political by nature. Violations of BDS guidelines constitute a conscious political choice. Beit Haverim, David and Jonathan, and HM2F are clearly willing to engage only in certain forms of politics which they deem safe, while ignoring questions of their responsibility, as religious tourists, to refrain from legitimizing occupation and apartheid.

This denial is so powerful that none of the material produced by the organizations for the trip mentions the word “occupation” even once. The only West Bank city on their itinerary is Bethlehem, currently surround by the apartheid wall which segregates 15,000 dunums of agricultural land. Ironically, the wall around Bethlehem serves to isolate and annex the very same religious areas that the organizations plan to visit. Around Rachel’s Tomb and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque, hundreds of Palestinians are isolated between two walls, further strengthening Israeli control of historic, religious, and deeply significant places and strangling the city economically.

In particular, activists questioned the solidarity of HM2F (Homosexuels musulmans de France) with Muslim LGBT people in Palestine.

According to the program, they claim to be in touch with “Muslim LGBT” organization Al-Qaws, when in fact, HM2F only contacted them for a meeting on the 1st of November. This lack of concern is evident not only in their misidentification of alQaws as a Muslim group, but also in their decision to bypass any prior consultation with the Palestinian queer groups they claim to be in solidarity with. In particular, HM2F’s participation comes as a disappointing surprise to the organization’s partners as their involvement directly risks the safety of activists and groups located in Arab societies. HM2F is currently a member of several coalitions along with different Arab and Muslim queer groups, and is planning to join several anticipated coalitions along the same lines. By leading this initiative, HM2F is unfortunately neglecting calls for solidarity and further burning its bridges with these groups, several of whom have criticized them for similar actions in the past.

Three major Palestinian organizations that work on LGBTQ and sexuality issues have endorsed the statement.