The Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC and PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) will host Anat Avissar, the foreign policy director of The Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association (The Aguda) for an “informal conversation” this Wednesday on the topic of “equality” and “the cultural differences that impact support, education and advocacy in Israel.”
Israel has been strongly criticized for promoting itself as a haven for LGBT rights and sex tourism in an attempt to co-opt what it sees as progressive support, and distract from its human rights abuses against millions of Palestinians, a tactic that has come to be known as “pinkwashing.”
Avissar is visiting the United States to keynote this past weekend’s National Union of Jewish LGBT Students (NUJLS) conference at American University. The Aguda has been actively involved in promoting tourism to Israel and is a sponsor of Tel Aviv Gay Vibe.
Participation in this Israeli-government sponsored event violates the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel. PACBI further interprets the BDS call as it applies to cultural and academic boycott:
We, Palestinian academics and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid, by applying the following:
- Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;
- Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;
- Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;
- Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;
- Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.
It is important to note that all of these guidelines target Israeli institutions. Anat Avissar and other Israeli individuals are not subject to boycott simply because of their nationality. PFLAG should refuse Israeli government sponsorship of this event.
Katherine Franke’s letter to PFLAG
Katherine Franke, professor of law at Columbia University, has shared the letter she wrote to Jody Huckaby yesterday. As of Tuesday morning (9 AM Eastern), Huckaby has not responded to Franke’s letter. In her letter, she writes:
I write you now, however, to express some concern about a meeting that is underwritten by another state government, through its embassy. I am particularly concerned about the degree to which the Israeli government has enlisted members of the gay community to be part of larger foreign policy efforts to repair Israel’s international reputation. Aguda, unfortunately, has played a key role in this national re-branding campaign, and I hate to see an organization as important as PFLAG become implicated in a public relations campaign that will likely tarnish its well-earned reputation.
Earlier this year, Katherine Franke participated in a LGBTQ delegation to Palestine and stated her support for the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel. In reflecting on her visit to Palestine and the people she met, she had this important insight about solidarity:
…foreign support for the Palestinians in the form of money, aid workers and teams of “experts” (myself included) pour into Palestine seeking to improve the lives of women. Millions of dollars, euros or yen are easily available so long as gender-rights frame the “scope of work”. But by “gender” the donors really mean “women”. Just as with gays, Palestinian culture is understood as toxic and dangerous. Thus, Israel traffics in gay rights to “pink-wash” its international reputation, while the donor community “estrogen-washes” virtually all of its work in Palestine. In both cases the “backwardness” of Palestinian culture and tradition justifies the intervention of others to save its women and gays. When issues of sexuality and gender in Palestine are occupied by the agendas of outsiders, solidarity is tough if you want to avoid the traps of identity set by others.