When intersectional advocacy flies out the window

Israeli pinkwashing is a bandaid over a not-so-hypothetical wound

Graphic Myriam Ouazzani

I have yet to encounter one queer person on social media standing with Palestine who hasn’t received comments like “you wouldn’t last one day there.” These kinds of interactions have become too common in online spaces, where boundaries are non-existent and everyone has something to say.

Whenever a queer person has tried to advocate for the liberation of Palestine—and especially since the events of Oct. 7— We are repeatedly told that we should not be sympathizing with the oppressed because of the idea that queer people don’t belong in the Arab world. The implied meaning behind these statements is that the settler colonial state of Israel is the saviour we have been waiting for; that it is the long-awaited messiah that has arrived to pull the Middle East out of its prehistoric rut and introduce it to the almighty Western lifestyle.

The idea that Israel is a haven to LGBTQIA2S+ people is false. The first indicator should be that same-sex marriage isn’t legal there—and it should be obvious, were it not for the hypocrisy that surrounds the treatment of white queer people in contrast with that of queer people of colour. The Israeli government has been indiscriminately killing Palestinians for 75 years now, regardless of the fact that some of them are queer. Just go read some of their dying wishes on Queering the Map.

How can this state call itself the only LGBTQIA2S+ safe space in the region when its government is actively eradicating members of this community? How can it boast a feminist agenda when the very principles it was built on are ethnic cleansing and the exclusion of the other? How can people who are too far-removed from the reality of queer people in the Middle East tell me what I should and shouldn’t stand for?

One thing has always been true: in times of crisis, Arabs, no matter their personal background, are expected to push a typically Western narrative against their own people.

At some point in our lives, we are forced to choose between uprooting our lives and moving to the “civilized” world, ultimately funding the destruction of our countries through tax dollars, or staying in the Middle East and killing our futures, our hopes and our dreams. As Arabs, we exist in a binary that pits the different aspects of our identities against each other. We are forced to choose which one we value more.

I should not have to pick. We have come so far in our understanding of advocacy and intersectionality that, to me, the mere idea of having to betray a part of myself for another cause is absurd. 

There is no Palestinian liberation without queer liberation simply because there are queer Palestinians and vice versa. One cannot pretend to care about a cause if they are going to later use it as an excuse to spread hate and a harmful narrative. 

I am tired of the double-standards surrounding the topic of Palestinian freedom. I am tired of the ignorance surrounding queerness in the Arab world. I am tired of constantly having to frame my story in a way the Western world deems acceptable. Our erasure from the narrative only works to further push an agenda that harms us all. We just want to exist without having to explain what we stand for and why we shouldn’t have to.

The two-facedness of typical Western advocacy is one that is so easy to dismantle with logic and facts, yet so hard to undo because of the amount of propagandic media content the US and Israeli government have been putting out

In the first two weeks of June, Tel Aviv’s Instagram account turned into a page solely promoting the city’s pride celebrations, conveniently diverting the public’s attention from the war crimes the Israel Defense Forces commit while people party. The dichotomy between the way people in the West advocate for different things is something that bothers me deeply and is a prime example of how internalized bias is something that every person must actively work towards overcoming.

I am tired of the deafening silence as Arabs and Palestinians die, that is only interrupted by outrage when a queer person calls for ethnic cleansing to end. I am Arab. I am queer. I do not need some random person on the internet telling me I’m dumb for wanting my community’s pain to end.

Social media has given some people the confidence to think they have acquired an overnight PhD in Middle Eastern studies, therefore qualifying them to share with the world a ridiculous two-sentence, meaningless statement that does more harm than good. Newsflash: Being Arab and queerness are not mutually exclusive. Being queer and saying “free Palestine” should not be controversial.