Jewish world to queer Jews: gay is great! Caring about Palestinians is forbidden!

Earlier this summer, Israel launched what can best be described as a queer-washing campaign to promote its more tolerant approach to gay rights over the anti-gay, mean, evil, Iranians and Palestinians. Israel’s right-wing supporters may hate Palestinians but this summer, they just LOVE THE GAYS! It’s one of the more cynical uses of liberal and progressive issues as both distraction and wedge.

Whether the organizers were aware of being used or not, it’s likely that the push for a strong Jewish LGBT presence at this year’s San Francisco Gay Pride parade was part of this initiative. Hence the multitude of Israeli flags in the contingent – the Israeli Consulate was all over it.

A group of queer Jews, most of whom work or worship inside the Jewish community, decided to join the contingent but with their own signs which read “Pride in Israel when Palestine is Free ” and “Feygele for Free Palestine.” They had a rude awakening after the parade, learning that while gay may be great in the mainstream Jewish world,  Jews-who-acknowledge-Palestinians-as-humans are expected to stay in the closet.

They write in JVoices:

We, Queer members of the Bay Area Jewish Community and our allies, are deeply saddened by events surrounding the “Jews March for Pride” contingent in this year’s San Francisco Pride Parade.

We wanted to march with “Jews March for Pride” because we are proud to be Queer Jews and allies. We felt excited and privileged to have a place in the San Francisco Pride Parade to celebrate our whole selves as Jews and Queers.

However, our sense of pride in the contingent was shattered when we learned that not only would the Israeli Consulate be marching with Israeli flags, but also that “inclusion monitors” would censor anything that deviated from the narrow message of “Jews support LGBT equality.” We see this as a contradiction. Support for the Israeli government is a political position that is not synonymous with support for LGBT equality, and is not synonymous with Judaism. Because these strong Israeli symbols would be dominating the contingent, we felt we could not in good conscious march without publically repudiating those messages. And although the planners reached out to include us, we felt excluded when any disagreement we voiced was declared “off message” and inappropriate.”

Not surprising. However, they were allowed to march in the parade (Yay!) Here’s the boo part:

“But the real consequences of our action have occurred in the days and weeks following the parade. Many of us have faced social sanctions in our personal and professional lives. Those of us who work in Jewish organizations have been harshly shamed in our workplaces and our political views have become a topic of discussion amongst our peers and supervisors. We feel vulnerable in the very community that had supposedly organized to support us as Queer Jews.”

I know at least one of these stories and it’s a real whopper. If and as soon as they decide to make it public, we’ll let you know. Suffice it to say, the battle within the Jewish institutional world over the ability to simply think for oneself in terms of Israel and Palestinians is at times medieval. Join their Facebook group here .

- Cecilie Surasky

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