Electronic Intifada: Tel Aviv is the world’s gayest apartheid travel destination

EI: Tel Aviv is the world’s gayest apartheid travel destination

Submitted by Benjamin Doherty on Thu, 01/12/2012 - 15:02

Tel Aviv is the world’s best gay travel destination according to a survey by the travel web site GayCities.com and American Airlines. This marketing coup was celebrated by the Government Press Office, various consulates and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and it was reported in all the major Israeli newspapers.

It is a remarkable success. Forty-three percent of people who participated in the online survey selected Tel Aviv while New York City came in second with only 14 percent. The world’s gayest apartheid travel destination does have something to prove. As early as 22 December, Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai was telling his Twitter followers about the contest.

Pro-Israel activists had also been promoting the contest on social media.

Tel Aviv is promoted to international gay markets as an extra-Israeli locale, thanks to marketing efforts like Tel Aviv Gay Vibe, which was of course thrilled with the “survey” results.

Shai Doitsh, brand manager of the Tel Aviv Gay Vibe tourism campaign, told Ynet shortly after learning of the results: “This makes us very proud.

“This is the peak of six years of activity and further proof that the decision made by the Tourism Ministry and Tel Aviv Municipality to invest in gay tourism and put their faith in the program we built was the right decision.

Promoting gay Tel Aviv with violence, orientalism

One promoter caught my eye – Arisa Party, a Tel Aviv club that bills itself as “the world’s first gay Middle-Eastern party.” Arisa has become more involved in Israeli state hasbara and pinkwashing, and its promotional material relies on orientalist, violent drag performance for humor.

I first learned about Arisa Party from a video where Israeli gay club celebrity Uriel Yekutiel perform Nivin’s “Ma Asita Li” a hebraized version of the Arabic song “Ya ma sawa” composed by the Rahbani Brothers and made famous by Georgette Sayegh*.

The video depicts Israeli model Eliad Cohen brutally beating Yekutiel who appears as a feminized Arab, and this violence is meant to amuse. It’s not the only video that features abuse and violence. In another video for Eilat Pride 2011, Yekutiel announces his departure to Eilat but when the flight is cancelled, Cohen turns violent and cruel.

The Arisa Party is an official hasbara vehicle for the State of Israel

In November, the Arisa Party visited Brazil to participate in the 19th Annual Mix Brazil Festival of Sexual Diversity, sponsored by the Consulate-General of Israel in São Paulo (their logo and name can be seen at 1 minute 40 seconds in the video).

Lingering debris of pinkwashing

What’s notable about all of this is that the imagery rather than being liberatory reinforces masculine, orientalist and violent stereotypes. Moreover Israel’s official promotion of Tel Aviv as a “gay destination” focuses exclusively on men. Women are totally absent. This may reflect a reality that the international gay travel industry which Tel Aviv wants to cash in on mirrors other tourism that caters exclusively to male consumers’ sexual fantasies.

Israel’s strategy of pinkwashing – using its supposed support for gay rights to deflect criticism of its violence and oppression against Palestinians – was recently outed in The New York Times, so niche market appeals for tourism may just inspire more calls for boycott.

Disclaimer: the song might have been sung by Sayegh, but it’s Fayrouz that made it famous.

Addition to disclaimer: The author has investigated it and it seems that Sayegh is the original singer of the song

A Zionist's View on 9/11

Today (as everyone knows) marks ten years since the tragic terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001. It was on that day that the bubble that many Americans had grown comfortable in, that shield from terrorism and radical Islam’s rise, burst, and we were forced to come to terms with Jihad. 

Growing up outside Manhattan, I remember the day clearly. The physical hole left in the iconic skyline of my city mirrored those left in the hearts of everyone who was affected that day as we all struggled to make sense of the tragedy. How could this have happened here was a question that was often heard. 

My childhood was marked by 9/11, but it was shaped by Zionism. Unlike many of my eleven year old peers, I knew about terrorism, at least in the abstract. Every day the news of the attacks being committed against Israelis was relayed by my father around the dinner table. I knew about the loss of innocent lives thanks to Palestinian terrorism, about the fear that kept children from riding busses and teenagers from going to dance clubs. But I also knew about the resilience of a people forced to live under fire, whose lives kept going on in spite of the physical manifestation of hatred that marred too many days. 

Israelis stood by their American friends in the days, months, and years following 9/11, and continue to do so now, a decade later. The two countries that comprise my home had previously been joined by bonds of democracy, innovation, freedom, and pluralism. On that day they joined one another as victims of terror, and as survivors. Both showed incredible strength by continuing to work towards peace, while knowing their duty to protect their citizens and defend their nations. 

While Israelis wept at the sight of the Twin Towers burning, Palestinians danced and celebrated, and glorified the “martyrs” who had perpetrated the attacks. Ten years ago, and today, I fail to understand this reaction. I am heartbroken by it, but at the same time my heart was hardened by it. I saw the videos then, still reeling from the events, and realized how deep the chasm between my mentality and that of a person able to celebrate death and destruction truly was. It caused me to despair, to lose hope in the possibility of a true and lasting peace. 

Today, ten years later, the world is different, and the same. There is still no partner for peace, but the hope lives on. I am confident that one day the peace process must prevail, as there is no other way. As the Palestinians seek to sidestep the negotiating table, I know that it will not be September at the UN that brings peace to the Middle East, but rather the eventual acceptance and acknowledgement of Israel’s right to exist. I don’t know when this will come to pass, but I will continue to work towards it with all of my being. 

Today, as I consider the events of 9/11, watching the memorial on TV, reading the accounts of survivors in the newspaper, I am struck by the duality of my Zionism and my American patriotism. Both countries that I belong to have proven that they cannot and will not be beaten by terrorism and violence, but rather will rise from the ashes and proudly stand tall as free countries. I am proud to be an Israeli, proud to be an American, and as I remember, I look forward to the world that will exist ten years from now, which I pray will be one of peace.

Because Palestinians are terrorists
  • Israeli "defense" soldier:But you’re getting in our way, don’t you understand? You’re getting in our way.
  • Israeli Settler:I’ll stand on the side. I’ll stand on this side, but If I see her -referring to 9 year old Ahed Tamimi of the village of Nabi Saleh- coming near [here], remember, it doesn’t matter, 3, 4 or 7 years old, I’ll fuck her over.
  • Israeli soldier:No problem.
The blatant hypocrisy of the “Zionism is Racism” allegation is reflected in the appalling human rights records of the instigators of the accusation (mainly the Arab states) who nearly all are guilty of every kind of insidious bias imaginable, openly practicing discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnic origin, religious belief and political dissidence. - - The accusations of racism on the part of Israel are aimed at its policies which are designed to ensure the continued existence of the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people – both in terms of its socio-cultural fabric and in terms of its physical existence. So in effect, these accusations are a call on Israel to desist from these policies. Were Israel to heed these calls, it would in fact imply acquiescing to demands to forgo the Jewishness of Israel – either by allowing a non-Jewish (Muslim) majority to develop and swamp the Jewish population, or by exposing the country’s security to untenable vulnerability. This would bring about the demise of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews. It would be tantamount to denying a people which, unlike the Palestinians, has a unique religion, a unique language, a unique script, a unique history and unique customs, the right to national self-determination. Moreover it is a call on the Jews to relinquish this right in favor of a people who have no such uniqueness, who commonly refer to Jews as “pigs and monkeys”, and who demand the eradication of any sign of Jewishness in territories under their administration. Indeed if apartheid sought to prevent racial mixing, this is precisely what Israel’s adversaries endorse. For they demand the exclusion of Jews from Arab lands, the dismantling of Jewish settlements, the expulsion of their inhabitants, and the prohibition on the entry of Jews (not only Jewish Israelis) into many Arab lands.

This – and not Zionism – is the epitome of racism

I must say that I don’t understand Christians who value the life of one group over another. Even if American Christians consider Muslims as enemies, in the New Testament Jesus commanded his followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. The word he used for “love” in Greek (agapao) means to entertain or to welcome in. This concept seems to be in direct opposition to the doctrine of Islamophobia spread by many Christian evangelical groups in the United States. Moreover, Isaiah says “”Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” The scripture does not apply only to Jews, to the “foreigner” and “alien.” Hundreds of millions of Americans profess to be Christians and believe in the divine inspiration of these verses, so where are these “believers” when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?


The Truth About the Peace Process.

The video explains that the reason there is no successful peace process is because of decades of Palestinian and Arab recalcitrance and the main reason for the conflict is not Israel’s presence in Judea & Samaria, but successive Palestinian leaders resistance to Jewish sovereignty. 

Call for Papers:

CFP: Homonationalism and Pinkwashing @ The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, CUNY Graduate Center

April 10-11, 2013

Keynotes by Jasbir Puar, Judith Butler, Rabih Almmedine, and Haneen MaiKey

Deadline: July 1, 2012

Conference Description

The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies is pleased to announce a conference “Homonationalism and Pinkwashing” to be held April 10-11, 2013 at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in all configurations around the world have always experienced dramatic differences in representation and power. Today, after generations of sacrifice and organization, some LGBT people have won full legal rights with different degrees of implementation. Once hard to imagine, protection from discrimination, full relationship recognition, and inclusion in representation are now daily possibilities for some. In the United States, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have been invited into an equality defined, not by rights, but by the ability to participate openly in immoral wars. The co-opting of some LGBT people by anti-immigrant and in particular anti-Muslim political forces is widespread and growing. Rutgers Professor Jasbir Puar has coined the term “Homonationalism” to define collusion between LGBT people and identification with the nation state, re-enforcement of racial and national boundary, and systems of supremacy ideology no longer interrupted by homophobia. Homonationalism has spread far from its roots in European xenophobia and US militarism to become an increasingly potent tool in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Faced with intensifying criticism and the threat of economic boycott, the Israeli government expanded their marketing plan by harnessing Homonationalism to reposition its global image. The campaign intended “to improve Israel’s image through the gay community in Israel," The Jerusalem Post quoted one government supporter of the campaign. This deliberate and highly funded program is what anti-occupation activists have named "Pinkwashing."The campaign not only manipulates the hard-won gains of Israel’s gay rights movement, but it also ignores the existence of Palestinian gay-rights organizations. These groups rightly note that the oppression of Palestinians crosses the boundary of sexuality; as Haneen Maikay, a keynote speaker at our conference and the director of Al Qaws:For Gender and Sexual Diversity in Palestinian Society, said in a recent lecture tour in the United States, "When you go through a checkpoint it does not matter what the sexuality of the soldier is.”

Homonationalism and Pinkwashing mark a crucial turning point for Queer Scholars and Activists. This conference provides an opportunity to examine Queer Resistance and Complicity globally, in all of their complexities, with a political maturity that acknowledges the responsibility of access, the activism of necessity, the potential and impossible communities, identifications, solidarities, unities and consequential calls for action. Acknowledging these conditions make it imperative for Activists and Scholars to convene and bring together the theoretical and the applied, repositioning our resources to focus on a rejuvenated Queer future, movement, movements, efforts, actions, organizing and focus towards a vision of freedom that finally includes us all.

We invite proposals for papers, panels, workshops, performances or films from all. No institutional affiliation required. Undergraduate submissions are also encouraged.

Possible topics we would love to include but are not limited to:

-Expanding our understandings of Queer Resistance and Complicity
-Emerging Queer Movements Globally
-Hindus, Islamaphobia and Queer Emergence
-Arab Jews (Mizrachis) and Occupation/Pinkwashing/Diaspora
-Iran, Iraq and the Use of anti-LGBT Persecution to Justify Military Assault
-Transfeminism and the Global LGBT
-Race, Sexuality and the US Military
-Queer and The Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions Movement
-Christian Evangelicals: Differing strategies for Uganda and Israel 
-The rise of LGBT wings of European Right Wing Movements
-HRC, GLAAD, and the Gay Corporate Auxilliaries
-AIDS, NGO’s and Partnering With Global Pharma
-Homonationalism, Hollywood and Popular Culture
-Pinkwashing and Israeli Queer Cinema

Submissions deadline: July 1, 2012.
Notifications will be emailed by September 1.

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All events on this page are open to the public. With the exception of major conferences as noted, all CLAGS events are free of charge. Pre-registration is not required unless otherwise stated in the event description.

All events at The Graduate Center are co-sponsored by Continuing Education & Public Programs, The Graduate Center, CUNY.

 All events in the Graduate Center are wheelchair accessible. Please contact the security office at the Graduate Center at 212-817-7777 for further details.

Please call the CLAGS office at (212) 817-1955 for additional information or arrangements.

CLAGS, The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies
365 Fifth Avenue, Room 7115, New York NY 10016 | Phone: 212.817.1955| Fax: 212.817.1567| Email

Good lyrics, says perfectly whats going on…

Free, free Palestine!

The World Does Not Criticize Israel Because of Anti-Semitism

Hello. My name is Amit. I was born in Israel in 1986. My family and I moved to Miami, FL in 1991. The American-Jewish community I was raised in, also in large part an Israeli ex-pat community, was heavily Zionist and thus shaped my worldview as both an Israeli-American and a Jewish girl. 

Present day, I am 28 years old. I no longer identify as a Jew nor a Zionist. After years of programs, trips and seminars geared to instill Jewish pride, passion for the state of Israel, and belief in it’s need and right to exist as a Jewish state, I hold none of these things. I once found a sense of spirituality in observance of Jewish rituals, but eventually came to see all religious rituals alike. I have no need for religion in my life nor the need to identify with a religious group as a culture. Culture, for me is a vague concept. It is not static. It is nothing more than clusters of people with shared habits, language (slang included), diets, clothing, etc. More importantly, I am not a Zionist.

I am very well-versed in Israeli “Hasbara” from the aforementioned programs and seminars. In college I attended Birthright, the Hasbara Fellowships program (twice), heard the Alan Dershowitz and Neil Lazarus spiels, and was thoroughly warned and prepped and armed to defend Israel on my campus against “anti-Israel attacks” that are often, if not always, veiled anti-Semitic attacks. (Of course, anti-Semitism is exclusively used to mean anti-Jewish in these circles.)

So the story goes by my former educators as such:

There was always a Jewish presence in the land, and the Zionist movement began encouraging migrations half a century before the state was declared.

A two-state solution was offered at the time of the partition and the Arab population rejected it and proceeded to attack the new state.

Palestine was only named Palestine by the British during their mandate which was the name of an ancient, extinct group called the Philistines, and therefore the idea of a “Palestinian people” was “invented”. Palestine never existed independently, as it was occupied by the Turks prior to the British mandate.

Israel has given and offered more land concessions for peace than any other country in the world. Israel was forced to defend itself in the 6 Day War (1967), in which it “assumed control” of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights. Israel offered to exchange this land for peace with it’s neighbors, but the Arab countries yet again refused to recognize Israel’s existence or make peace. (We were taught by the Hasbara program in particular to only refer to the occupied territories as “disputed”). 

Israel is held to a double standard, it doesn’t have a partner in the peace process and all it’s citizens want peace, but have to maintain the occupation or “disputed territories” solely for security. 

It is a liberal, secular, Jewish democracy in a sea of oppressive, brutal, primitive, sexist homophobic countries all around. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Arab woman have the right to vote. Terrorists rule and brainwash the Palestinians to become martyrs and kill Jews. 

The talking points go on and on and the bottom line is that the “conflict” will end when the world, and particularly Israel’s neighbors, “recognize its right to exist”. 

While I look back on all of this in awe of my naiveté, I am amazed that it once made perfect sense to me. The crux of all of this is indeed the question of Israel’s right to exist, which is essentially the question of the right for a Zionist state to exists. This is where my former educators and I agree, but the answer to this question is where we vastly differ. 

One thing about the Hasbara Fellowships is that they include some left-leaning speakers in the program that I firmly believe is only to prove that all voices are heard in “the beacon of democracy that is Israel”. The program is run by Aish HaTorah, one of the largest organizations and yeshivas in Israel that is unapologetically religious Zionist. Nonetheless, I heard Yael Dayan speak on one sunny day in Tel Aviv. She was on the Tel Aviv city council at the time. Her father, Moshe Dayan (the famous military leader), joined the Hagana at 14, was a commander in the 1948 War (War of Independence to some), was Chief of Staff of the IDF during the Suez crisis, and was the Defense Minister during the 1967 War. Yael, nonetheless, went on to be a left-wing politician and peace activist. That morning I heard her say that the right of return (for Jews) is racist and must end. The thought never crossed my mind before. That was the first time I was confronted with the inherent inequity of what a Jewish state is in theory versus reality. 

The justifications were always plentiful and available, but all boiled down to a single point: without a Jewish state, there will be another Shoa, another Jewish holocaust. Invoking “The Holocaust” is a constant. So much so that the entire Nazi genocide in Europe is remembered solely as the murder of 6 million Jews.

In my Jewish upbringing and holocaust education the gypsies and disabled were mentioned usually as an afterthought. But it wasn’t until my mid 20’s that I discovered exactly how many non-Jews the Nazis murdered along with Jews in the death camp. The number is estimated to be between 5 and 6 million, a million of which were Catholic Poles. 

This was indeed an unfathomable tragic event in history. My grandmother, whom I love dearly and am very close with is a living survivor of the concentration camps. I descend from people who were ruthlessly massacred by people that were enraged with an elitist, nationalist ideology and chose to identify my grandmother and everyone else in Western Europe with whom she shared a set of customs, rituals and perhaps lineage.

Unfortunately those that consistently invoke the Nazi genocide as a justification for a Jewish state and occupation conveniently choose to focus solely on the Jewish victims and have also taken ownership of the word “holocaust” itself. The murder of 6 million Jews is often written as the most tragic event or the worst genocide in modern history. But why are we even in the business of rating genocides from bad to worse? Why do Jews insist on claiming that they won the Oppression Olympics? What determines the worst? Is it number of people killed? The Nazis killed 11-12 million in Europe and the number of Soviets killed is estimated anywhere from 14 to 26 million. Unfortunately, human history is full of brutal genocides, but to claim a single one and raise it above all other suffering and death as your badge of victimhood is both immoral and cynical. 

Nonetheless, this practice has young Jews around the world defending Israel’s right to exist and fight terrorists because they are convinced that it’s existence is the only protection Jews have from another such genocide. Thus all opposition to this notion are deemed anti-Israel i.e. anti-Jewish. 

Who is a Jew?

The first dilemma of Jewish nationalism is having to define a religion politically. Who is a Jew? By Jewish law, a Jew is a person born to a Jewish mother and decedent of the 12 tribes of Israel. That is quite vague and arbitrary, especially considering the impossibility of tracing your lineage to biblical times. Add on to that the fact that there are many forms of observing Judaism and many of which allow conversion into the religion. There are also those who identify as non-observant or secular Jews. This is because Judaism for many is nothing more than the rituals you practice with your family a few times a year. Having a seder makes you Jewish like having Thanksgiving dinner or watching fireworks and eating hot dogs on July 4th makes you American. For some it’s a personality, an accent, a sprinkling of Yiddish words in conversations- a whole host of possibilities, as it is nothing more than a fluid culture that you can move in and out of at will. But when forced to define this esoteric question of “what makes a Jew” politically, you need concrete answers. The closest thing to concrete, however, is the former definition by religious law. Hence, a “secular” Jewish democratic government, now in conjunction with a Rabbinic body, is now in the position of determining your mother’s religion and somehow your biblical lineage (via proof of your mother being “Jewish born”). This marriage of religion and politics is made even murkier when determining what style of Judaism said Rabbinic body will be.   

The supposed logic behind Herzel’s idea for Jewish statehood was that because of the inherent, incurable phenomenon of anti-Semitism, the non-Jews of the world will always identify anyone decedent of Jews-whether observant or not- as Jew. So therefore, Jews need their own state in order to live their lives and band together in defense. It is often spoken during conversations about “Jewish culture” and “secular Judaism” that the Nazis identified those who no longer observed the Jewish religion and lived secular lives as Jews anyway. And so, ironically, the secular Jews of the world have decided to identify with a religious group as a cultural identity because rabid anti-Semites insisted on it.

A people with no land found a land with no people. 

But not quite. 

Among the most censored and stifled topics of discussion in Israel is the Nakba. It is of no surprise that the day of Independence for Israel is a day of mourning for the Palestinians. Why? Because Palestinians hate Jews of course! Are we sensing a theme yet? Sarcasm aside, my Israel activism college education made some of the most appalling and fallacious claims about the creation of the state of Israel. As mentioned in the beginning of this piece, the story went as such: 

There was always a Jewish presence in the land, and the Zionist movement began encouraging migrations half a century before the state was declared.

A two state solution was offered at the time of the partition and the Arab population rejected it and proceeded to attack the new state.

Palestine was only named Palestine by the British during their mandate which was the name of an ancient, extinct group called the Philistines, and therefore the idea of a “Palestinian people” was “invented”. Palestine never existed independently, as it was occupied by the Turks prior to the British mandate.

The talking points, and I call them talking points because they were actually presented to me as talking points, go on to claim that after the partition when the fighting began the Arab populations living in the land given to the Jews were encouraged to stay and promised protection, but fled anyway, leaving their homes behind. The ones that stayed, they claim, remained in their homes, were given citizenship, and live in Israel peacefully to this day. Essentially, the Arab population and surrounding countries has no motive to reject Israeli statehood and take up arms other than anti-Semitism. Therefore, commemorating the Nakba is an act of anti-Semtism because it is equating the catastrophe with the creation of the Jewish state and thus the mere idea of having Jews as your neighbors is a reason to mourn. 

This is yet another gross exercise in cynicism, total dishonesty and spin, beginning with the fact that it is acknowledged that an occupying force along with the UN which only represented European and American colonizers decided to partition land that wasn’t theirs to partition. During the 1948 war, 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or displaced and their towns destroyed. The massacre of Deir Yassin, where 107 villagers were killed by the Irgun, including women and children, is never taken into account. The reality of the matter is that millions of refugees from WWII were given land and homes by a third party and thus expelled hundreds of thousands of other people from their homes and made them refugees in return. 

Those that defend Israel, whether blindly or knowingly, refuse to discuss 1948 and address the expulsions of Palestinians from their homes. The Israeli Knesset passed a law in 2011 that defunds NGO’s that commemorate the Nakba. Discussing the Nakba shakes the entire fragile façade that Zionism rests on. It is far easier to discuss empty promises of a “two state solution” that are potentially defined by the 1967 borders. It is far easier to paint Palestinians as Jew-haters from the start. It is far easier to ignore the plight of the Mizrahi Jews from Arab countries (next topic of discussion). It is far easier to talk about security, terrorists, and anti-Semitism.

But the hard part is to answer the question, “Why does Israel deserve to exist?” Why do we need a Jewish state?

Anti-Jewish sentiments are real to be sure, and I believe they are increasing throughout the world. Jewish nationalism has created the existence of a Jewish army that fights wars for a Jewish state. When nation, army and religion are inextricable, wars become Holy Jewish wars that are perceived to be fought for and by the Jewish people. All nations of the world are scrutinized for their wars and bloodshed. Scrutinizing Israel’s wars and bloodshed creates a scrutiny for Judaism where it otherwise would not. To end, or at the very least deter Jewish hatred in the world, we need to stop defending Israel, stop claiming it has a right to exist, and end Zionism once and for all. We need to acknowledge the vast suffering of innocent Palestinian refugees, the horrid living conditions they are subjected to by Israel, and create a just solution for Palestinian right of return. A one-state democracy with equal rights for all citizens is the only hope for peace. The division and separation of over 60 years has only served to radicalize the oppressors and the resistance. The longer justice is delayed, the harder it will be to rebuild trust. But it all has to start with the entire world standing up and speaking out.