The arrangement reached with the police and the ultra-orthodox is not a compromise but a surrender. There is no difference between ‘don’t march’ and ‘do what you want, but in your houses behind closed shutters’. In both cases we are banished from the streets into a space that is fenced-in, policed and worst of all – invisible. This is a defeat to the community, to democracy and to human rights. Those who oppose the march understand well that they have won…But it doesn’t have to be like this. We don’t need the police or the Supreme Court to fight for our rights. Change starts when wo/men stand up and declare: Here we stand, we cannot do otherwise.

radical queer communiqué
9 november 2006

here are a few pieces of writing about the november 10 pride events in jerusalem.

i’m not sure how widely these have circulated in english; it was a bit easier to find spanish and portuguese versions on the web.

i had hoped to include some photos; someday i’ll learn how. till then, active stills is always the best place to go for documentation of israeli radicals, queer and otherwise, and more photos (as well as writings in various languages) are here, here, here, and here.

at the end is a strung-together version of my comments from the series of posts that preceded the actual events. i’m kinda shocked that JOH managed to sink below even my most pessimistic expectations of them.

Petrus: Eye-witness report on Pride Day events in Jerusalem

Pride events in Jerusalem today (Nov 10) passed without any of the large-scale violence anticipated, but also without the actual march taking place and amid 30 arrests of queer demonstrators.

Throughout the past few weeks, tension in Jerusalem has been intense. All over the city, posters signed by ultra-orthodox rabbis were calling for mass protests against the “sinful march of filth?, and some even called for killing the marchers. For several nights in the religious neighborhoods there were demonstrations and garbage bins burning in the streets, and among those planning to participate in the march there was genuine fear for our safety. The police were also threatening to cancel the march because they said they could not secure it.

Finally, the Open House organizers of the pride march cancelled it of their own initiative. Instead, there would only be a rally with speeches and bands, at the University stadium where the march was supposed to culminate. In return, the rabbis called off the counter-demonstrations.

But not everyone agreed with the cancellation of the pride march. In a communiqué issued last night, radical and anarchist queers called to go ahead with a march anyway, without permission. They said: “The arrangement reached with the police and the ultra-orthodox is not a compromise but a surrender. There is no difference between ‘don’t march’ and ‘do what you want, but in your houses behind closed shutters’. In both cases we are banished from the streets into a space that is fenced-in, policed and worst of all – invisible. This is a defeat to the community, to democracy and to human rights. Those who oppose the march understand well that they have won…But it doesn’t have to be like this. We don’t need the police or the Supreme Court to fight for our rights. Change starts when wo/men stand up and declare: Here we stand, we cannot do otherwise?.

Thus the day began with over 30 activists gathering with signs at the entrance to Liberty Bell park – the original starting point of the cancelled march. They were met by a large armed police force, including riot cops. Also on scene were a handful of people from the extreme-right who were verbally abusing the queers, calling them disgusting perverts and shouting at them to get out of the holy city. The police did not act against these abusers, declaring instead that due to “a danger to public safety” the queer activists had to disperse, in groups of 3 and without displaying any signs, or they would be arrested. After some 15 minutes arrests began, with the usual excessive violence. The arrestees were hauled into police bus and driven to a nearby border-police base. They spent the next 3-4 hours inside the vehicle, and in the afternoon were released without charge.

Meanwhile at the stadium festive events were in full swing. The scene was colorful and celebratory, with speeches, stalls and bands on the stage. A small pink-and-black bloc was also present, with signs and flyers linking the struggle for LGBT rights to the struggles against militarism, the occupation of Palestine, economic exploitation and all other forms of oppression. Participants from the bloc later joined the weekly Women In Black vigil against the occupation in central Jerusalem.

by David Sheen

They won. The axis of evil won the war today. Yesterday, the mainstream gay umbrella organization caved in to the homophobic death-threats and cancelled the Jerusalem Pride Parade. The Judeo-fascists succeeded in containing the gays into a ghetto, a self-contained stadium where straight sympathizers were allowed to make impassioned speeches preaching tolerance, and not much else. They promised police not to permit any outward displays of gay pride anywhere on the streets of the city; they sold out the queer community right back into the closet.

A small group of radical fags and dykes, feeling betrayed and scared shitless, but too proud to cower in the corner, decided to reclaim the streets anyhow. They met in a public park on the day of the parade, but before they could even organize, much less simply walk down a city street, religious right-wingers swooped in with signs, screaming insults. Within a minute, the media started snapping pictures, and after another sixty seconds, occupation Israeli border police cordoned us, the silent majority, out of the park and onto the sidewalk outside.

Once outside the park, it was easy to cart us off onto a big bus with bars on the windows, headed straight for administrative detention. We waited on the bus for hours until the cops emptied us out and interrogated us. Eventually, we were abandoned on the outskirts of Jerusalem as the sun went down, once we could no longer be of any consequence politically. We weren’t charged with any crime, so we won’t have to face any court battles, but it took the wind out of our rainbow sails. The homophobic haters ran the fags out of town, and the police provided efficient logistic support.

I learned a couple of lessons today. One, the Jerusalem Open House and their so-called leaders many be homosexual, but they’re also as straight as they come, and most definitely not queer. If they’re fruits of any kind, its dragonfruit: you know, pink on the outside, and white on the inside. Two, if you want to make a statement, take a page out of the playbook of our opponents: no need to talk, just carry a big torch. Propaganda by the deed speaks volumes. When they incite their minions to slaughter us in the streets, don’t speak or turn the other cheek; just burn down the motherfucking house on their heads.


this year in jerusalem…

as the jerusalem pride march approaches, it’s a shame that its’ main organizational sponsor, the Jerusalem Open House (JOH) has been so thoroughly committed to the notion that the israeli military gets a veto over all forms of political activity. which is essentially how they framed it over the summer, when the march was originally scheduled. their statement postponing the jerusalem pride march was very blunt, saying that they didn’t wish to burden the police with protecting queers from the homophobic right-wingers whose parliamentary allies had just started a war that apparently needed the city cops’ undivided attention.

i was in jerusalem for the rally which replaced the march, as part of the anti-war, anti-occupation contingent which made up the majority of those present. unfortunately, the JOH leadership made good on its rhetoric of sacrificing all to the military’s version of the ‘national interest’. when the anti-war contingent was attacked by the police, the JOH leadership sent their marshals to prevent other attendees from coming closer to support us, and then made a statement to the press which identified us as straights and terrorists.

now, there were some straight folks in the anti-war contingent – about as many, proportionally, as there were in the (noticably smaller) other segment of the event. but the last time i heard the leaders of any LGBT group try to call folks it disagreed with politically ’straight’ was, well, never. and given that the most common anti-leftist slur i’ve heard from far-right jews, from new york to tel aviv, is some variation on ‘faggot/dyke arab-lovers’, it’s even more impressive.

i should say that we never expected to be the majority contingent, and thus planned badly in certain ways. in particular, our messaging didn’t highlight the religious right’s attacks on the jerusalem queer community as much as it should’ve. but the fact that we were, and that JOH collaborated with the police against us in the interest of supporting the war on lebanon says a lot. as does, for that matter, its decision to host world pride with the slogan ‘love without borders’ in a city half under military occupation, ringed by checkpoints, half of whose queer population could not even think of attending a single pride event for lack of the right colored ID card.

to clarify:

the jerusalem queer community is in serious need of our solidarity, and JOH is one of its key institutions. the photo op last year of the leaders of the eastern mediterranean’s jewish, muslim, and christian religious right – all of them wielding a great deal of political influence – united against the jerusalem pride march is a perfect symbol of the need for queer liberation. and the threat of violent attacks on this year’s march makes it all the more clear that jerusalem is one of the places where a ‘pride march’ is an important political act, not a marketing opportunity.

however, even in the context of threat and solidarity, precisely because it is such a key community institution, JOH needs to be looked at carefully and politically. i think this scrutiny is necessary on a broad range of subjects, reaching JOH’s relation to mizrakhi communities and poor folks, sex workers and indentured workers (so-called ‘guest workers’), as well as the question of palestine and palestinian queers.

i know more about the latter, though, and wanted to point out a few of the places where these things are not so separate.

first of all, there’s the fact that the many of the most anti-queer voices in the israeli political scene are also among the most racist and pro-Occupation. just as on the u.s. scene, overt homophobia tends to accompany a pro-war stance. there are significant exceptions (haredi anti-zionist homophobes; isolationist christian identity types), but much of the time, the political link is pretty solid, and very much part of a certain religious right ultra-nationalism common to many places at the moment. for these folks, the two pieces aren’t separable, and any notion that it’s possible to confront their homophobia separately from the rest of their politics is, well, unlikely to get anywhere.

secondly, there’s the question of solidarity. if the jerusalem queer community is looking for support against homophobic violence, where is it going to find it, and how. seems to me that tactically, it’s rather a bad idea to court the police, who did such a great job stopping the 2005 attack, rather than other progressive folks who might lend actual assistance in protecting the march. and strategically, it seems a rather good notion to break the religious right’s homophobic unity by taking a definite position on an issue which divides them – make the imams, bishops and patriarchs explain to their occupied communities why they’re standing with pro-Occupation rabbis against anti-Occupation queers…

but beyond these specific points (and the simple demographic point that half of the queers living under the rule of the israeli government are palestinian – some citizens of israel, some in refugee camps, some ‘simply’ under Occupation), this whole series of events raises some big questions about solidarity, liberation, and identity. so, to get personal on some of that for a minute, and in an oblique way bring the subject back around to what we do here in the u.s. to stand in solidarity with jerusalem’s queers:

i see my queerness as something which makes me part of a worldwide array of communities facing related (though far, far, far from identical, and often wildly dissimilar) patriarchal oppressions. so i feel called on to engage with the issues around the condition of queers (which i’m using for lack of a better umbrella term for sexual and gender deviants throughout this) in iran, the prioritization by some queers of marriage over all else here in the u.s., the murders of queer activists in jamaica, and the attacks on the jerusalem queer community. in the latter, i include the Occupation and nakba, as well as the recent religious right efforts targetting jewish israeli queers. i see my solidarity in these situations as a matter of both choice and obligation, as a way of building communities of resistance across borders, as a basic element of the world i’d like to live in.

so for me, being in solidarity with queers under attack in jerusalem isn’t immediately about the question of palestine. how i express that solidarity, however, is very much so, because the context of jerusalem makes the two inextricably bound together. even on the most basic level, but for its absolute refusal to challenge israeli nationalism, JOH wouldn’t be making a seemingly endless chain of progressively worse ‘compromises’ on visibility, location, and type of event. and, kholile, it might even be able to work with palestinian queer groups like Aswat, who make it quite clear that ending the Occupation is the most basic precondition for queer liberation in palestinian communities.

being in solidarity with jerusalem queers, to me, means being in solidarity with the city’s palestinian queers (whether citizens of israel, under Occupation in east jerusalem, displaced into refugee camps, or in the diaspora) against the Occupation and other racist israeli government policies. it means being in solidarity with the city’s jewish queers against the jewish religious right and the complicity and support it receives from the government. it means being in solidarity with the city’s queer indentured ‘guest workers’ against the immigration and labor-law systems. and it means being in solidarity with all these folks against self-appointed LGBT leaders when organizations like JOH cave in to the right, rely on the state to protect queers’ rights, and sell out queer communities whose liberation can’t be shoehorned into an political framework acceptable to the israeli ‘mainstream’.

the other piece of all this for me, though, is the relation between religion and the state. my jewishness, as i’ve said before in this forum, does not in any way make the jewish religious right connected to “a religion i am a part of?. i’m not part of any religion; the satmar are no more “hijacking? my faith than opus dei are. i consider myself to stand in solidarity with jewish liberation theology efforts against the jewish religious right, but purely on political grounds, just as i align myself with the catholic worker network against pope ratzinger’s minions.

in israel, as in the u.s., the religious right often pose themselves in vocal opposition to the government. but whether through bombing women’s health clinics or shooting schoolchildren, threatening the Harvey Milk School or the jerusalem pride march, they act basically as the unofficial right-wing auxiliaries of the state. that’s not universally true – some are out to destroy the state as hopelessly corrupt – but even the exceptions rarely take public action except against the enemies they and the state share. queers, for instance.

but this isn’t a matter of the religious right making common cause with secular institutions. i think it’s entirely untrue to say, as Marisa has, that “America and Israel are both secular countries?. since before they took on full state structures, both conceived their identities in an essentially religious form and have articulated their ‘mission’ as states as a religious one ever since. both have a specific religion written very deeply into their governmental and legal systems, and both are dominated politically by that religion’s right wing. the u.s. does a somewhat better job of rhetorically masking its basic christianity as ‘freedom of religion’, thanks to the necessity of accommodating dozens of mutually antagonistic christian sects. israel tends to do better at providing political space for secular voices, thanks to a thoroughly pervasive nationalist ideology whose religious and secular forms rarely conflict. but neither is even nominally secular: the u.s. has god on every piece of currency, opens all congressional sessions with a prayer, and as far as i know boasts not a single ‘out’ agnostic (much less atheist) in congress or on the supreme court; israel recognizes only religious marriages, funds religious schools, and has the chief rabbinates as part of its state structure.

all of which makes one part of the political task of queer liberation seem pretty clear to me: breaking religion’s hold on the public sphere. starting with the marriage between the religious right and the state, for sure, but also contesting the notion (recently popular among liberals, progressives and some radicals) that it’s okay for the presence or absence of religious faith to be a primary gauge of a person or idea’s political legitimacy.

finally, bringing it back to jerusalem, there were a few fascinating details in the haaretz article on the first relocation of the pride march:

although the reason for changing the route, officially, was to find

“an alternate route that would bypass the city’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods?,

in fact

“The initial route, which was to run from Independence Park to Bell Park, also bypassed ultra-Orthodox areas.?

the issue, apparently and un-surprisingly, is that the police aren’t actually willing to defend the march:

“Police nevertheless had said they would not be able to provide adequate security along the original route.?

‘unable to provide security’ is the usual euphemism for politically-based refusal. i’ve heard it used here in new york as a reason why permits aren’t issues, why demonstrations which don’t require permits are supposed to disperse, etc. always, coincidentally i’m sure, because the threatening counter-demonstrators are supporting the government’s opinion on the issue at hand.

and, interestingly, the meretz spokesperson, while not apparently saying anything quotable about the actual threats of violence (or suggesting that the police might use the same ‘pre-emptive’ techniques on the relevant rabbis that they use on palestinian religious leaders who make aggressive statements), is all het up about the kabbalistic curse… intriguing, and even a bit surprising, that meretz is more concerned with making metaphysical mutterings associated with mizrakhim prosecutable by abandoning the notion of free speech than with responding to actual physical threats to actual queers:

“Gal-On called on the police and the attorney-general to investigate those responsible for the pulsa danura discussion for possible criminal prosecution. ‘I recommend taking this with utmost seriousness, and to relate to this on the level of criminal offenses, not as just free speech.’ […] ‘Brakes must be placed on free speech, when it is liable to turn dangerous, and we have seen that this is possible.’?

it’s always great for liberals when they can express their racism through paternalistic concern for human rights, isn’t it? not much help when folks are trying to kill you, though.