Protester at LGBT Center in New York City at last year’s Israel Apartheid Week demonstration. (Photo: Bud Korotzer/Indybay.org)
On Saturday, March 3, 2012, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA), organized a protest at the New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, one year after the Center put a ban on any form of Israeli-Palestinian debate within its walls. The moratorium provoked responses from queer advocates in the U.S. and in Palestine. This year’s event was organized as part of Israel Apartheid Week activities in New York City. I gave a talk alongside featured speakers, including the prominent scholar/activist Judith Butler and Pauline Park, who was my co-participant in the first U.S. LGBTQ delegation to Palestine.
During our delegation’s visit to Hebron, we stood on a street separated by a 3-4 ft. partition. This barrier was seemingly designed to ensure safety…to somehow keep the peace by forcing a form of disconnection between the Israeli settlers and Palestinian people living there. We stood on the Palestinian side of the barrier and observed in horror as this guarded wall (this military apparatus of division, of mobility control, of segregation) forced many Palestinians to walk on one side as a means to allow the safety of the few settlers we observed walking on the other side. I was deeply saddened and angered by— what another delegate named—a mechanism of “apartheid”, this mini separation wall. I also felt a deep sense of shame when I was allowed access to the Israeli side of the barrier knowing that the Palestinians who live or daily travel in Hebron, could not.
This account, my standing at that wall…looking in the direction of the armed officers guarding it…feeling the force of segregation….is a troubling and perfect way to think about the question of what’s queer about the anti-occupation of Palestinian land and bodies and the Palestinian struggle for self-determination?
If we understand queerness to be a political framework—one that seeks the destabilization of state sanctioned regimes of control (of our bodies, our identities, our expressions whether sexual or otherwise), the refusal of labels that delimit and limit us, the undoing of accepted and mundane practices, laws, and ideas that diminish our humanity, the dismantling of literal and metaphorical barriers, of that 3-5 ft. wall in Hebron that actually harms both Israelis and Palestinians because it disallows the possibility of community—than the answer to the question of what’s queer about anti-occupation is: every damn thing!
We aren’t queer merely because of our varied sexualities. We are queer because we know how dehumanizing and oppressing it is to try to exist in our fullest human potential within the limited space of somebody’s, some state’s boxes, behind labels and, therefore, behind “walls”.
We are assembled here today because of, yet, another “wall” that is both ideological and material in the form of a moratorium. We stand here in the NYC LGBT Community Center in protest because The Center thinks that it is okay to build a barrier that prevents some peoples and ideas from being embraced within the community. We stand here because we know that tools of division used to somehow secure peace will only result in its absence.
What’s queer about anti-occupation? Every damn thing! What’s queer about walls, barriers, separations, division, disharmony, communal dissolution, the impossibility of solidarities, moratorium? Nothing!