An open letter to The Legacy Project's Victor Salvo
We have been supporters of the Legacy Project's efforts to memorialize the contributions of LGBTQ citizens. Your inclusion of African-American and Latinx citizens has brought recognition to often marginalized people. It is in this spirit that we urge you to include LGBT Palestinians among those struggling not only for their own rights as a sexual minority within their community but also struggling against Israeli oppression.
The organization A Wider Bridgewhich you will soon be teaming with in a forum at the Center on Halstedhas tasked itself with highlighting to the U.S. LGBTQ community how well-treated Israeli LGBTQs are in Israel. Its unstated goal is to divert attention from Israeli crimes against Palestinians. This is "pinkwashing" and you are undoubtedly familiar with it. ( Often forgotten in this celebration of so-called Israeli benevolence is the ongoing struggle required by Israeli LGBTQs to maintain what rights and privileges they have won against the opposition of Orthodox Jews and other ultra-right Israeli reactionaries ).
It is disturbing the number of Americansincluding those in our own communitywho fail to recognize the Palestinians as an oppressed people, a people marginalized in a humanitarian crisis not of their making. Decades of well-financed pro-Israel propaganda casts the Israelis as the victims of Palestinian "terrorism." To people aware of the decades-long history of Israeli violence against the Palestinians, it is clear who is victim and who is the oppressor.
Increasingly, Jewsespecially among the youthin groups like Jewish Voice for Peace reject the Israeli "victim narrative," and demand justice for Palestinians. The Chicago Dyke March last summer evidenced many young lesbians and other LGBTQ youth ( and older folk who walked with them ) refusing to be silent about Israeli crimes against the Palestinians. ( For information on Israeli treatment of Palestians, see jewishvoiceforpeace.org/israeli-palestinian-conflict-101/. )
Many outside of the United States see a clear parallel between oppression of Blacks by the former racist South African regime and the oppression of Palestinians by the Zionist government of Israel. Nelson Mandela said so. So does Desmond Tutu. Our politicians, on the other hand, are intimidated by the Zionist lobby into either silence or complicity.
It is all well and good that there are Israeli Jewish LGBTQs who are reaching out to Muslims and Christians. But it is wrong to employ these good deeds to help "pinkwash" the daily atrocities and humiliations the Israeli government commits against Palestinians.
Recently, Gay Liberation Network organized a forum on the need for Americans to support the struggle for Palestinian rights, including those of Palestinian LGBTs. We would be happy to join you in a similar forum as a part of the Legacy Live Series.
Gay Liberation Network
The Legacy Project responds:
We appreciate Gay Liberation Network reaching out and their kind words about the Legacy Project's work to shine a light on multicultural LGBTQ histories.
We admire GLN, and its passion, and we share many of the same views. We take a lot for granted here in the U.S.and especially in Illinois and Chicagowhen it comes to being LGBTQ and being able to learn about, and share, our history. In contrast there are, sadly, too many places in the world where information about LGBTQ history is, at best, hard to come byif not banned outright or never recorded in the first place.
Indeed, simply existing openly as an LGBTQ person can be deadly. This is especially true in the Middle East. That is why we were interested in doing a program exploring the work of Haifa Communities' House. The very idea that there was an interfaith project attempting to use LGBTQ History to unite Muslims, Christians and Jews in the Middle East seemed too unique an opportunity to pass up. The more we looked into it, the more courageous and groundbreaking it seems to be.
When we approached Center on Halsted ( our partners in the Legacy LIVE program series ) about hosting a panel, the people there agreed that any institution that was attempting to bring such diverse communities into one safe space through the power of their shared experiences as LGBTQ people in a very troubled part of the world was something we wanted to know more about, even if some of those questions are difficult to ask and answer. Because, if we forego these conversations just because they may be challenging, we miss the opportunity to learn anything new.
We are looking forward to an interesting evening discussing how LGBTQ history can bring people together. We hope it will lead to similar future programs that illustrate how LGBTQ history is a living and relevant thing no matter where in the world it is happening.
The Legacy Project