Queering Apartheid

The logo of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. Courtesy: queersagainstapartheid.org
The logo of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. Courtesy: queersagainstapartheid.org

The logo of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. Courtesy: queersagainstapartheid.org


This week is Ottawa’s seventh annual Israeli Apartheid week. The event began in 2005, but Ottawa held it’s first Israeli Apartheid Week in 2007.

Israeli Apartheid Week is a series of events and presentations held over the course of a week. Last year, 215 cities participated worldwide.

The main focus of the week is to raise their awareness of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign against Israel in hopes of ending Israel’s “occupation of Arab lands.”

Wednesday night, Gary Kinsman, a queer liberation activist and member of the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QUAIA), spoke at the University of Ottawa.

Kinsman’s presentation, “Queering Apartheid,” spoke about the links between the queer liberation movement and apartheid.

Using the two examples of the South African apartheid and the Israeli Apartheid, Kinsman spoke about the current struggles queers are facing alongside apartheid.

“I think that the queer liberation movement and the anti-apartheid movement are both movements for social justice. … Their experiences are all bound together and we have to therefore deal with those forms of marginalization,” said Kinsman.

There are three large Palestinian queer groups. Al Qaws, Aswat and Palestinian Queers for BDS. All three groups combine the struggle for queer liberation with the anti-apartheid movement, Kinsman said.

One of the main arguments that is synonymous within these groups is that the queer movement is also a political movement and should not be seen as merely social.

To achieve this, many supporters suggest creating a unique, political, Pride event. The idea of having two Pride Days is becoming common worldwide.

“There’s now a distinction between people who want to participate in the commodified, commercial Pride Days and those people who want it [Pride Day] to be more of a political movement,” said Kinsman.

The majority of people participating in the new wave of Pride Days are generally younger adults.

Instead of defining themselves as lesbian and gay activists, this emerging group of younger Palestinian queers sees their struggle as being bound up with the struggle of Palestinians, says Kinsman.

By associating themselves with the mainstream Pride Day event, Palestinian queers see themselves as supporting Israeli Apartheid – a movement in which they do not agree with, said the presenter.

He also spoke about “pinkwashing,” a term used for the campaign Israel is using to promote gay pride within the country.

QUAIA sees “pinkwashing as an attempt to paint Israel as a gay paradise in a sea of Arab/Muslim ‘backwardness’,” said Kinsman.

QUAIA has developed the term “pinkwatching” as a counter movement. Although both campaigns are advocating for queer rights, Palestinian queers disagree with pinkwashing. They say that you cannot increase queer support by building a campaign on a platform of human rights violations.

“It seems to me that people are allowing themselves to be manipulated and used to glorify the Israeli state and to cover over, and obscure the actual oppression of the Palestinians,” said Kinsman.

In Ottawa, there are numerous events held over the city that are open to the public. Most of these events are held either at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa.

The week’s events are ending Friday night with the Verses Vs. Apartheid concert at GuadalaHARRY’s at Dow’s Lake Pavillion at 8:30 pm.

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