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LGBT and feminist struggles are not over: A reminder to the Israeli left

While the majority of Israel’s radical left focuses on the Prawer Plan or ending the occupation, it tends to neglect the hardships of the LGBT community.

By Leehee Rothschild

Last Thursday, I attended the protest against the Prawer Plan in the Negev. There, in the heat, hundreds of people stood and chanted slogans against the plan which could evict up to 40,000 Bedouin, Israeli citizens, from their homes. I was there to protest ethnic cleansing, racism, prejudice, and ongoing discrimination. On Thursday I went to a demonstration against Prawer Plan, a demonstration whose importance is beyond any shred of doubt, and yet, the decision to go was not an easy one.

While the demonstrations against Prawer were taking place, the Jerusalem Pride parade was also happening. The same parade in which I was arrested in 2006, the same parade that someone always tries to put an end to, the same parade that is still defined by many as a provocation and which will inevitably end up with someone throwing a stink bomb. The parade, which takes place in August (rather than June, when most pride parades take place) in order to commemorate the anniversary of the murder of Liz Troubishi and Nir Katz, who were murdered in an LGBT youth center shooting in 2009. It is a march that spells pride as well as resistance.

Throughout the week I debated with myself and others where should I go. Eventually, on a whim, I decided to go to the Negev, knowing full well that no matter what my choice will be, it will be both right and wrong. However, as I shared my dilemma with people, I was told (more than once) that Jerusalem Pride is either less important or less urgent than the protest against Prawer. And while I did eventually choose to head south, I would like to take a moment and address these comments.

The Israeli left always has something urgent to protest. There is always either a need to prevent the eviction of thousands of people from their homes, a wall to bring down, a military action to demonstrate against, or arrestees to release and support. There is always something more urgent that simply cannot wait, so much so that the feminist and LGBT struggles must take a step back and wait their turn. After all they are not dealing with matters of life and death.

And in the meantime, LGBT youth are being kicked out of their homes for coming out of the closet, they suffer abuse at school, and many of them contemplate or commit suicide. In the meantime, single-parent mothers struggle to survive another month, because 75 cents to the dollar is more than just a statistic. Many women face either sexual assault (Hebrew) or rape. For them, neither the street nor the home is a safe place, whether it’s day or night.

But the feminist and LGBT struggles are left behind among the Israel’s radical left, which is always quick to talk about connecting between the struggles. However, because these struggles seem less heroic and action-packed, the connection usually works in one direction. And anyways, the struggle is “theirs” rather than “ours.” Because apparently it is enough to show up once a year at Tel Aviv’s pride parade to complain about pinkwashing in order to feel radical and in full solidarity with the LGBT community, before going home and forgetting about homophobia, homeless queer youth, and those working in prostitution until next year’s parade. Because feminist struggles are still seen as “women’s issues” that radical men need not waste their precious time on. Because we shouldn’t really be complaining about sexual violence while men are fighting the war against the occupation.

So I would like to use this dilemma as an opportunity to remind the radical left of a few things. If we struggle against oppression, then the struggle against the oppression of women and LGBTs is part of our struggle. If we struggle against hatred and prejudice than homophobia is also on the list, right along racism. If we struggle for freedom, then the freedom of women to walk the streets safely is as high on the list as the freedom for Palestine. And if we struggle for demilitarization, then men should stop telling us “quiet, they are shooting.” If the suffragettes would have listen to them, we would have never gotten the right to vote.

Leehee Rothschild has been active in the Palestinian struggle for over a decade. She currently works with Anarchists Against the Wall and Boycott From Within. This article was first published in Hebrew on her blog.

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    1. The Trespasser

      These lefties are really funny.

      Fighting homophobia, prejudice and racism against Israel on Arab’s side, while Arab culture is inherently homophobic, prejudiced and racist.

      Reply to Comment
      • William Burns

        Gives them something in common with Israeli Jewish culture, then.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Yes, of course, as with most other cultures.

          The only difference is that some cultures had advanced onto higher levels, while others did not.

          Unless, of course, you would argue that there are no pride parades in Arab countries simply because there are not enough gays.

          Reply to Comment
          • David T.

            “The only difference is that some cultures had advanced onto higher levels, while others did not.”

            And by the cultures which have advened to higher levels you mean those who adhere human rights and international law and don’t keep others expelled to maintain an Apartheid regime, don’t you?

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >And by the cultures which have advanced to higher levels you mean those who adhere (to) human rights and international law and don’t keep others expelled to maintain an Apartheid regime, don’t you?

            Yes, including those who had to expel savages who refute human rights, international law and marry 9 y.o. girls.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Philos

      Leehee, unfortunately this seems to be the malaise of the short attention span and moral cowardice of most left-wing movements. Exhibit 1, the so-called “social justice” protest – Palestinians and Ethiopians need not apply.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Kate

      as the comments here show as long as Israel can say but we’re better than them it’s all good

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        No, silly. The commenters are saying that other societies need changes much more urgently.

        For instance, from leftist point of view, marrying off 9 years old girls in Palestine on Yemen or imprisonment and death penalties to homosexuals in said countries are far less important than alleged homophobia by some Israeli parents.

        After all, Arabs are only doing as it is written in Koran, so they possibly can’t be doing wrong. Right?

        Reply to Comment
        • Kate

          it must so burn that Jordan legalized being Gay 37 years before Israel, what was that again about what Leftists approve of there Robert?

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >it must so burn that Jordan legalized being Gay 37 years before Israel

            You do have some problems with understanding complicated texts and tabbed information.

            I’ll explain, for the brightest…

            Same-sex sexual activity: can one man screw another man?

            Israel: Legal since 1963 de facto; 1988 de jure; UN declaration signatory

            Jordan: Legal since 1951

            USA: Legal nationwide since 2003. + UN decl. sign.

            UK: Legal in England and Wales since 1967 in Scotland since 1981 in Northern Ireland since 1982 + UN decl. sign.

            Recognition of relationships: two man living as a couple?

            Israel: Yes, Unregistered cohabitation.

            Jordan: No.

            USA: Varies by state, not recognized by federal gov’t. (Legal in Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, and Wisconsin)

            UK: Civil partnership since 2005

            Same-sex marriage: one man marriying another man?

            Israel: Yes, cannot be performed in the country, but foreign same-sex marriages are recognised

            Jordan: No.

            USA: Varies by state, recognized by federal gov’t. (Legal in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and in the District of Columbia)

            UK: Yes, Legislation enacted by Royal Assent in England and Wales on 17th July 2013; Pending
            in Scotland for 2014; Illegal in Northern Ireland

            Same-sex adoption: two man adopting a child?

            Israel: Yes, step adoptions prohibited.

            Jordan: No.

            USA: Single gay persons may adopt, laws on couples vary by state

            UK: in England and Wales since 2005, in Scotland since 2009, Illegal in Northern Ireland, pending judicial review

            Allows gays to serve openly in military: gay soldiers serving with straight soldiers?

            Israel: Yes.

            Jordan: No.

            USA: Since 2011

            UK: Yes

            Anti-discrimination (Sexual orientation) – harrassing of homosexuals is persecuted?

            Israel: Bans some anti-gay discrimination.

            Jordan: No protection of gay rights.

            USA: No federal protections. Varying protections in 21 states. Included in the federal hate crimes law since 2009. See Matthew Shepard Act

            UK: Bans all anti-gay discrimination

            Laws concerning gender identity/expression

            Israel: Yes.

            Jordan: No.

            USA: Anti-transgender discrimination in healthcare insurance banned. No other federal protections. Varying protections in 17 states. Included in the federal hate crimes law since 2009. See Matthew Shepard Act

            UK: Gender Recognition Act 2004

            >what was that again about what Leftists approve

            Leftists for instance, approve marriage on 9 (nine) years old girls in Palestine.

            >of there Robert?

            I’m not Robert. Did you forgot to take your pills or something?

            Reply to Comment
    4. Actually, one thing I think I’ve learned over the last 40 years of being a marxist is that non class issues invariably screw the terms of struggle and deflect them.

      Reply to Comment
    5. XYZ

      I will repeat what I have stated here in the past…my years of reading comments and articles by radical “progressives” has convinced me that many (BUT NOT ALL) “progressives” are motivated by rage and hate and a desire for vengeance against perceived opponents rather than any real concern for improving the lives of the people they claim to care for.
      A good, extreme example was Lenin, who claimed to care about the “workers” but who was mainly interested in stringing up capitalists (recall his famous comment “we will hang the last capitalist with the rope he will sell us”) and former Czarist officials and getting even with his opponents.
      Here at 972 we see an endless litany of Israel bashing. Amnon Lord, now editor in Chief of the right-wing Makor Rishon newspaper and former Leftist says he saw tremendous hatred for Israel and everything in it from many of his former friends.
      Thus, protesting Israeli policies regarding the Bedouin and screaming that Israel is a “racist” apartheid state is much more FUN than demonstrating for some general human rights problem where you can’t really shout against Israel and its society in general. It just isn’t FUN.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Personally, I don’t subscribe to any of Lenin’s doctrines. Marxists are not necessarily Marxist-Leninists, you know. I prefer to call myself a Marxist-Syndicalist. Syndicalism is a curious thing because it isn’t necessarily either Left or Right. It’s an organisational method rather than a doctrine. It is opposed to Parties of any sort, whether Leninist, bourgeois or anything else. It regards Parties as unacceptably authoritarian, all of them. But Syndicalism is a method of organisation, with a revolutionary aim. It is more concerned with organisation than pure anarchism (which also, incidentally, is intrinsically neither left nor Right). But my point was that whatever your mode of organisation or non-organisation, it is an axiom of Marxism that the dimension of struggle is class, economic class. Not sexual orientation, or ethnicity, or whatever, but class. Everything else, as I said, misdirects the struggle, and you wake up to find yourself in bed with some bourgeois oaf, or worse.

      Reply to Comment

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