A number of LGBTQ activist organizations from across the world have called upon three French religious organizations to cancel an upcoming interfaith delegation to Israel because it violates the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions. Asserting itself as a “vanguard of a dialogue among spiritualities for reciprocity and solidarity with local LGBT movements,” Beit Haverim, David and Jonathan, and HM2F are French LGBT groups of Jews, Christians and Muslims respectively whose tour next week is partly sponsored by the City of Paris.
Arab / Palestinian LGBTQ groups have expressed concerns about the wisdom of such a visit, against a backdrop of claims that the French organisations have not discussed or collaborated effectively with local organisations.
Writing at Pinkwatching Israel, the local activists explain:
The organizations claim that the trip is “non-political,” but a brief look at their program clearly shows the political dimensions of the trip. Meeting with an Israeli MK [Member of the Knesset], an official from the municipality of Tel Aviv, and French Cultural Attaché in Israel to discuss “cultural relations between Israel and France” are political by nature. Violations of BDS guidelines constitute a conscious political choice. Beit Haverim, David and Jonathan, and HM2F are clearly willing to engage only in certain forms of politics which they deem safe, while ignoring questions of their responsibility, as religious tourists, to refrain from legitimizing occupation and apartheid.
This denial is so powerful that none of the material produced by the organizations for the trip mentions the word “occupation” even once. The only West Bank city on their itinerary is Bethlehem, currently surround by the apartheid wall which segregates 15,000 dunums of agricultural land. Ironically, the wall around Bethlehem serves to isolate and annex the very same religious areas that the organizations plan to visit. Around Rachel’s Tomb and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque, hundreds of Palestinians are isolated between two walls, further strengthening Israeli control of historic, religious, and deeply significant places and strangling the city economically.
In particular, activists questioned the solidarity of HM2F (Homosexuels musulmans de France) with Muslim LGBT people in Palestine.
According to the program, they claim to be in touch with “Muslim LGBT” organization Al-Qaws, when in fact, HM2F only contacted them for a meeting on the 1st of November. This lack of concern is evident not only in their misidentification of alQaws as a Muslim group, but also in their decision to bypass any prior consultation with the Palestinian queer groups they claim to be in solidarity with. In particular, HM2F’s participation comes as a disappointing surprise to the organization’s partners as their involvement directly risks the safety of activists and groups located in Arab societies. HM2F is currently a member of several coalitions along with different Arab and Muslim queer groups, and is planning to join several anticipated coalitions along the same lines. By leading this initiative, HM2F is unfortunately neglecting calls for solidarity and further burning its bridges with these groups, several of whom have criticized them for similar actions in the past.
Major Palestinian organizations that work on LGBTQ and sexuality issues, and many others, have shared and endorsed the statement.
Imaan shares the concerns of our brothers and sisters and calls upon the organisers of the proposed tour to explain their position more clearly. However, our belief is that a queer group considering an LGBT interfaith tour in Israel is quite troubling. Interfaith LGBT outreach is important and extremely rewarding for LGBT people of faith, but we draw a line at what appears to be a fairly uncritical event inside Israel and inclusive of elements of the Israeli body-politic: a regime that maintains a facade of socially progressive policy as one of the ways in which it seeks to present itself as a normal and benign nation-state. A “tour” of the sort described would add undeserved credence to Israel’s assertion of “normal” statehood and would be a press-bonanza. We do not believe that LGBT groups, let alone those representing Muslims should be seen, even, to be applauding a state for its largely empty platitudes towards queers, when that same state can’t respect the most basic of human rights – such as the right to life – of its citizens and neighbours.
We hope that these three groups will reconsider their plans and enter a constructive dialogue with Palestinian groups working on the ground, about the best way to achieve valuable local interactions that first and foremost respect and maintain solidarity with the Palestinian people