Friday, June 17, 2011

Hate Visits The Castro

This evening I decided to head out to the LGBT Film Festival in the Castro–not to see any films but to join a protest against the Israeli Consulate's sponsorship of the Festival.  The action was organized by the group Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism.  Why?  Because the state of Israel has a vigorous PR campaign promoting itself as an island of gay tolerance in a sea of backwardness and hate.  It is designed to deflect attention from Israel's horrific human rights record against Palestinians and Arabs, and the gay film festival shouldn't let itself be used as a propaganda tool.

It started as I would have expected, with a small number of pro-Israel Zionists separated from a small number of pro-Palestinian/anti-apartheid activists.  There were Israeli flags and American flags on one side, streamers of black, red, green and white and placards on the other.  I joined the anti-apartheid side–a mostly queer group with all kinds of diversity: Jewish lesbians, African American men, white, brown, Arab, young and old.  The other side was overwhelmingly white and did not seem all that queer (but I didn't ask anyone about their sexual orientation).

As things got started, our side outnumbered the other side at least 3 to 1 and was getting a lot of encouragement from onlookers.  An older man with his partner said "good for you" and flashed the peace sign.  Passing cars honked their horn and gave us the thumbs up.  A few of our folks, with instruments in hand, started to play.  The drums pounded as some of us chanted: "Frameline members take a stand, pinkwashing is a scam!" (Frameline is the organization that runs the Festival).

The Israeli flags and ridiculous signs saying things like "Queers for Palestine is like turkeys for Thanksgiving" (because, you know, there are no gay people in Palestine getting killed by the IDF, they've all been murdered by terrorists and savages, or some such bigotry) were to be expected.  But the most disgusting tactic used by the ultra-Zionists (I can only assume people who would hatch up such a stunt must have the "ultra" attached to their description) was a person dressed in a full hijab burqa with a sign that read "Pinkwash This" and who kept trying to stand in front of the anti-apartheid group.  It was undoubtedly hate speech.  Imagine someone mocking the pro-Israel side in a kippah or mocking a group of anti-segregation activists while wearing black face.  It was a perfect example of what the staunchest defenders of Israel are resorting to–trying to sell ignorance and hatred in a neighborhood that has a history of fighting for human rights and human dignity.  The liberal Zionist agenda is clearly in crisis when Islamaphobia like this is used in a futile attempt to win over gay folks in the Castro, who know hate when they see it.