QuAIA Vancouver Statement on VQFF Pinkwashing

VQFF Pinkwashing

Unceded Coast Salish Territories (Vancouver) August 7th, 2014.

To endorse this statement as an organization or individual, please click here – http://bit.ly/EndorseQuAIA – for our endorsement form!

It is with great concern and disappointment that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) Vancouver responds to the half-page advertisement for Yad b’Yad LGBTQ featured in the Vancouver Queer Film Festival’s 2014 Festival Print Guide.

Yad b’Yad is a pinkwashing organization devoted to promoting ties between the state of Israel and LGBTQ communities in Canada. Earlier this year, Yad b’Yad screened a film funded by the Israeli Film Fund and hosted an advocacy workshop on pinkwashing strategies at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Vancouver. The group also lauds Canada and Israel for being amongst the top 10 gay-friendly militaries in the world and celebrates Tel Aviv as a centre for gay tourism.

The Vancouver Queer Film Festival (VQFF) has offered a platform and chosen to accept marketing funds from Yad b’Yad despite the growing international movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel.

The VQFF’s decision to feature Yad b’Yad occurs in the context of ongoing Israeli apartheid and occupation of Palestine, which takes the form of mass displacement, illegal Israeli settlements, racist laws, checkpoints, a system of walls, barriers, and roads accessible solely to Israeli settlers, and the illegal siege of Gaza, deemed the world’s largest open-air prison.

The most recent Israeli invasion of Gaza has involved mass arrests, displacement of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, and has claimed more than 1,766 lives, including at least 400 children, and injured more than 9,320 Palestinians to date and been widely denounced by people around the world. According to UNICEF, over 30% of civilian casualties thus far have been children. All of these numbers will likely continue to rise in the days to come.

It is crucial to note that Gaza has no army, no navy, and no air force with which to defend itself against one of the strongest militaries in the world. While the Harper government has described the Israeli invasion of Gaza as “self-defence” and mainstream media continue to characterize the latest bombardment as a “two-sided conflict”, we recognize Israel’s military dominance and the racist ideology underpinning these attacks as genocidal.

QuAIA Vancouver came together as part of a growing international movement – led by Palestinians – against Israeli apartheid and occupation. In particular, QuAIA Vancouver has targeted the aggressive public relations campaign launched by the state of Israel to market itself itself as being an oasis of liberal tolerance in the Middle East and the only gay-friendly country in an otherwise hostile region while also silencing any dissent by equating any critiques of its war crimes as anti-Semitic, something many prominent Jewish leaders (amongst others) have denounced. By appealing to the global LGBTQ community to support the Israeli apartheid state at the expense of Palestinians, Israel is actively engaged in the pinkwashing of apartheid and occupation.

As queers, trans* folks, and allies, we are outraged by the appropriation of queer and trans* struggles for liberation in order to obscure, excuse, and justify Israeli state violence. In 2012, QuAIA Vancouver and community allies launched a campaign urging the VQFF to be in solidarity with Palestinian queer and trans* communities and come out against the Israeli apartheid regime.

After outrage from local members of the queer and trans* community demanding answers, the VQFF recently issued a statement regarding the Yad b’Yad advertisement, framing the concerns as a lack of clarity about advertising polices. The statement further refers to “the Israeli/Palestinian conflict” as something that is a deeply “personal and political issue for many”. This reframing and normalizing of systemic, institutionalized oppression and the brutal and illegal occupation of the Palestinian people and their land as a conflict between two sides and as a personal issue is deeply problematic and needs to be named. The statement also claims that the VQFF did not intend to take a position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Unfortunately, the actions and inactions of VQFF over the last two years suggest otherwise.

Last year, the Festival held a panel to discuss the issue. QuAIA Vancouver was not even notified of the event. The panel composition and framing of the discussion served to further normalize this criminal occupation as a conflict between equals and did not in any meaningful way address Israel’s active and ongoing pinkwashing campaign or the VQFF’s participation in it.

The VQFF statement goes on to state that it is time for “open, honest, and constructive conversations” because they do not shy away from this. Yet QuAIA Vancouver and others engaged in this work continue to await a response, two years later despite our repeated attempts at engagement, discussion, outreach, and education. In the interim, as we write this, the people of Gaza and Palestine at large continue to lose their lives to Israel’s brutal and ongoing assault on their homes, hospitals, playgrounds, schools and much more. While the rest of the world is speaking out, the VQFF remains silent. We believe there has been ample time these past two years for the Festival to engage in discussions, dialogue, and conversation. The time has come for action without further delay.

As a result, we call on the Festival to issue an unequivocal apology for accepting marketing funds from Yad b’Yad and for printing their advertisement and as it is too late for a retraction, a return of their advertising funds and a donation of funds in the equivalent amount specifically to groups at the forefront of anti-pinkwashing activism and education, led by and for Palestinian queer and trans* people such as Al-Qaws or Palestinian Queers for BDS.

We call for no less than complete boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel and for the VQFF and broader LGBTQ communities to join in international solidarity with Gaza and the fight for Palestinian liberation. Specially, we call for the Festival to meet the two-years plus outstanding demand for a BDS resolution no later than November 29th, 2014, the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. Members of the community and those who have supported the VQFF to date have made it clear that they are committed to increasing pressure on the Festival as needed to express their deep concern and outrage regarding this ongoing delay in adopting a BDS resolution and the profound lack of judgement demonstrated in accepting advertising funds from Yad b’Yad.

We write this with the hope that the Festival will do the right thing and with a renewed commitment to standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people and in particular at this time, with Gaza.

Please See Also:

Sins Invalid statement on the Vancouver Queer Film Festival 2014 and Pinkwashing: http://disability-justice.tumblr.com/post/94025105614/sins-invalid-pulls-film-out-of-vancouver-queer-film

Radical Access Mapping Project (RAMP) statement on Pinkwashing at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival: http://radicalaccessiblecommunities.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/ramp-on-pinkwashing-at-the-vancouver-queer-film-festival/

To endorse this statement as an organization or individual, please click here – http://bit.ly/EndorseQuAIA – for our endorsement form!

Endorsers:

Organizations:
US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Radical Access Mapping Project (RAMP)
Radio-BED
COPE LGBTQ Caucus
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) Seattle
Action for a Progressive Pakistan
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights – UBC
Pakistan Solidarity Network
Canada Palestine Association
Voice of Palestine
Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign
Salaam Vancouver
Queers Undermining Israeli Terror

Individuals:
Huma Dar
Saadia Toor
Rabab Abdulhadi, Race and Resistance Studies, San Francisco State University
Jacqueline Downs
Jude Diebold
romham padriag gallacher
Omid Javadi
Manveer Singh
Nathalie Leveille
J. Kehaulani Kauanui
Shefali Chandra
Shelley Ettinger
Bianca Shana’a
Aseefa Merali
Fleur Gadd
Jaime Veve, Transport workers union local 100 (retired)
Mordecai Briemberg, CanPalNet (Canada Palestine Support Network)
Smitty Buckler
Urooba Jamal
Harris David Harris
Nikki Zawadzki
Thirza Cuthand
Johan Genberg
Kate Raphael
Andrea Miller-Nesbitt
Melisa Brittain
Miranda Wolfe
Mik Turje, Dandyshots Productions
Logan Trudeau
Kir Tancon
Maree Lien
Susan Craigie
Dylyn Wilkinson
Fayza Bundalli
Lisa Stepnuk
Beth Duncan
Katie McNiven Gladman
Amanda Bloom

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