By Jordan Harmon – Policy Analyst – Legislative Advocate (Muscogee (Creek) Nation)

As Two-Spirit and Indigi-queer people on Turtle Island, we often approach queer and trans liberation as interconnected with the broader decolonization movement and liberation from Western patriarchy, white supremacy, and settler-colonialism. Our intersectional existence–which inherently encompasses our relationships to land, spirituality, and community–is sometimes in conflict with Western LGBT+ movements, which tend to center around “gay rights” that depend on an individualistic, capitalist morality. A necessary aspect of that intersectional approach to liberation is solidarity with global anti-colonial struggles. 

Queer and trans-Palestinians are now facing a genocide that mirrors the genocide of Native Americans in many ways, and queer Palestinians are also living with intersectionality while resisting settler-colonialism. For many Indigenous Peoples, there is a horrific familiarity with the apartheid in Palestine and Israel’s settler-colonial tactics. 

In 2023, Israel had already been escalating the violence in Gaza to unprecedented heights. After the Hamas retaliatory strike on October 7, 2023, killing 1,200 Israelis, the government declared a “total siege” on Gaza and the civilian population. Since October 7, Israeli offensive forces have killed more than 37,000 Palestinians and injured more than 84,000, with thousands more still missing. Millions have been displaced and are living as refugees. As a result of Israel’s scorched earth assault tactics and blockades of humanitarian aid, at least 1.1 million Gazans are currently at risk for starvation. Millions more have been killed or displaced since the Nakba began in 1948.

Israel’s settler colonialism depends on Western weapons manufacturers to uphold its dominance. In 2005, in recognition of the need for favorable public opinion in Western countries, Israel launched the “Brand Israel” campaign, which aims to “rebrand” global perspectives of Israel and garner support for the assault on Palestine. 

“Brand Israel” created a narrative upholding Israel as a progressive safe haven in the Middle East for women and queer people and demonizing surrounding Arab countries, especially Palestine, as inherently violent toward marginalized genders and sexuality. Palestinians adapted the term “pinkwashing” to identify and criticize Israel’s tokenization of queer people to justify genocide. “Pinkwashing” is a term that has historically been used to criticize the commercialization and corporatization of breast cancer awareness movements. By propagandizing Palestinians as inherently violent and oppressive, Israel attempts to justify its brutality and genocide against Palestine. 

Israel’s propaganda relies on a Western ideal of “gay rights,” which emphasizes individual identity and visibility. Israel encourages tourists to fly into Tel Aviv to attend the Pride festival, claiming that if queer people were to express themselves in a Palestinian community, they would be “stoned” or imprisoned. This narrative ignores the genocide and ignores the reality of Israel’s anti-LGBT policies, where domestic same-sex marriage is not legally recognized. The biggest irony in this messaging is that queer Palestinians are not being “saved” by Israel’s assault. 

Queer Palestinians are being killed and displaced right alongside the rest of the population. As LGBT+ citizens in Gaza and the West Bank have explained, there is no “pink door” in the border wall allowing for queer Palestinian refugees to walk into Israel. Palestinian refugees in Israel are treated as “illegal” and are mistreated and often deported, regardless of their gender or sexuality.  In contrast to the queer utopia promoted by the Brand Israel campaign, queer Palestinians in Israel have reported being blackmailed by Israeli military personnel to coerce them into cooperating with the IDF. 

Meanwhile, queer Palestinian groups have demanded autonomy and self-determination, free from Israel’s colonization. For example, alQaws, a grassroots society of queer Palestinians, has outlined the connection between queer liberation and Palestine liberation. How can queer Palestinians be liberated if they are being bombed, dislocated, attacked, and starved by the Israeli military? Pinkwashing silences the voices of queer Palestinians and justifies Israel’s violent actions as a moral crusade. The stories of queer Palestinians and the impacts of “pinkwashing” are highlighted in the Queering the Map project, where LGBT+ people around the globe can anonymously share their stories. As one queer Palestinian living in the occupied West Bank reports: “I don’t know how to feel as an LGBT Palestinian when the biggest pride event took place on the ruins of my village.”

The history of pinkwashing Israel’s violence against queer Palestinians is rooted in a long history of Western supremacy, often framed around women’s and gender “rights.” Colonial powers such as Britain, France, and the United States have justified the colonization and interference in the Middle East, as well as Turtle Island, with this narrative of supremacy. Western powers are seen as superior and advanced, while Native populations are portrayed as barbaric, savage, and in need of “civilization” and “saving.” In recent decades, the rhetoric of “saving the Muslim woman” has been used to justify colonial projects in Arab countries–without ever distinguishing between “Arab” and “Muslim” or other diverse populations such as Bedouins. Israel is portrayed as the place where women in the Middle East can be free, again ignoring the genocide and mass murder of Palestinian women and families. 

In reality, the war and violence against the land have a special impact on women and femmes. Since October 7, an average rate of 63 women a day have been killed in Gaza. More than 6,000 mothers have been killed, and more than 14,5000 children have been killed. Menstruating people are facing an increased risk of infections due to a lack of access to hygiene. Miscarriages in Gaza have increased by 300%, with an almost complete destruction of Gaza’s healthcare system. Far from “saving” and protecting women and children, the IDF frequently uses sexual violence against all genders, including children, as a tactic of war and genocide. 

The millions of displaced refugees, mostly women and families, are now facing record heatwaves due to climate change. A critical strategy of the genocide is the destruction of the land and waterways of Gaza. The impacts of war greatly increase the impact on the climate. During just the first two months of Israel’s current siege, more than 281,000 tons of carbon dioxide were generated by Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza. Targeting ancient and traditional agricultural lands, a familiar tactic on Turtle Island serves as psychological warfare on Palestinian culture as well as destruction of food systems. The United Nations has called for the protection of Palestinian olive trees, which are being targeted by the IDF as an important cultural food and economic source for Palestinians. 

As queer and feminist climate justice advocates, we must be aware of the intersectional existence of oppressed and colonized people. The individual and selective “gay rights” as touted by Israel do not serve to protect queer and femme Palestinians who are undergoing a modern genocide. Palestinians deserve autonomy, and oppressed populations in Gaza deserve the opportunity for self-determination free from the violence and colonialism of their homelands. Historic oppression of queer people is not and will never be a justification for genocide. 



Indigenous Rising Radio

Loading …