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Pinkwashing Israel in Germany and the Difficulty of Speaking out

CSD Pride Parade2 27.06.16During the last few years we have witnessed the mass displacement of millions upon millions of people, and watched defeatedly as politicians worldwide have done little more than desperately try to shun responsibility.

Also known as the “refugee crisis”, European fortress policy has lead to the totally preventable deaths of thousands.

Within Europe, Germany has “taken in” a large number of refugees, a total of one million in 2015. That number is larger than that of most other European countries.

The community response to this influx of people has been –I would argue– unparalleled compared to neighbouring countries. From the “Refugees Welcome” banners appearing in big cities, the “welcome parties” that greeted refugees and migrants at train stations, to the creation of projects and community events that help welcome new arrivals, this narrative of German generosity and selflessness has almost written itself (see here for a critical response to this).

But when it comes to acknowledging the disastrous consequences (“Western”-supported) Israeli settler-colonial policy has had upon the so-called “refugee crisis”, the response from (predominantly white) activists is chillingly silent.

It is absurd to talk about the “crisis” without talking about the Palestinian people’s long history of exile. Let’s not forget that a large number of those Syrian refugees –who the German government has so generously and publicly offered to help– have been violently dislocated from their homes and denied citizenship not once but twice.

Speaking out against Israel in Germany is difficult. For many Germans, criticism of Israel is simply an expression of anti-Semitism. It is an issue that divides the Left in the country, with the pro-Israel Antideutsch (Anti-German) being most notable in this.

The Zionist lobby will use anything in its power to try and mask the crimes being committed against the Palestinian people. One of its most convincing PR strategies is that of “pinkwashing”, a tactic that is used to “paint” Israel as a civilised, liberal oasis of gay tolerance in the Middle East – forcing the racist presentation of Palestine as uncivilised and homophobic.

Many seem to be buying this. Look to any pro-Israel demonstration here in Berlin and you’ll find rainbow Pride flags in abundance, being flown with righteous enthusiasm.

It is in this context that we decided to create our group “Berlin Against Pinkwashing”. We are a diverse group of activists who have come together to speak out against this insulting appropriation of queer issues. Our message is clear: We will not allow our identities to be used to promote this racist agenda.
Our battles are not, and can never be, separated from one another. Whilst I applaud Germany for their commitment to “never again” allow the atrocities of their past to be repeated, we must remember that there is always more than one narrative; more than one history. The fight against anti-Semitism cannot be done outside of a context of anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and indeed queer feminist struggles. Never has this message of solidarity been more needed, and I would argue especially here in Germany.

Naomi Alice Rodgers -Naomi Alice Rodgers is a Berlin-based feminist activist. Her work is geared towards engaging with feminist movements both locally and internationally, and is also involved in solidarity work with Palestinians resisting occupation and apartheid. She is heavily involved with the group “Berlin Against Pinkwashing”: A group that aims to bring attention to the appropriation of LGBTQI* and feminist issues by Israel (and its Western allies) to mask a reality of colonisation and apartheid in Occupied Palestine. She is also interested in the occurrence of social segregation and discrimination in social spaces in Berlin (looking specifically at nightclub spaces), having carried out research on this for her masters thesis in Intersectional Gender Studies.




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