“Queer People Are No Friends to Israeli Apartheid”: LGBTQ+ Artists Sign Open Letter for Palestine

feature image photo by SAJJAD HUSSAIN / Contributor via Getty Images

Over 240 LGBTQ+ artists across arts and culture industries have signed an open letter, as Them initially reported, calling for a permanent ceasefire in Palestine and condemning Israel for the ongoing genocide as well as the pinkwashing propaganda campaigns that have been used to bolster oppression of Palestinians. The letter also crucially includes a commitment to boycotting Israel. As the letter puts it:

Today, we demonstrate our solidarity with Palestinians by pledging not to perform or participate in public events in Israel until Palestinians are free. We believe that showing our work in Israel would dishonor the radical histories of queer activism and self-expression, which stand opposed to violent systems like apartheid and military occupation. Palestinians remind us that none of us are free until we are all free. That “queer liberation is fundamentally tied to the dreams of Palestinian liberation: self-determination, dignity, and the end of all systems of oppression.” We will continue to speak out for Palestine, to educate ourselves, and to uplift Palestinian voices.

Open letters and statements of course can be meaningful on their own, but it’s the ones that have commitments to action — such as the stated boycott of events in Israel in this Queer Artists for Palestine letter — that carry the most weight. In history, we saw how the cultural and academic boycott of South Africa moved the needle on ending apartheid. A cultural boycott is similarly an arm of the BDS movement. “Israel celebrates visits by international artists as a sign of support for its policies,” as the BDS website explains.

Among the signatories are Indya Moore and Kehlani, who have been seen at many protests and actions over the past couple months. Moore was arrested last month as part of a Jewish Voice for Peace sit-in at Grand Central station in New York City alongside Cecilia Gentili, who is also a signatory.

The letter comes from artists across the music, performance, film/television, and literature industries. All three members of the band MUNA and all three members of boygenius also signed on along with several past cast members of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Authors and poets include Michelle Tea, Fariha Róisín, Zeba Blay, and more.

Fatimah Asghar, whose brilliant essay on the links between queer liberation and Palestinian liberation was republished today on Autostraddle, is also a signatory. I recommend reading their essay in full and holding it in mind when reading through the open letter and its list of names, because it really gets to the heart of why a specifically queer call to solidarity and action is not only necessary but a part of queerness itself. As Asghar puts it: “It is our duty as queer people to show up, and to show what being queer really means.”

Being queer means standing against oppression, against the dehumanization of a people, and certainly against genocide.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 764 articles for us.

33 Comments

  1. They don’t speak for this queer person. Brain worm Russian propaganda. Yes, let’s listen to what Hamas says is happening and take them at their word. Does Netanyahu need to resign? Yes. Do 85% of Palestinians support Hamas actions on Oct 7? Yes. Innocent people always suffer in war. A ceasefire is not reasonable when Hamas won’t honor it. Jews are the only people in the world that have to justify defending themselves. Hamas. Hezbollah. I’m old enough I’ve seen this story before, at least twice, and nothing ever changes. Nothing ever will.

  2. I’ve read a number of Palestine-related articles here now. All of them reflect that there is lots of emotion but little knowledge.
    1. Are there problems, discrimination and all the like in Israel? Sure. But to call that apartheid unfortunately tells me you know nothing about actual apartheid as it existed in RSA. Which part of then RSA’s constitutional makeup do you see reflected in Israel’s constitution? What about the MPs, judges and other people of Palestinian or Bedouin descent that are able to make it in Israel? Call it a discriminatory society if you want and call out Israel’s problems precisely – but using the term apartheid is plain wrong.
    2. BDS is a racist organisation. If you are boycotting Israelis per se without even wanting to find out whether they are left, right or center makes the BDS a textbook racist organisation. Not wanting dialogue with Israelis makes the BDS look stubborn and racist.
    3. We’re all queer here in the comments I assume. Ever thought about how many seconds we’d survive on a Gaza or Ramallah marketplace with our wee LGBT flags and all that? How oblivious is this whole movement to the struggles of actual queer Palestinians? Those who are out can flee to places such as Tel Aviv and live a better life there. Those who do not have Israeli citizenship and are out can only apply for refugee status in Europe. There is currently no good life for a queer person under any existing Palestinian rule, be it Gaza or the West Bank. The cheek to ignore that makes me wonder what the hell is going on with “queers for Palestine”. I’d rather sign up for “queers for queer Palestinians”, helping them find a way to achieve refugee status and SURVIVE but maybe that requires some actual understanding of the situation.
    4. I cannot take non-Palestinians and non-Israelis seriously who focus on the plight of Palestinians while ignoring the ACTUAL GENOCIDE currently taking place in China. A muslim minority is currently subject to a genocide but I cannot see y’all protesting by the Chinese embassies in the west. Sorry, tried to take them seriously but can’t.
    UGH DO BETTER.

    • “Ever thought about how many seconds we’d survive on a Gaza or Ramallah marketplace with our wee LGBT flags”

      This is exactly what the problem is. Hamas being homophobic just not justify murdering Palestinian civilians. Including queer Palestinian civilians, who are *also dying at the hands of the Israeli government*.

    • Also, why do you think the atrocities in China count as ‘actual genocide’, whereas Israel’s slaughter of over 11,000 civilians doesn’t? Why do you think it’s different? Because it’s a perpetrator you like?

      If you want a logical answer, it’s because Israel voluntarily subjects itself to the rule of multiple governing bodies that we can influence. China does not. Beyond applying pressure via orgs like Amnesty International (member for over 2 decades), there’s not a lot we can do.

      • You cannot influence anything related to China? You just do not want to! That’s it!
        What about a boycott of Chinese products? What about harassing Apple and all those other companies still in China? You could easily hate on literally all the freaking companies that do “made in China”. None of you be trying to make use of your market power towards China.
        You could if you cared but you’re pretty obsessed with the Jewish state named Israel.

        • Regarding Apple and other companies producing mobile technology, there *is* a boycott aimed at them, although related to Congo, not China.

          The idea that people only care about Palestine because they’re “obsessed” with Israel is a wildly disingenuous stance to take, when support for Congo, and Sudan (and in some regions for Nagorno-Karabakh and the LandBack movement as well) is generally coming from the same people.

          Frankly, if you haven’t noticed the overlap in those movements, you just haven’t been paying attention.

          • @bardic

            1) is it apartheid? Yes. South African leaders who experienced apartheid in SA unequivocally say it is. Tell Archbishop Desmond Tutu he doesn’t know what apartheid is I dare you

            2) is BDS racist because it’s a boycott of all Israelis regardless of their politics etc?
            First of all, why do you think “Israeli” is a race? Secondly, there are BDS guidelines that talk about what situations are appropriate for boycott and which are not: the boycott is not applied without discretion. See the first chapter of Sarah Schulmans book, “Israel, Palestine, & the Queer International” for an example of how she upheld the boycott, still travelled to Israel, and met and spoke with Israeli citizens there.

            3) how many queer Palestinians do you think have been murdered by Hamas? How many by Israel? If Israel is so safe for queer Palestinians, why won’t the Israeli state let those queer Palestinians in Jerusalem, the WB, Gaza, and the diaspora, ACTUALLY LIVE THERE in their home?

            4) Cute what- about -ism but the US isn’t actively funding atrocities against the Uyghers and supplying white phosphorus bombs to China for use against their minority populations.
            But you’re right, let’s fix every other problem we can think of before we stop committing genocide by starvation and bombs against millions of people.

  3. Is having actual rights for LGBT people now considered pinkwashing propaganda these days? Does doing the bare minimum such as not killing LGBT peeps for being LGBT peeps also count as pinkwashing?
    Have you ever – and I mean EVER – spoken to LGBT people of Palestinian origin who live in Tel Aviv? Have you asked them about their experience?
    Sure, go ahead and tell them that the fact that they are allowed to breathe air is nothing more than pinkwashing. Go ahead and westsplain their life to them.

  4. Very grateful that you guys are still supporting BDS despite the heat AS gets lately. It was incredibly discouraging to see expressing solidarity with the Palestinians being outlawed in the US

  5. I’m a queer person and I care about Israel & Jewish rights. This letter or post does not speak for me. I also care for Palestinian rights and want a solution that allows both to exist, but supporters “letters” like these don’t want that. Jews are indigenous to the land and any claims otherwise are bigoted and frankly, dumb. You claim apartheid, buts it’s Hamas who controlled Gaza. It’s Hamas who stole from its own people. It’s Hamas who keeps its people down. And it’s Gazans who voted them in.

    You know what country actually cares about the rights of lgbtq+, women, and Arabs/christians/jews that live there? Israel. Hamas would want all of us killed too.

  6. Why are there even still comments sections if they only serve as a space for people to plant a flag in their corner and then yell at the people in the other corners? What does it accomplish?

  7. They do not speak for this Queer person either. Hamas is a terrorist group. Christ is brown but Jews are white. You make no sense and support a terrorist orginazition that has rejected countless ceasefires. If Israel wanted to eliminate all the Palestinians in a single blast they could. You don’t know what a genocide is. This is a war, not an ethnic cleansing. They are both semitic you half wit.

    • It’s entirely possible to agree that Hamas are a horrible group and also oppose the appalling violence unleashed on over 2 million people by the Israeli state. The Israeli military is killing hundreds of civilians every day and putting hundreds of thousands more in mortal danger while destroying their homes and livelihoods. No one should have the power to destroy an entire people “in a single blast”. Nothing about that is proportionate or acceptable.

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