feature image by Anadolu / Contributor via Getty Images
Have you noticed the movement in solidarity with Gaza and Palestine is often led by women, queers, and non-binary people? It first caught my attention in 2012 when I lived in Melbourne, Australia, protesting a previous round of deadly Israeli military aggression in the Gaza Strip. Thirteen years later, it was true again on the streets of Berlin, Germany, in the months after October 7, and, in the United States today, it is true again from Oakland to Miami.
It would be easy for women and queer people to protest the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza on the grounds that they are represented among the casualties, which have now soared past 26,000, though most observers estimate the real number to be much higher when accounting for Palestinians who remain under the rubble from Israeli bombings. Statistically, there are queer people among the 62,861 Palestinians injured since October 7, and women are undoubtedly playing a big role in the caretaking responsibilities of the orphans and newly disabled people in Gaza who live under air, sea, and land blockade, with no avenue for escape. Women in Gaza are having c-sections without painkillers, and Palestinian girls are forced to use tent scraps, cut up parts of towels, and old clothes in the absence of period products.
As a feminist, it angers me to witness a nuclear-armed superpower strangle a besieged parcel of land and force its displaced civilian population into a catastrophe of famine. It is infuriating to witness the wholesale destruction of Palestinian universities, graveyards, schools, municipal buildings, and apartment blocks. It feels maddening to follow citizen journalists on social media and feel helpless as they get hounded by drones or eradicated, often alongside their families, by Israeli weaponry that American taxpayers directly fund.
Yet, my outrage at the unjust massacre of Palestinians is not because there are women and queer people among the martyrs. I find it insulting to our collective capacity for solidarity to suggest my investment in the freedom of another people need only be for selfish reasons. Though there are plenty of queer people in Gaza, we organize against Israeli occupation and apartheid not because they exist but rather due to a deeper thread of queer and feminist solidarity that extends beyond identitarian constructs and requires a more sophisticated notion of queerness and feminism than the LGBTIQA acronym and/or womanhood alone can command. Many organizations during the Civil Rights movement understood this notion of solidarity well, including the Black Women’s Liberation Committee, which later turned into the Third World Women’s Alliance to recognize the shared struggles facing all class-oppressed women of color. The Black feminist poet June Jordan wrote poems about resistance in Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Lebanon, Bosnia, and Palestine because she keenly believed in this expansiveness of solidarity.
Queerness and feminism are overlapping politics that demand an internationalist framework of solidarity whenever abuses of power impoverish a people’s capacity for liberation. When I say queer, I mean hostile to the military industrial complex that generates profit by manufacturing weapons designed to kill people. I mean I am opposed to the notion that any nation-state should ever be able to control the electricity grid, clean water supply, and borders of another sovereign territory, let alone a nation-state like Israel that was founded upon the killing of 15,000 Palestinians and the displacement of 750,000 others from their ancestral homes. My queerness involves an estranged and at times antagonistic relationship to normative power and, in this instance, the power dynamics are clear. Israel has played a role in preventing meaningful elections from taking place in Gaza to minimize the possibility of Palestinian statehood, and even the Times of Israel noted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s interest in propping up Hamas. My queerness instructs me to draw parallels between Israeli colonization and the colonization of much of the world by various empires driven by similar ethno-supremacist ideologies, and, more vehemently, it compels me to speak up and show out in defense of Palestinians without fear of professional consequences. The stakes are higher than any lost gigs or income.
As enumerated by the Palestinian Feminist Collective, feminists see daily acts of resistance as paving the path to a different future by disrupting the status quo wherein abuses of power are made possible. Since at least the 1930s, according to the collective, “Palestinians have regularly engaged in strikes, boycotts, and pickets as a grassroots means of resisting Zionist colonial settlement, land annexation, and labor disposability.” These feminists are asking those of us in the West who can influence the present genocide to join them in mutual struggle.
The first and most meaningful act of solidarity we can support is the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement for freedom, justice, and equality. Modeled off the successful campaign to apply economic pressure to end South Africa’s brutal system of apartheid in the 1990s, BDS calls international civil society organizations and people of conscience to boycott a select number of companies that are particularly complicit in Israeli occupation and settlement expansion. As consumers, we make active choices about the brands and companies we want to support. Targeted consumer boycotts are convincing retailers across the world to stop selling products from companies that profit from Israeli colonialism.
Hewlett Packard (HP) helps run the biometric ID system that Israel uses to restrict Palestinian movement. Siemens is complicit in apartheid Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise through its planned construction of the EuroAsia Interconnector, which will link Israel’s electricity grid with Europe’s, allowing illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land to benefit from Israel-EU trade. AXA invests in Israeli banks, which finance the theft of Palestinian land and natural resources. Do not buy insurance policies with AXA, or if you currently have an insurance policy with them, cancel it. Puma sponsors the Israel Football Association, which includes teams in Israel’s illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Fruits, vegetables and wines from Israel are often wrongly labeled as “Produced in Israel” when they come from stolen Palestinian land. Boycott all produce from Israel in your supermarket and demand they are removed from shelves. Ahava cosmetics has its production site, visitor center, and main store in an illegal Israeli settlement. Sabra hummus is a joint venture between PepsiCo and the Strauss Group, an Israeli food company that provides financial support to the Israeli army.
The divestment arm of BDS urges banks, local councils, churches, pension funds, and universities to withdraw investments from the state of Israel and all companies that sustain Israeli apartheid, and the sanctions element of BDS encourages the banning of business with Israel by ending military trade and free-trade agreements, as well as suspending Israel’s membership in international forums such as UN bodies, Eurovision, the Olympics, and FIFA. The broader objectives of this three-pronged economic campaign are to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Arab lands and dismantle the wall that currently fragments it, to recognize the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, therein ending the conditions of apartheid, and to honor the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
The BDS committee also encourages supporters to reject organizations like Standing Together, which normalize the Israeli state and flatten the conflict to inter-group hatred. Moreover, in 2024, a broad coalition of cultural workers in Berlin announced a call to Strike Germany, which encourages international artists, academics, and cultural workers to withhold their labor from German state-funded organizations and institutions because of their complicity in Israel’s genocide of the Palestinians and German censorship of legitimate criticism of Israel. The US campaign for Palestinian rights has prepared an action toolkit for helping to end the genocide, and collectives like Writers Against the War on Gaza (WAWOG) organize in cities across the United States and have released a statement of solidarity that can be signed.
Our collective consumption habits are an issue with crucial implications for queer people and feminists alike. Where we choose to spend money and invest our labor has a major impact on the international apparatus that sustains Israel and enables it to occupy and disenfranchise Palestinians. As people of principle and conscience, it is our responsibility to wholeheartedly join the struggle for the liberation of Palestine and of all people strangled under the boot of empire.