We Spoke Up For Palestine and Got Kicked Out of the White House Pride Party

This month, I (Abby Stein) was invited for the second time to attend the White House Pride Month Celebration. I was surprised to be invited, given that so many queer and Jewish activists I know who have been outspoken in their call for an immediate permanent ceasefire in Gaza and hostage exchange have not been invited back to White House events they were previously invited to.

I considered declining the invite in protest of this administration’s funding and green-lighting the massacre, displacement, and ethnic cleansing of Palestinains in Gaza and the West Bank. Queer Palestinians deserve the right to live and celebrate — but cannot while under siege and bombing by Israel with US weapons. As a queer, trans, Israeli-American rabbi, whose closest openly queer family members live in Israel, I wanted to bring this message to the White House.

I’ve known Lily Greenberg Call since she invited me to speak at UC Berkeley Hillel in 2016. At the time, she was part of the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) student group on campus. I have since watched over the years as she moved away from AIPAC and pro-Israel lobbying to getting involved in anti-occupation organizing and the Palestinian rights movement. She had worked on several political campaigns in her career so far, and was appointed to serve in the Biden administration in January 2023. I was inspired by her resignation from her job as a political appointee in the Biden Administration, becoming the first and only Jewish appointee to publicly resign in protest of the Administration’s policy on Gaza. I invited her to come as my plus one to the White House, a place where her voice as a queer, Jewish person who spoke up against US funding and support for Israel’s occupation and apartheid was silenced.

The Pride Celebration was held on the South Lawn of the White House on a beautiful, if slightly humid evening (but not bad by DC standards). We arrived, went through several security checks, and were granted entrance to the South Lawn. The energy was celebratory and light-hearted. A DJ was mixing sets from the White House balcony, people were drinking, parents with little kids were running around chasing after them. There were stages, several different food and concession stands, and rainbow themed photo areas.

But both of us felt uncomfortable: Lily, returning to the White House campus for the first time since resigning, seeing former coworkers and friends, and Abby, also returning but without so many of her queer friends and fellow leaders who had been at previous White House events but not invited to this one since being outspoken in support of a ceasefire. To be at an event celebrating queer liberation, taking place in the epicenter of power while knowing that this Administration has contributed to the abject suffering of the Palestinian people, was extremely unsettling.

When Dr. Jill Biden spoke about Pride as a celebration and how LGTBQ rights in the US are under attack, we spoke up. We addressed Dr. Biden and our fellow attendees respectfully, introduced ourselves as queer Jews, and chanted our support for a permanent ceasefire, an end to arming Israel, and asserted that there can be no pride in genocide. Almost immediately, Abby was grabbed aggressively by a uniformed Secret Service officer. A White House staffer ran over and angrily informed us that we’d been formally disinvited from the event. We were escorted out and forbidden from returning to White House property that day. Our fellow attendees similarly displayed a surreal and dystopian shift in attitude towards us. As the officer held on to Abby’s arm and back and pushed us both out, some of the attendees started clacking their rainbow fans in our faces and booing us, chanting “four more years”.

After we were unceremoniously dumped outside the White House gates, we went on Instagram Live to share what had just happened. It was surreal to know that the party was continuing inside, business as usual, now that the disruptors had been dealt with. As we were recording, some attendees approached us, saying they’d left in disgust after seeing the reaction to our disruption.

abby and lily in front of the white house pride

Our identities as queer people and as Jews are constantly exploited by people in power to justify the massacre of Palestinians. Israel’s tolerance towards its LGBTQ community is often used to justify its policies of occupation and discrimination against all Palestinans. And as queer Jews with close LGBTQ family and friends in Israel, we know how precarious their rights are, too. There is no civil marriage, trans rights are consistently attacked and undermined by high-ranking government officials, and Israeli ministers actively spew hate against pride parades, leading to physical violence. LGBTQ Palestinians aren’t being “saved” by Israel. Their identities and their personal lives are exploited by Israeli security services to force them into being informants on their families and communities, putting them at risk.

We believe in queer liberation for all people, Palestinians and Israelis alike. That cannot happen while queer Palestinians are being murdered by Israel’s relentless bombing, starved to death by the deliberate withholding of food, water, and aid, and tortured in Israeli prisons. It is on all of us, especially as queer people, to speak for our queer siblings in Palestine.

This week marked the 55th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The floodgates of queer liberation in the United States were opened because of a riot – a brick thrown in protest. Pride was not given to us. It came because of a struggle and a fight. Throwing a pride celebration at the White House with the implicit agreement that there would be no discussion of the administration’s complicity in the suffering of Palestinians is counter to queer liberation. There can be no queer liberation under occupation.

What is lost when queer people turn away from the history of pride’s roots in protest and collective liberation for a pinkwashed, corporate “love is love” celebration at the White House amidst a genocide? Queer people in Palestine are being killed every day with American-made bombs in a war supported by American policymakers.

We are American and Israeli-American, white and white-passing, queer Jews. This intersection of identity and privilege that led us to even being invited into the White House in the first place. All systems of oppression are connected and any system that requires subjugation of one people for another is not safe for anyone. As queer Jews we demand a permanent ceasefire, hostage exchange, and for President Biden to listen to the majority of Americans, American Jews, Palestinian-Americans, and the families of Israeli hostages who demand the US to stop the transfer of offensive weapons to Israel. If we want to honor queer history and value queer lives today, we cannot continue to be complicit in the pinkwashing of Israeli war crimes and the dehumanization of Palestinian people.

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Abby Stein

Abby Stein is a Jewish educator & rabbi, award winning author, speaker, and activist. Her memoir Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman was published by Seal Press in November 2019. Her second book, Sources of Pride, will be published by Ben Yehudah Press in 2023.

Abby has written 2 articles for us.

Lily Greenberg Call

Lily Greenberg Call is a former Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff at the Department of Interior. She has nearly a decade of experience in politics, movement organizing, and domestic and international human rights work. She has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, CNN, NBC, and given commentary for the Washington Post, Politico, and the Associated Press. Lily holds a B.A. in Political Science and Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley.

Lily has written 1 article for us.

47 Comments

  1. Since you were invited, do you think you could have had conversations with your fellow attendees to drum up support for your position? You say people followed you out, which makes me think it was possible.

    Do you think disrupting an event makes people more likely to listen to you? If the goal is to increase support for your position, antagonizing an audience doesn’t seem like a good start.

    • You make it sound like they showed up to a friend’s Pride house party and started screaming at people that Hamas should attack more Jews. They are known, public activists who were invited to a government function by government staff who knew who they were.

      How do you think the first amendment should work? It’s ok to protest UNLESS the most powerful government on the planet invites you to a nice party where all the decorations are your favorite color, then you have to forget any problems you have with that government?

  2. “Queer Palestinians deserve the right to live and celebrate — but cannot while under siege and bombing by Israel with US weapons.” No honey, queer Palestinians can’t celebrate pride, because guess what? Homosexuality can lead to death. You are supporting a society that imprisons and executes LGBT people.
    You need to educate yourself before trying to educate others in favor of supporting a terrorist, anti western, anti American, anti Jewish entity like Hamas.
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-63174835.amp
    https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/palestinians/2024-04-03/ty-article-magazine/.premium/hamas-files-found-by-israel-in-gaza-detail-execution-of-senior-member-accused-of-being-gay/0000018e-9e6d-d64e-afce-fffd62370000

    • Do you think people who live under horrific, homophobic governments should be bombed as a general rule?

      Do you think the solution for queer Palestinians being unable to celebrate Pride for fear of death is for Israel to bomb their homes, schools, places of worship and hospitals? Why isn’t the solution for queer Palestinians to fight for their rights under an oppressive government, just like we do here in the US? How is the younger generation of Palestinians supposed to move their culture forward like Gen Z is doing for America if they’re all dead, traumatized, maimed and orphaned?

    • It’s so unbelievably intellectually dishonest to conflate “stop using our tax dollars to fund the mass murder of Palestinian civilians” with supporting Hamas. But I’m guessing you already knew that.

  3. You mean you got kicked out of an official event about queer pride by causing a commotion about something that has literally nothing to do with it, knowing being gay is a crime punishable by death in the country you’re so proudly advocating for? Shocker.

  4. This whole ‘Queers for Palestine’ thing that somehow dominated Pride this year is so obviously nonsense. You wanna advocate for Palestinians, do it on your own time, but don’t bring your fucking Palestinian flags to Pride knowing the country is as homophobic as they come. You wouldn’t bring a Russian flag would you? Does your pro-Hamas braindead squad even understand how ideologically incompatible the two things are? Queer Palestinians often flee to Israel or face death in their own country, but by all means keep donating to Hamas! I’m sure they’ll stick up for you when your Supreme Court decides your existence is illegal again!

    • “Somehow dominated Pride”…has it occurred to you that maybe gays just don’t like genocide.

      “You wanna advocate for Palestinians, do it on your own time” These two women are activists who were invited to a government function by people who knew they were activists. What on earth is “their own time” if this isn’t?

      This is more of the “You wanna protest? Fine, but not like THAT!” nonsense we’ve heard for decades.

    • Queer Palestinians are murdered by Hamas full stop. In Israel there is freedom of expression including of your sexual orientation. There is also no genocide or ethnic cleansing going on in Gaza. There is a war against people who recently killed hundreds of Israelis for committing no crime other than living in Israel. The war is taking place in civilian areas by the choice of Hamas, and Israel has done more to reduce civilian casualties than any other significant combatant in recent history, even at the expense of letting some of their military targets escape, at least temporarily. There is also no famine. Approximately 2700 kcal per day of food is accessible to people in Gaza at the moment, which is about the average adult dietary needs. Hamas complicates food delivery by stealing it from civilians and beating or murdering civilians who object to this.

      • Genuinely weird how many people in this comment section are just straight up lying about the genocide Israel is committing right now. Or are all of these comments from the same person just changing their name?

      • First, “in Israel there is freedom of expression,” but gay marriage is illegal. Is this ok with you?

        I’m tired of doing research for these pro-genocide commenters for them. If you check my other comments I have provided lots of links with accurate information. So this time can YOU do the homework please? YOU’RE the one making some pretty wild claims in light of reality, I need to see your receipts.

        Please provide your sources on these claims:

        “The war is taking place in civilian areas by choice of Hamas” Which areas specifically, and how did Hamas take the war there?

        “Israel has done more to reduce civilian casualties than any other significant combatant in recent history” By what metric? How long is “recent history”? What is a “significant combatant”? What SPECIFIC, independently verified actions is Israel taking to reduce civilian casualties?

        “even at the expense of letting some of their military targets escape, at least temporarily” Which military targets? How did civilian protection measures lose these military targets? I’m curious about “temporarily,” what are the dates you’re thinking of in what locales? What conditions caused the military targets to be taken after a temporary pause, and how were they related to civilian harm reduction?

        “There is also no famine.” According to what source?

        “Approximately 2700 kcal per day of food is accessible to people in Gaza at the moment, which is about the average adult dietary needs.” According to what source? How much kcal per day is the requirement for the average traumatized, starving, enduring-massive-physical-injury without proper medical care war victim? How much kcal per day is the requirement for a pregnant woman or an extremely active adolescent male? How do you define “accessible food”, especially since your below quote claims Hamas does not allow civilian access to this food?

        “Hamas complicates food delivery by stealing it from civilians and beating or murdering civilians who object to this.” What is your verified source for this?

        I’ll be checking back to see your sources, looking forward!

  5. I am so confused by the concept that I as a lesbian should be ok with the genocide of people ruled by a homophobic government. Would you support bombing Florida? I am so confused. Obviously LGBTQ Palestinians exist even though Hamas doesn’t want them to. An entire generation of Palestinian children who might have grown up to be LGBTQ or help bring in a better government are now dead. Shouldn’t we want Palestinians to be alive so they can create a government that supports queers? Is the solution to a cruel homophobic government truly “bomb their hospitals and universities into oblivion”??? This can’t really be our perspective as American queers!

    And a White House event is absolutely the place to protest. Where tf else will we protest and have anyone in power notice? How else would any us have a chance of letting Jill Biden know we didn’t forget about our tax dollars funding the obliteration of Palestinians just because she’s standing in front of a rainbow and a dj?? We have no voice and our votes are a gerrymandered joke. Let alone the fact there’s no way to vote “no” on funding the IDF anyway.

    Making people mildly uncomfortable at a party on the lawn of the home of the most powerful man in the most powerful country on the planet is not the end of the world. Why are we more angry at two women chanting at a socially inappropriate time, than at the fact that queer Palestinians are starving let alone not having a chance to create a good government.

    • Ugh you dont even know the meaning or origin of the word genocide,

      But yes, if Florida if would storm its neighboring state and and rape, kill and take kidnap 250 hostages as ransom – yes, fire would rain on them as well from the state that is being attacked – or at least I should hope so.

      Also rest easy – Queer Palestinans in Gaza are not starving but are dead – not by the hands of Israelis, but by the filth that is Hamas.

      The extreme right and left are shaking hands – its mind-boggling to me that the queer community cannot see through the bullshit the media is feeding you.

    • Why does no one ever seem to comment about all the US tax dollars Hamas used to kill Jews and and still uses to keep them hostage and continue firing rockets? Looking at you UNRWA. And at all you useful idiots directly donating to Hamas. Selective reasoning by RMarlene. No one is saying that Palestinians should be bombed because Hamas doesn’t support gay rights. They are saying Hamas has fooled you into believing that supporting Hamas’ cause of genocide against Jews somehow has anything to do with queer rights.

      “No one is free until everyone is free.” Yes- free Palestine from Hamas. Maybe try listening to queer activist and female activist in the Middle East who are begging you to stop cheering for Hamas, their oppressors! Hamas should not be allowed to continue to govern. They should return the hostages and surrender so we can all move towards peace. But they will not surrender while they continue to win a PR war in the west thanks to these social media warriors and useful idiots who don’t know anything about anything.

      • Sigh. Ok. Sources please?

        “all the US tax dollars Hamas used to kill Jews and and still uses to keep them hostage and continue firing rockets?” Looking at you UNRWA.” How is the US funding Hamas? What does UNRWA have to do with this? Verified independent sources please.

        “And at all you useful idiots directly donating to Hamas.” Who? How? What Hamas gofundme is overflowing, are you thinking of funds for Palestinian war victims? You do know Palestinian does not equal Hamas, because a paragraph below you state “free Palestine from Hamas.”

        “No one is saying that Palestinians should be bombed because Hamas doesn’t support gay rights.” I’m exhausted. Read this comment section. Many, many people are saying this. Literally all the negative comments here about the White House Pride protest are: “Hamas kills gays, you’re stupid and homophobic and antisemitic for protesting for Hamas at Pride.” (which is a straw man argument to be clear)

        “Maybe try listening to queer activist and female activist in the Middle East who are begging you to stop cheering for Hamas, their oppressors!” Which ones? Can you give me some names please? And I am definitely interested in the perspective of queer female activists from the Middle East specifically.

        “Hamas should not be allowed to continue to govern.” This is probably where we come closest to agreeing, Western superpowers (via US funding Israel) overthrowing a small, occupied territory’s election results is a bad idea. And yes I am aware the complicated story of those elections and I’m not educated enough to confidently call them free or truly democratic. And yes Hamas has objectively committed war crimes. (So has Israel and nobody is declaring Israel’s government should be abolished.) But reality IS more complicated than your broad statement above.

        “They should return the hostages and surrender so we can all move towards peace” Agreed. They have been willing to do so for months in return for a permanent ceasefire, but Israel rejects any deal that doesn’t allow them to resume war whenever they wish.

        “But they will not surrender while they continue to win a PR war in the west thanks to these social media warriors” lmaooo true, Autostraddle.com definitely has a hold on the average American’s perception of Palestine. But seriously, can you please link me to an example of mainstream American media (Fox, MSNBC, NBC etc) doing anything other than support Israel?

        “useful idiots who don’t know anything about anything.” Le sigh. One of us has taken the time to make specific points backed up by concrete verifiable information…and the other has to resort to extravagant insults.

        Unless you can give me a point by point listing of your sources, I’m going to continue to see your responses as the infuriated genocide propaganda they are.

  6. Wow, Hamas thanks you for your support – you are all useful idiots that are uneducated on the subject.
    But I suppose its not surprising to see autostraddle follow the ultra left sheep herd running off the cliff under the “free palestine” bullshit banner.

    The only thing that has and is still standing in the way of Palestinians making a thriving country is themselves. The day they love their children more than hate jews is the day there will be peace.

    • Oof that is some vicious hate on Palestinians especially considering 26,000 children, 2% of Gaza’s child population, have been killed.

      um mods? does this hit the hate speech meter can we delete this?

  7. I love how this article is still getting hate. It’s pretty sad to think that you believe disrupting the lives of others with your bs, will change things? These people have been fighting for thousands of years! Just stop while you’re ahead, morons! 😉

    • Good Lord, “disrupting the lives of others”, as if yelling at a White House lawn party is somehow a grievous crime. I don’t know if the right to putter around sipping beverages and schmoozing under rainbow banners without hearing your peers articulate discontent and frustration is actually something we’re guaranteed as human beings.

      Considering this venue is/was likely the only time many of these “regular people” will have the opportunity to actually be heard by the most powerful people in our country, I’m mystified (and a little disgusted) that more folks didn’t take up the cause and add their voices to the call for an end to genocide. Must have been some excellent hors d’oeuvres.

      • Well now hold up, if you get invited to a District One party you should just be grateful for the invitation!

        Thank you for making this point Em, I’m exhausted making the same points over and over again but genocide propaganda is just one thing I can’t let go.

  8. Wow, this comment section sure isn’t passing the vibe check. Lots of pick-mes in here would’ve been waving a judgy little “tsk tsk” finger in front of everyone at Stonewall for being too disruptive.

    Thank you Abby and Lily for standing up for the Palestinian people, and refusing to wash our hands of this genocide in the name of “celebration”.

    • Agreed! (The idea of a group of pick-me gays standing on the sideline at Stonewall in prissy disapproval is hilarious though, thank you for that ray of dark comedic sunshine)

      Silver lining, the comment engagement is great for Autostraddle and this message!

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