[News] Israel’s first trans officer helps with ethnic cleansing

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Apr 13 10:57:42 EDT 2017


  Israel’s first trans officer helps with ethnic cleansing

Nora Barrows-Friedman 
<https://electronicintifada.net/people/nora-barrows-friedman> - 12 April 

Queer and transgender activists protested an event 
featuring an Israeli soldier in Seattle on 5 April.

The event was supported by the LGBTQ Commission, a body that advises 
city leaders on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/lgbt> issues.

Two commissioners resigned in protest just days earlier, criticizing the 
group’s participation as an act of pinkwashing 

Pinkwashing <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/pinkwashing> is a 
public relations strategy that deploys Israel’s supposed enlightenment 
toward LGBTQ issues to deflect criticism from its human rights abuses 
and war crimes 
and as a means to build up support for Israel among Western liberals and 

Lt. Shachar Erez, who has been in the Israeli army for five years, is 
its first transgender officer, according 
to /The Jewish Daily Forward/.

He is on a national 
sponsored by the Israeli army and foreign ministry.

Erez’s tour is part of the “Brand Israel 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/brand-israel>” campaign, an Israeli 
government effort 
to market a liberal image of the country to advance commerce and tourism 
and improve Israel’s international standing.

The tour is hosted by StandWithUs 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/standwithus>, an Israeli 
government-funded lobby group 
<http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.636953> with ties 
to right-wing anti-LGBTQ activists 
such as John Hagee <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/john-hagee> of 
Christians United for Israel 

    Ethnic cleansing

Along with advising the army’s “gender affairs office,” /The Forward/ 
reports that Erez works “on a national project to relocate military 
bases from the center to the periphery of Israel.”

This indicates that Erez, a commander in his unit, is involved in 
helping coordinate the mass expulsion of Palestinian Bedouin communities 
from their ancestral lands in the southern Naqab region of present-day 
Israel, part 
of the “Negev 2020” plan to “develop” the area exclusively for Jews.

Negev 2020 is billed 
as creating “the Israel of tomorrow” by the Jewish National Fund 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/jewish-national-fund>, the 
quasi-official, state-backed institution that has carried out operations 
to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their lands since before Israel 
was established.

According to the Jewish National Fund, the plan involves the “relocation 
of all the IDF [Israeli army] bases to the Negev,” the region where 
indigenous Bedouins are resisting 
further forced displacement.

In the early 1980s, the Israeli government confiscated 
Palestinian Bedouin lands in the region to relocate an air base from the 
Sinai Peninsula, as it withdrew from the Egyptian territory under its 
1979 peace treaty.

The government forcibly removed approximately 5,000 Bedouins and 
expropriated 16,000 acres of their land, according to Human Rights 
Watch. This process of forced removal continues.

Speaking to /The Forward/, Erez claims that “Israel is progressive about 
LGBT rights and it has nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian 
situation.” The article adds that he “rejects the notion” that the 
Israeli army, “which features his story on its website 
is using him to deflect criticism about the military’s treatment of 

Yet Dean Spade, a professor at the Seattle University School of Law and 
a member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid 
told The Electronic Intifada, “It is disturbing to learn that the 
Israeli government is sending a trans Israeli army commander on a public 
relations tour in the US, [and] to see this blatant attempt to co-opt 
the trans liberation struggle to make a brutal colonial military seem 
like a site of diversity and inclusion.”

“How can it be a victory for trans liberation when trans people become 
embedded in the most violent operations of settler-colonialism and 
genocide?” Spade added. “How can we celebrate trans people clearing the 
land of indigenous people, arresting children, maintaining checkpoints 
and launching tear gas?”

    Battles against pinkwashing

Spade and other anti-pinkwashing activists in Seattle are also dismayed 
at the ignorance displayed by city representatives regarding historic 
battles over Israeli propaganda.

In 2012, the commission announced that it would host a public meeting 
featuring Israeli LGBTQ speakers co-sponsored by StandWithUs and A Wider 
Bridge, an advocacy group promoting LGBTQ voices for Israel.

Spade directed a documentary 
/Pinkwashing Exposed/, about the efforts by activists to resist the 2012 
event and what happened after their success in having the meeting canceled.

“I am extremely disappointed that this is happening again in a city that 
has been educated, where the history of pinkwashing is absolutely a part 
of the institutional memory of the LGBTQ Commission,” Nada Elia 
<https://electronicintifada.net/people/nada-elia>, a Seattle-based 
academic and member of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural 
Boycott of Israel, told The Electronic Intifada.

Specifically, StandWithUs has been exploiting the LGBTQ community to 
promote Israel as a queer-friendly place as it strengthens relationships 
with ultra-right-wing homophobes and racists, Elia noted.

This exploitation is especially troubling given the current panic by 
right-wing politicians over which bathrooms transgender people should 
use, Spade observed.

“But on the other hand, the right in the US is also very tied to 
uncritical support for Israel, including Israel’s worst actions,” Spade 

“That same right-wing is willing to lift up these trans heroes as is 
convenient – and to lift up the Israeli military as the site of 
liberation and progressive values using the images of trans people,” he 

Since the 2012 event, A Wider Bridge has distanced itself from 
StandWithUs – with an Israel advocate describing 
it as “an ill-fated partnership” – but A Wider Bridge continues to 
promote Zionism <http://awiderbridge.org/about/>, Israel’s state 
ideology, and to claim pinkwashing 
is a “myth.”

Last year, an event sponsored by A Wider Bridge was protested by 
activists with Black Lives Matter Chicago, Tarab-NYC – an LGBTQ group 
organizing in Middle Eastern and North African communities – and others 
over its inclusion 
in the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference.

And in 2010, a workshop on LGBTQ liberation in the Middle East, led by 
StandWithUs, was shut down 
by queer Arab activists at the US Social Forum.

    Commissioners resign

Seattle’s LGBTQ Commission voted against a public invitation for a 
screening of Spade’s /Pinkwashing Exposed/ in 2015, but accepted the 
invitation to participate in a roundtable with the Israeli officer.

“So we know that the commission is in a position to decline events, even 
events by their own local constituents,” Elia said.

About a week before this month’s event with the Israeli officer, two 
members of the LGBTQ Commission resigned.

“We all have issues that we stand for and for me I stand for the 
boycott, divest and sanctions movement. For me, it is an issue similar 
to South Africa apartheid,” Luzviminda Uzuri Carpenter wrote her 
colleagues in a resignation letter on 28 March.

“I personally stand against the genocide of Palestinian people and 
cannot support militarized efforts or military personnel regardless of 
gender identity, gender expression, or sexuality or other identity 
markers,” Carpenter added.

In discussions with the other commissioners about her opposition to the 
event, “I stated everything that I could possibly state about this 
particular issue,” Carpenter told The Electronic Intifada.

Carpenter said she was frustrated that the commission was not able to 
“hold onto the history” and explained that she will remain a 
community-based advocate.

Yani Robinson, another member of the LGBTQ Commission, confirmed to The 
Electronic Intifada that they also resigned in protest of the Erez 
event, but will continue to urge the commission to screen /Pinkwashing 

Meanwhile, Bridge Joyce, a former commissioner implored the body to 
focus on issues facing queer and trans members of the Seattle community, 
including LGBTQ youth homelessness, gentrification, transphobic and 
homophobic attacks and police violence.

“I am at a loss to see what policy issue relevant to Seattle’s LGBTQ 
folks that the commission is addressing by this event,” Joyce wrote in 
an email to current commissioners seen by The Electronic Intifada.

“Participating in an event designed to glorify the Israel Defense Forces 
aligns the commission with values that are directly at odds with the 
racial justice and social justice values claimed by the City of 
Seattle,” Joyce added.

    Being prepared

After protesting the Israeli soldier event, activists say they are 
mobilized against what they see as deepening relationships between 
Israel advocacy groups and the city’s mayor, Ed Murray.

Murray, who is gay, traveled to Israel in 2015 on a junket 
paid for by the Israeli foreign ministry. There, he delivered the 
keynote speech <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0S_DhInzn7M> at a 
conference co-organized by A Wider Bridge. He will accept an honor 
<https://www.facebook.com/events/236493096825183/> from StandWithUs’ 
Northwest chapter at a gala next month.

Spade sees ample opportunities to strengthen coalitions in support of 
human rights and pressure city representatives not to take the bait from 
Israel propagandists.

“A big part of this is both helping queer and trans organizations be 
more prepared to identify certain propaganda and also increasing 
educational resources to be able to respond,” he explained. “Our work is 
a continuing work.”

/Nora Barrows-Friedman is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada./

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