Published originally on November 3, 2014 at Feminist and Queer UC Student Workers for Justice in Palestine
We are feminist and queer student workers at the University of California in solidarity with the struggle for justice in Palestine. Our support for the Palestinian struggle is based on the principle that justice is indivisible. As union members of UAW 2865, we welcome that our elected leaders in the Joint Council passed a resolution in support of Palestine. Our union will have a membership vote about joining the movement for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) on December 4, 2014. We call on our colleagues:
Vote YES on BDS! Don’t buy into Pinkwashing! Support Rasmea Odeh!
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is a set of strategies that Palestinian civil society has asked its allies to use in order to pressure Israel to end the occupation of 1967, dismantle the apartheid wall, recognize the full equality of Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respect the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. It is supported by queer and feminist organizations such as Palestinian Queers for BDS (PQBDS) and the Institute of Women’s Studies at Birzeit University. Inspired by the use of international solidarity in the Black freedom movement against apartheid in South Africa, a global solidarity movement for Palestine is growing. Several North American queer and feminist organizations have already joined, including Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT), Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA), INCITE!, and a coalition of Palestinian, indigenous, women of color, anti-racist, and Jewish feminists.
Israel’s colonization, occupation, and apartheid rule incorporate systematic reproductive injustice and racist sexual and gender violence. Israel considers Palestinian women a “demographic threat,” imposes restrictions that resulted in a single year’s 58% increase in miscarriages among Palestinians in the West Bank, and celebrates the declining Palestinian birth rate while encouraging Jewish women to have more children. Such instances of racist gender and reproductive violence complement direct attacks on Palestinian lives and are inextricable from the Zionist project to build a Jewish “democracy” on a land with a majority indigenous Palestinian population.
Enthusiasm for “Operation Protective Edge,” Israel’s military assault on Gaza of July and August 2014, was repeatedly framed in sexually violent terms. An image of a partially naked and seductively posed woman representing “Gaza” went viral on Israeli social media, with a caption calling on Israeli prime minister Netanyahu to rape the woman and invade Gaza. Meanwhile, Bar-Ilan University Professor Mordechai Kedar publicly fantasized about using rape as a weapon of war, and even though Israeli officials deny any correspondence to reality, several Palestinian men captured during “Protective Edge” were “intimidated with threats that Israel would demolish their houses, kill their families and rape their wives.” Israel furthermore uses torture and sexual violence in its military courts against Palestinians.
Despite relying on systematic sexual, gender and reproductive violence, Israel and its allies have made “gays” and “women” a strategic token in a pro-Israel marketing campaign. In 2005, the Israeli government launched “Brand Israel” to promote Israel’s image as “relevant and modern.” The campaign has many different components, such as free trips to Israel for architecture, food, and wine writers. Since at least 2009, pro-Israel and Zionist organizations such as U.S.-based StandWithUs and A Wider Bridge have sought to create a special relationship between Israel and U.S. gays. They promote Israel (especially Tel Aviv) as a gay tourism destination and fund LGBT events such as film festivals. Gay culture is placed alongside good wine and modern architecture to create a brand that is appealing enough to blot out news about the violence of Israel’s apartheid regime. This cynical use of “gays” to distract from the systematic violence against Palestinians is called pinkwashing.
The flip side of the pinkwashed fantasy of a gay-friendly Israel is the fantasy of an exceptionally homophobic Palestinian society. In a telling example of how this fantasy is used to distract from Israeli violence against Palestinians, consider the Israeli police response to the murder of sixteen-year-old Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir. After the teen was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered on July 2 2014, Israeli police (as well as Israeli and pro-Israeli social media users) spread misinformation that he was the victim of a “family feud” or an “honor crime” because he was gay. Confirming Palestinian Diaspora feminist Nada Elia’s observation that pinkwashing is “the twenty-first century manifestation of the Zionist colonialist narrative of bringing civilisation to an otherwise backwards land,” the implied perpetrators were uncivilized, violently homophobic Palestinians.  In reality, it is believed that Khdeir’s murder was a revenge attack by young Israelis for the kidnap-murder of three Israeli teens. We call upon other feminists, queers, LGBT people, and allies: Do not buy into pinkwashing! It is a cover-up for Israel’s colonization, occupation, and apartheid rule.
The U.S. provides billions of military aid dollars to Israel and is as such co-responsible for Israel’s systematic violations. The University of California (UC) has investment holdings in companies that actively assist Israel’s illegal occupation, such as Hewlett-Packard, which provides the ID system at checkpoints in the West Bank and administers the IT system for the Navel Blockade of Gaza. Even though Israeli academic institutions are an integral part of Israel’s apartheid rule, the UC maintains exchange programs with Israeli universities. The U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation, furthermore, funds UC research, aiming to “[strengthen] the U.S.-Israel partnership through science.” As members of the UC and the UAW, we have BDS as a set of tools with which to push back against the complicity of these institutions.
We therefore urge our fellow union members: Join us to vote yes in the BDS membership vote on December 4, and pledge to boycott Israeli academic institutions that are complicit in apartheid and occupation. In solidarity with Palestinians who have issued the call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions, we demand that the UAW International and the University of California divest their pension funds and other investments from Israeli companies that assist in and profit from apartheid and occupation. We will personally boycott Israeli academic institutions, for instance by not participating in conferences or applying for jobs and fellowship. We call on our colleagues to do the same.
Arab American feminist Nadine Naber reminds us that “when we work to support an end to the occupation, when we work to end Israeli colonization and apartheid, we need to work to end those things in Palestine, but also right here in the United States,” where Palestinian and Arab activists and their allies face attacks. We stand in solidarity with Rasmea Odeh, a revered Palestinian American community organizer with Arab immigrant women in the Chicago area. Rasmea survived torture and sexual abuse in Israel’s military court, was imprisoned by Israel on the basis of a forced confession, and is now persecuted again in the United States under trumped-up immigration charges. We join her many supporters, including over a hundred feminist scholars, and demand: End the persecution of Rasmea Odeh! We call on all fellow union members and all feminist activists to fight for justice for Rasmea.
To borrow from the words of Haneen Maikey, the director of Al-Qaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, and the American anthropologist Jason Ritchie, we the undersigned are ready to “listen to each other and stand together against violence and repression, even when some among us try to justify it in our name.”
Vote for BDS on December 4! Pledge to observe the academic boycott!
Resist racism! Do not buy into pinkwashing!
Support Rasmea Odeh!
[Note: All footnotes are at the end of the document.]
If you would like join the signatories, please e-mail your name, campus, and member/officer status (if applicable/desired) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevan Antonio Aguilar, UC San Diego
Nicholas Ammar, UC Davis
Troy Araiza Kokinis, UC San Diego
Amanda Armstrong, UC Berkeley
Trisha Barua, UC Davis
Gillian Bogart, UC Santa Cruz
Anuja Bose, Recording Secretary, UCLA
Joshua Brahinsky, UC Santa Cruz
Brandon Buchanan, Head Steward, UC Davis
Sayil Camacho, IOC Representative, UCLA
William Di Fede, UC Davis
Margaret Mary Downey, Head Steward, UC Berkeley
Erin Rose Ellison, UC Santa Cruz
Pascal Emmer, UC Santa Cruz
Katy Fox-Hodess, Guide, UC Berkeley
Camila Gavin Bravo, UC San Diego
Alborz Ghandehari, Recording Secretary, UC San Diego
Erik Green, Financial Secretary, UC Santa Cruz
Sandra Harvey, UC Santa Cruz
Chris Hanssmann, Former Member, UCSF
Tommi D. Hayes, UC Santa Cruz
Lily Hodges, UC Davis
Ren-yo Hwang, Southern Vice President, UC Riverside
Malathi Iyengar, Campus Chair, UC San Diego
Suraiya Jetha, UC Santa Cruz
Caroline Kao, UC Santa Cruz
Sarah Kessler, UC Irvine
Mei-chun Lee, UC Davis
Seth Leibson, Head Steward, UC Berkeley
Sunny Lim, UC Santa Barbara
Munira Lokhandwala, UC Berkeley
Robert Majzler, UC Santa Cruz
Beezer de Martelly, Trustee, UC Berkeley
Marie McDonald, UC Davis
Laura Meek, UC Davis
Irene Morrison, Recording Secretary, UC Riverside
Trung Nguyen, UC Santa Cruz
Elisa Oceguera, UC Davis
Ianna Hawkins Owen, UC Berkeley
Raquel Pacheco, Head Steward, UC San Diego
Agatha Palma, UCLA
Maryani Palupy Rasidjan, UC San Francisco – UC Berkeley
Leslie Quintanilla, UC San Diego
Amanda Reyes, Head Steward, UC Santa Cruz
Aída Sofía Rivera Sotelo, UC Davis
Judith Rodriguez, UC Irvine
Johanna Rothe, Alumna/Former Member, UC Santa Cruz
Amrah Salomon J., UC San Diego
Bern Samko, UC Santa Cruz
Mai Sartawi, UC Davis
Lauren Schaeffer, Head Steward, UCLA
SA Smythe, UC Santa Cruz
Sara Maria Sorentino, UC Irvine
Clare Stinchcombe, UC Berkeley
Joanne Tien, Head Steward, UC Berkeley
Michelle Ty, UC Berkeley
Claire Urbanski, UC Santa Cruz
Mar Velez, Northern Vice President, UC Berkeley
Tory Webster, Head Steward, UC Davis
Claire White, UC Davis, National Lawyers Guild, SNVP
Sa Whitley, Head Steward, UCLA
Alexandria Wright, UC Berkeley
Duane Wright, Head Steward, UC Davis
 : As the “Open Letter from Jewish Officers and Members” of our union local underlines, one group’s justice cannot be achieved on the back of another’s injustice. http://www.uaw2865.org/?p=12197
 “Student Workers at the University of California Support Palestine. UAW 2865 Joint Council Prepares for Membership Vote on BDS,” http://www.uaw2865.org/?p=12137
 Specifically the call is for Israel to end the occupation of 1967, dismantle the apartheid wall, recognize full equality of Palestinian citizens of Israel, and recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. http://www.bdsmovement.net/
 Institute of Women’s Studies, Birzeit University, “Urgent Call.” http://www.birzeit.edu/news/institute-womens-studies-urgent-call; http://www.pqbds.com/,
 INCITE!, “Free Palestine is a Feminist Issue,” http://inciteblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/free-palestine-is-a-feminist-issue/; “Statement in Solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza and with seekers of freedom and justice world-wide” https://inciteblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/statement-in-solidarity-with-the-palestinian-people-of-gaza-and-with-seekers-of-freedom-and-justice-world-wide/; http://www.quitpalestine.org/; http://queersagainstapartheid.org/
 The caption reads (in Hebrew): “Bibi [Israeli prime minister Netanyahu], finish inside this time! Signed, citizens in favor of a ground assault. ”Since the Hebrew word for “finish” also means “ejaculate,” this slogan plays on a double entendre to encourage military and sexual assault. David Sheen, “Israel’s War against Gaza’s Women and their Bodies,” http://muftah.org/israels-war-gazas-women-bodies/#.VDm4pfmSw1g.
 http://electronicintifada.net/content/israel-tortures-prisoners-captured-gaza-invasion/13861, http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/rania-khalek/israeli-government-promotes-rape-advocate-expert-palestinians
 http://www.stoptorture.org.il/en, http://www.btselem.org/torture/201308_etzion, http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/why-obama-administration-prosecuting-sexual-torture-victim-rasmea-odeh
 http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2014/07/02/israeli-police-plant-false-story-murdered-palestinian-boy-was-gay-flood-social-media-with-disinformation/, http://electronicintifada.net/content/why-advocate-afraid-talk-about-palestine/13929
 Nada Elia, “Gay Rights with a Side of Apartheid.” Settler Colonial Studies 2,2 (2012): 49-68.
 The UC has also has investments in Caterpillar, whose bulldozers are regularly used in the demolition of Palestinian homes and farms. For a list of UC Retirement Plan investment holdings, see http://www.ucop.edu/investment-office/_files/invpol/UCRP_Holdings.pdf. For information on Hewlett Packard and Caterpillar, see http://www.bdsmovement.net/2014/freedom-and-justice-for-gaza-boycott-action-against-7-complicit-companies-12386.
 On the role of Israeli academic institutions in colonization, occupation, and apartheid, and for the call to boycott them, see http://www.birzeit.edu/news/institute-womens-studies-urgent-call, https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4qLGWPPC3fIcDhVQjNmYXZhZTg/edit, http://www.pacbi.org/ , http://www.usacbi.org/, http://www.bricup.org.uk/.
 http://inciteblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/justice-for-rasmea-odeh/, http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/why-obama-administration-prosecuting-sexual-torture-victim-rasmea-odeh
 Haneen Maikey and Jason Ritchie “Israel, Palestine, and Queers” http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2009/mr280409.html