and Lesbian Travel Association
October 13, 2009
Dear International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) management and staff,
We write to protest IGLTA’s plan to hold a conference in Tel Aviv, Israel in October 2009 to promote LGBT tourism to Israel. We join with LGBT Palestinians and Israelis already protesting such a conference. As LGBT people, some of whom are Jewish, we demand with them that you reconsider and cancel your conference immediately.
We are outraged that IGLTA’s plan to meet in Tel Aviv is for the purpose of encouraging tourism of the international LGBT community in Israel. It is time to drop the charade of promoting Israel as LGBT friendly and a fun place to visit, unless an imperialist apartheid state whose military is occupying Palestine is your idea of fun.
There are many queers who, like us, oppose the Zionist Israeli state. When we and others organize opposition to Israel’s racist policies, we face violence and physical and verbal assault from Zionists. Those aiming to silence us use intimidation, threats of job loss and other coercive tactics. Having your conference in Tel Aviv will be seen as what it is: support for the Israeli state, its occupation and its intimidation or worse against all who dare to oppose it. Have you learnt nothing from the discrimination and persecution we as queers have had to face: can you, despite this, ignore the suffering and persecution of others and shake hands and even promote their persecutors?
You have planned your conference after the all-out Israeli war against the civilian population of Gaza, where horrific weapons, including white phosphorous and unmanned drones, killed 1400 people, nearly a quarter of whom were children, turning their communities into rubble. Undoubtedly some of our sisters and brothers killed in this horrific carnage were LGBT, but whatever their sexuality, each life was invaluable and each death impossible to ignore. Spending our money to support the Israeli state donates money for weapons of war. We have not fought for years for the right of LGBT businesses to exist in order then for these business interests to be prioritised, brutishly disregarding the right of others to exist.
You are trying to promote your business despite the terrible effects it would have on Palestinian people. But there is a growing price on such callous disregard. The international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which includes LGBT people is growing rapidly (see notes below) and companies seen as collaborators in Israel’s ethnic cleansing are being hit financially -- at least one has gone bankrupt.
In San Francisco, LGBT people were part of a campaign pressing their local organic food cooperative, Rainbow Grocery, to endorse the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli products. Those working on information tables in the street were harassed physically and verbally, including by gay men! Does our entry into mainstream society change some of us into supporters of racism, militarism and other neo-conservative “values”? Doesn’t it matter that Israel is the world's fourth-largest arms supplier and with its force of arms has built an apartheid society?
In the current economic crisis fewer of us can afford a holiday, but even if we can, we would boycott Israel. We don’t want to be separated from others fighting for justice and against occupations. Nor do we want to pretend that once we have LGBT rights, we are immune from war, occupation, racism and even environmental disaster. We have campaigned with and for LGBT people to leave the military, including the Israeli military, where 1,668 women and men have officially refused to serve the occupation, and many thousands more have found other ways of refusing.
Your publicity hides the realities of life for grassroots LGBT/queer people in Palestine and in Israel, with women’s situation, the most difficult and the most hidden. Women in Palestine are keeping whole families together in conditions of war, occupation and, in Gaza, of blockade: lacking food, water, medicines, etc. Lesbian women in Palestine are doing the same survival and caring work as other Palestinian women, protecting families and communities, but because of the constant assault on survival from the Israeli military, there is no space for their struggle for freedom of sexual choice.
For those of you who want to play the game of self-deception, and deceive others and fantasize that they can have a carefree gay holiday in Israel, swallow these cold hard facts: more than half of all Palestinian children suffer are malnourished; between 2000 to 2006, at least 35 newborn babies died and five women lost their lives while giving birth while waiting to pass through Israeli checkpoints; 75% of the Palestinian population living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories live below the poverty line ($2.00 per person per day), 24,145 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since 1967; Palestinians get between five and seven times less water than Israelis.
We cannot close our eyes to murder, torture and other crimes against humanity. We cannot forget that the Zionists are holocaust deniers when it comes to queers as well as communists, socialists, trade unionists, Romany people, people with disabilities . . . We urge you to cancel your conference, refuse to promote Israeli tourism and dignify our own movement by joining the growing BDS movement – part of the all-embracing movement for liberation for all of us.
International Wages Due Lesbians (IWDL) & Payday Men’s Network
IWDL is a multi-racial organization campaigning for economic, social and legal rights for lesbian/bisexual women, our families and communities, against all forms of discrimination, loss of child custody, police arrests, anti-lesbian violence, criminalization, as well as being forced to live an underground existence. www.allwomencount.net/EWC%20LesbianBi/IWDL.htm
Payday is an international network of men, including bi/gay men, working with the Global Women’s Strike, organizing in support of men (and increasingly women) who refuse to kill, torture, maim and rape for the military. www.refusingtokill.net
Notes and facts
After Gaza, the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel has leapt forward: in February, South African longshoremen refused to unload Israeli ships. In April, the Scottish Trade Union Congress followed the lead of the South African and Irish trade unions in adopting BDS. In September, Norway's government pension fund, the world's third largest, divested from an Israeli military contractor. And last month, the British Trades Union Congress, representing more than 6.5 million workers, adopted the boycott.
On 1 October, the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee (the umbrella group of heads of Arab municipalities) called a general strike of Palestinian citizens of Israel (20% of the Israeli population) in protest against racism and discrimination. A number of European diplomats attended the demonstrations.