Saturday, October 22, 2011

#Uint11 UNISON International Seminar 2011: Haneen Maikey "Al Qaws"

Friday evening saw the start of the 2011 UNISON International Seminar at the UNISON centre in Euston, London.  There are about 80 registered BIROS (jargin for Branch International Officers which use to puzzle me before I found out what it meant), Regional and National International Committee delegates.

First Speaker was UNISON Head of Pensions, Glyn Jenkins, who used the opportunity to gave everyone an update on the dispute.

The keynote speaker was Haneen Maikey, Director of Al Qaws, the Palestinian NGO for LGBT rights.  This report is based on tweets that I did during her speech and the Q&A. See #unisonint11 (UNISON Young member @Graham_NEC suggests that I should use #Uint11 instead - so from now on I will use this one).

Usual warning about the complete accuracy of my hurried notes especially via fumbled tweeting - on such a sensitive subject. 

"Sexuality in Palestinian context is very complicated. What makes Queer Politics relevant to the Palestinian struggle? Pinkwashing is used by Israel to try and divide us.There is a taboo in Palestine about all forms of sexuality both in public and in private spaces.  Her father would prefer for her to marry a man and express her lesbianism in another way. 

In West Bank homosexuality is legal. Al Qaws does not operate in Gaza (for reasons unclear) The price of "coming out" is very high. It must be a personal decision.  80% of their funding comes from America and Europe.  They were able to persuade a Western based LGBT group not to open a gesture office in Beirut which would have caused conflict.  The 1948 Nakba 'Catastrophe' is the real issue. 711,000 Palestine refugees in 1949 there are now 4.7 million 2010. 20% of Israeli are Palestinian.  Israel tries to divert attention from colonialism, war crimes and occupation.

Resist pinkwashing and the attempt by Israel to promote its policy of victimisation by using pictures of Palestine gays being beaten up. They use these image to try and rebrand Israel.  They attempt to show Palestine as primitive.  Not just the government but well funded privates groups who are Islamophobic.  There is little solidarity with Israeli Queer groups since we are concerned with struggle while they are about equality.  While the main Israeli gay youth society promotes militarism and support the IDF.  They support gay individuals in Gaza but cannot enter.  Most human right groups cannot enter Gaza either. There are some links with Palestine trade unions but they are not close and this is an aspect to explore in the future".  Finally Haneen urged us to look at and support their new web site http://www.pinkwashingisrael.com/
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