Without Peace, Equality Is A Pipedream

Recent human rights abuses by Israel in the Gaza strip has Israel facing backlash throughout Europe and Latin America, however the LGBT community remains divided on the subject in the United States, but why?

     Israel’s recent offensive attack on Hamas terrorists in Gaza has left at least 1836 people dead. Estimates of innocent, civilian causalities ranges from 50-77% including 330 dead children. Israel claims asymmetrical warfare justifies their actions but fewer and fewer people are convinced of that. Many look at Gaza and see targeted killings of innocent civilians at UN shelters, schools, hospitals, ambulances and thousands of Palestinian homes. In April 2013 Israel stated that it was phasing out the use of white phosphorus munitions whose use during it’s 2008-2009 offensive in the heavily populated Gaza strip drew war crimes allegations.
     Targeted or not the world is watching, reacting and condemning Israel’s recent offensive in Gaza. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated, “Israel’s actions is a moral outrage and a criminal act” and “Yet another gross violation of international law” The U.S State Department denounced Israel’s shelling of a UN school with one word “disgraceful” France, Spain and other European countries have also spoke out and published warnings urging citizens to boycott Israel businesses and a recent poll in Britain found 2/3 of people thought Israel was guilty of war crimes. Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela also condemned Israel’s recent actions, in fact El Salvador, Chile and Peru have called back their ambassadors from Israel. When Brazil condemned Israel’s actions, Israel foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called Brazil “A Diplomatic dwarf” in response. Four days ago Spain froze military exports to Israel.
     However many Americans seem unmoved by the recent Israeli offensive and even defend Israel’s actions as legitimate because “the war on terror”
Without questioning media bias we accept the corporate media’s narrative of good guy VS bad guy without ever asking questions, checking our nationalism or getting to the core of the problems. If we took the time to investigate we might discover what I believe to be the truth: Palestinians are suffering horrific human rights abuses right under our noses. In fact Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have sounded the alarm and people like former U.S. President Jimmy Carter have described the situation in Gaza by saying “Apartheid in Gaza is far worse than it ever was in South Africa”
Palestinians are forced to suffer hunger and freezes to average workers salaries They have no running water or electricity and no freedom to come and go as they please. Some people have even described the Palestinian people as living in a large open prison.
     One of the goals of the LGBT movement is to infiltrate every culture and society globally to expand human rights and equality. So how are we supposed to lift fellow LGBT people up and give them a voice in Gaza and Palestine if they are living under oppressive occupations in war zones? We can’t, not as long as occupation and dropping bombs persists. Some people argue that the Arab world is inherently anti-gay and therefore not worthy of our attention. I argue that if any group of people have proven it’s possible to change a culture from the inside out its LGBT people and the social media machine behind us.
     Al-Qaws for sexual and gender diversity in Palestinian society is a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and queer Palestinian activists who work collaboratively to break down gendered and hetero-normative barriers. Al-Qaws seeks to create an open space for all its members so that they may be engaged and energized in the struggle for equality and inclusion. PQBDS ( Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) formed from within Al-Qaws and targets the Israeli governments pinkwashing. Pinkwashing is a part of the bigger “Brand Israel” campaign which aims to divert international criticism from human rights abuses and to whitewash its crimes by promoting itself as a safe haven for gays.
     Ghaith Hilal is a queer Palestinian activist from the west bank who has been a part of Al-Qaws leadership since 2007. In his article 9 Questions Palestinian queers are tired of hearing; Hilal suggests that being out, pride celebrations and other western ideas of equality come secondary to living under decades of long military occupation. Hilal states “You cannot have queer liberation while apartheid, patriarchy, capitalism and other oppressions exist”
     Hamas was elected by the people of Palestine after urging from the United States to hold elections. When winning party emerged with a primitive army Israel and the United States (Bush Administration) turn around and labels them ‘terrorists’ Israel has continued to take land and resources from their brown skin neighbors while the United States turns a blind eye and continues to hand over $3 billion a year to Israel’s military which kills innocent people. Israel defends itself when it shoots down incoming rockets using Iron Dome. So the fundamental question becomes does Israel have the right to use so much force punishing it’s neighbors? The United States has used it’s veto power 42 times to trump the UN’s actions on Israeli abuse of power. Will we do it again?
     The business of war is profitable. Fresh out of Iraq and not yet out of Afghanistan a war weary public and President have had to fight off military interventions all over the globe from conservative warmongers with a financial interest in promoting war. (Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham, John McCain) In 2011 the 100 largest contractors sold $400 billion in arms and military services. In 2000 the U.S. defense budget was approximately $312 billion by 2011 that figure had grown to $712 billion. Arms sales among the top 100 companies grew by 51%
     We’ve been down these warmongering roads before. The government and media lead us straight into Iraq on false information connecting Iraq and 9/11. Hillary Clinton’s vote supporting an illegal war in Iraq maybe one of her biggest obstacles to overcome assuming she runs for POTUS. Wherever you stand on the issues peace loving voters; LGBT activists especially, must do a better job of defending global human rights by searching for all perspectives and demanding military restraint from politicians who casually send other peoples kids off to war while beating the war drums.

Is The Gay Community Missng A Leader?

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While prominent LGBT activists fight about their lack of inclusion in Jo Becker’s book ‘Forcing The Spring’ Here in Indiana we are all anxiously awaiting a ruling from the 7th circuit court of appeals in favor of resuming same sex marriages again, however one glance at the landscape and one can’t help but notice thousands of other inequalities all around us.

Staring Indiana LGBT leadership in the face is the state’s lack of hate crime protections for lgbt people. 45 other states have passed such laws but Indiana seems hell bent on becoming last despite accelerated momentum towards equality. Hate crime protections was last defeated in Indiana in 2007 under the leadership of anti-gay activist Eric Miller of Advance America.

     Other very real issues that lgbt hoosiers are grappling with that need confronted? Abusive gay cure therapy, LGBTQ homeless youth, bullying and suicide prevention and the Indiana school to prison pipeline that unfairly targets and jails young queer people. The Indiana Juvenile Justice Blog notes approximately 14,657 homeless youth in the 2011-2012 school year. We know that upwards of 40% of homeless youth identify as lgbtq. 58% of that 40% have been sexually victimized. Indiana currently has zero 24 hour shelters that specifically deals with any lgbtq population.
Tough HIV laws, trans prison populations, lgbt inclusive sex education, HIV, smoking, criminalized prostitution, poverty and hunger are just some of the very real issues beyond marriage facing the community that beg attention.
     So the other day I wandered over to the facebook page of ‘Indiana Equality Action’ to see what the topic was. Much to my surprise it wasn’t none of the aforementioned issues facing Indiana LGBT folk. The topic was Laverne Cox and Orange Is The New Black. While Cox’s emmy nomination is a cultural win and should be celebrated; back home in reality people can still target and murder us without facing hate crime charges. When I left a message asking for information on Indiana Equality’s leadership on hate crime protections I was censored and blocked. A tired, old tactic often used by Indiana Equality but with the current uphill battle facing Indiana LGBT can we really afford to silence our critics? Indiana Equality hasn’t even updated their blog since December 2013, but I bet they are still accepting donations aren’t they?
     I am reminded of and long for civil rights organizers like Mary Harris Jones, aka Mother Jones. Mary Harris Jones was an American labor and community organizer and change agent that didn’t give 2 flips about winning awards. In fact in 1902 she was called “the most dangerous woman in America.” for her success in organizing mine workers and their families against the mine owners. In 1903 upset about the lax enforcement of the child labor laws in the Pennsylvania mines and silk mills she organized a children’s march from Philadelphia to the hometown of then President Theodore Roosevelt in New York displaying banners “We want to go to school and not the mines!” Her motto was “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living”. Mother Jones often jailed for her antics was denounced on the floor of the U.S. senate as “the mother of all agitators” Jones replied “I hope to live long enough to be the grandmother of all agitators”
     Same sex marriage is a fundamental right that sends a strong message to society that our lives, loves and families matter. However marriage activists stuck on self congratulations for the actions of courts could consider the bigger picture and expand their vision. Indiana needs a task force willing to confront and solve these problems head on because even with full federal equality, many of these problems aren’t going away anytime soon. And surely we could all learn a thing or two from Mother Jones.