Helem Letter to IGLYO
Dear Board of IGLYO,
It is with deep regret that we learned of your decision to hold you annual General Assembly in Israel after receiving money to do so by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. As an associate member of IGLYO, Helem urges you to reconsider this decision and heed the call sent by our sisters and brothers at Al-Qaws, Aswat, and Palestinian Queers for BDS to relocate your upcoming GA. If IGLYO maintains this decision, Helem will have to revoke its associate membership from the organization.
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel is a peaceful, non-violent tactic to pressure Israel to end its 63 year illegal occupation of Palestinian land, modeled after the successful strategy that ended apartheid in South Africa. BDS is not about punishing individual Israelis, but about securing the most basic and fundamental rights of Palestinians: the right to be free from violence, discrimination, and military occupation. Your insistence that dialogue holds a solution to this impasse false. The free exchange of ideas is indeed important, even when we disagree. However, dialogue does not replace mobilization for social change. Indeed, it is nothing without it, and it is often used as an excuse for inaction. Dialogue alone will not change relations of domination grounded in coercion.
As members of an oppressed minority, you may not have experienced the realities of military occupation, a brutal siege described that has led to an ongoing humanitarian disaster, or of having your homes demolished by an Israeli bulldozer. You may not have experienced the crushing reality of having to give up your citizenship, or having your village cut in half by an apartheid wall that separates you from your own family, or being forcefully “relocated” so that your village can make way for new Jewish-only settlements, illegal according to international law. You may not have had to experience swathes of your land confiscated, bit by bit, to be annexed into a state that has made refugees of your family with no hope of return. You may not have been shot at by settlers for walking on a Jewish-only road. You may not have been imprisoned for expressing your opinion, or for bemoaning the mass displacement and ethnic cleansing of your people.
You may, however, know what it is like to live as a second class citizen, to have no one stand by you as you experience state-sanctioned discrimination. As queers, you possibly know what it’s like to be refused to rent a home because of who you are. You may also know what it is like to be vilified and hated and considered a threat to the social order. As queers, you must know what injustice feels like, and you must know that it is incumbent on all of us to fight it wherever we see it.
In this conflict, there is no room for neutrality. Through its targeted campaign towards the global LGBT community, the Israeli state has tried to make queers complicit in its crimes. In this conflict, the myth of remaining “neutral” places you unequivocally on the side of the powerful. We understand that you, as a board, cannot make a decision to boycott Israel without the approval of your membership. You can, however, hold your GA elsewhere until you have had time to consult with your member organizations. We urge you to reconsider.
HELEM (Lebanese Protection for LGBTQ)