Last weekend was the Lesbian-Gay City Festival, aka Motzenstraßenfest. Next weekend is the CSD, otherwise known as Berlin’s Pride parade. Both these events are 25 years old. And how things have changed! In the 1980s, the neighborhood around Nollendorfplatz was the scene of riots to fight back to homophobic police – not unlike the Stonewall riots. Now, not so much.
I was in the Motzenstraße last Saturday and I didn’t see much in terms of struggle. I had a good time with young BDSM enthusiasts – you could do a survey and then receive a “perversion certificate” (I got 99,9 percent!). But a good 50 percent of the stands were corporations trying to present themselves as queer-friendly. I like signing up for a carsharing service for free as much as the next person. But what does that have to do with LGBTIQ* rights?
If you’re not familiar with what’s going on here, it’s what activists call “pinkwashing”.
But in fact, the corporations weren’t even the worst:
- The police were there – the same police responsible for deporting queer refugees, since Germany still doesn’t consistently recognize homophobic persecution as a reason for asylum.
- The CDU had a stand – the same conservative party fighting tooth and nail against marriage equality. A whopping 225 of their MPs voted against the Ehe für alle.
- Both German churches were represented – the same churches that can legally fire people for being gay.
- And above all, the Israeli government was represented, and everywhere there were little Israeli flags in rainbow colors.
A number of Jewish and Palestinian queer activists object to the Israeli PR campaign at queer events. “No pride in Israeli apartheid” was the slogan on a pink sticker in front of the Israeli stand. Last year, activists organized a die-in in the same location.
But every modern state and corporation engages in some form of pinkwashing. The US embassy will also have a big float at the Berlin CSD – despite representing a deeply homophobic government. So why single out Israel? I spoke with one activist, Alice Rogers from the group Berlin Against Pinkwashing.
“Israel is the only country that maintains an illegal occupation and simultaneously has a multi-million dollar PR campaign to brand itself as a haven for LGBTIQ* rights” she says. The support for queer events in Berlin is designed to distract “from war crimes and human rights abuses in Gaza and the West Bank”.
And as Rogers argues, while Tel Aviv might be a great tourist destination for gay men, Israel is anything but a paradise for LGBTIQ* people:
- The Israeli Supreme Court just ruled that gay people can’t adopt children.
- Pride parades outside of Tel Aviv are routinely cancelled because police and politicians can’t guarantee participants safety, like in Be’er Sheva last year.
- Half of trans people in Israel have experienced physical transphobic violence.
- The Israeli secret services spy on and blackmail gay Palestinians in order to make them informants.
- And generally, checkpoints and bombs do not differentiate between straight and queer Palestinians.
That is why Israeli and Palestinian queer activists called for a boycott of Tel Aviv Pride. And similar activities are taking place in Berlin.
Last year, there was a protest against the Israeli ambassador at the Berlin CSD. And there was a bizarre counter-protest. Berlin politician Oliver Höffinghof (Pirates / Linke) was caught on video physically attacking LGBTIQ* activists. This is a German cis-man beating up Jews. Apparently, he thinks this support for the Israeli government is how he can combat anti-semitism!
This year, similar protests will be taking place at the CSD. I had an idea: I think I’ll hand out Saudi Arabian flags with rainbow colors. I mean, if we’re going to have pinkwashing, let’s go all the way.