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Auckland & Wellington: Actions against Israeli whitewashing

Auckland & Wellington: Actions against Israeli whitewashing & pinkwashing

February 23, 2014

In solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, Fightback (Aotearoa/NZ) endorses the Palestinian-led call for Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) on Israel.

Cultural boycotts are a part of BDS. These boycotts target cultural products & activities designed to promote Israel, and supported by Israeli institutions.

On the 22nd of February 2014, two actions in different cities in Aotearoa/NZ promoted the cultural boycott of Israel.

Wellington: Don’t dance with Israeli apartheid!
In the capital, Aotearoa BDS Network challenged a performance by Israeli dance troupe Batsheva (touring an event entitled Deca Dance as part of the NZ Festival). Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs describes Batsheva as “perhaps the best known global ambassador of Israeli culture,” and their performance in Aotearoa/NZ was sponsored by the Israeli embassy.

After letters to the NZ Festival and the Minister of Foreign Affairs curiously failed to produce results, Palestine solidarity activists organised an action outside the performance.

Chants of “Boycott Israel/Boycott Batsheva,” “Shame” and “Free Palestine” accompanied banners & placards including “Queers against Israeli apartheid” and “Jews for a free Palestine.” Demonstrators also handed out informational leaflets and discouraged patrons from attending.

Zionists mobilised a counter-demonstration to support Batsheva. This counter-demonstration appeared to be mainly stacked with evangelical Christians from out of town, although notable Wellington Zionists including David Zwartz were also in attendance.

Counter-demonstrators affirmed the message of Aotearoa BDS Network, that supporting Batsheva means supporting Israel. In 1981, the peak of the Aotearoa/NZ movement to “halt all racist tours” from apartheid South Africa, supporters of the Springbok tour called to separate sports from politics (impossible, as politics always shape sports). By contrast in 2014, evangelicals supporting Batsheva wielded placards declaring Israel “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

The combination of Christian Zionists on one side of the entrance, and Palestine solidarity activists opposite, certainly worked to disrupt the event.

On Facebook, a staff member at the venue commented:

“This is beyond stupid, they actually ended up obstructing the performance they’re trying to support, we had to send patrons down the disgusting fire escapes so they could leave the building.”

15 patrons decided to forego their tickets, to applause from demonstrators. The Aotearoa BDS Network will maintain the pressure discouraging NZ Festival, and other organisations, from supporting Israeli apartheid in future.

Auckland: Queers Against Israeli Apartheid
While protesters and counterprotesters clashed at the Batsheva Dance recital in Wellington, Israeli pinkwashers [1] tried to pull a fast one at the Auckland Pride Parade on Ponsonby Road.

The night before the parade, the Israeli embassy put out a bizarre, gloating press release announcing that they would have a float in the parade, “whilst BDS Campaigners have fled in their minivan to Wellington”.

This is all part of the “Brand Israel” campaign, aiming to portray Israel as a progressive, diverse Western democracy – and Palestinians and other Arabs as backwards, homophobic savages.

Thankfully, Queers against Israeli Apartheid weren’t going to let them get away with it. When the Israeli “float” – actually four men on a car with rainbow and Star of David flags – drove up Ponsonby Road, about 10 peaceful activists disrupted the parade to block them.

The activists unfurled banners and placards saying “No Rainbow Big Enough To Cover The Shame of Israeli Apartheid” and “Pride in Resistance, Not in Oppression”.

One Israeli participant ended up yelling at a protestor “You should go and live in Tel Aviv, it’s the gay capital of the Middle East”. The protestor she was yelling at was of Palestinian origin herself – the people who were cleared out of what is now the State of Israel in al-Nakba (the Catastrophe) of 1948.

After a few minutes, police and security dragged the protesters out of the way and let the Israeli float proceed. But hopefully this made enough of an impression that next year’s Pride organisers will think twice before letting “pinkwashers” use our parade for their propaganda.

[1] “Pinkwashing” means using an image of gay and lesbian rights to conceal abuses, such as the ongoing brutality of the Israeli occupation


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