October 22, 2013

Palestinian LGBT Activist Talks About Occupation

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Haneen Maikey, director and cofounder of Palestinian LGBT activist group alQaws, spoke at the Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium Tuesday.

The talk, sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine, HAVEN: LGBTQ Student Union and the Women’s Resource Center, began with an introduction by A.D. White House visiting professor Jasbir Puar.

Maikey, a Palestinian native who has been involved in activism since 2001, spoke on several topics regarding queer issues and sexual politics in Palestine and how they connect with the greater issue of colonialism.

“alQaws is a group for LGBTQ people and activists working together to dismantle the sexual agenda behind occupying Palestine,” Maikey said.

According to Maikey, the group only has one and a half paid members, forcing it to focus on issues that it finds most pressing.

Maikey said that the most immediate focus of the organization is on tackling occupation of Palestine, rather than advocating for gay rights.

“We are not a gay organization. We are not working to achieve gay rights for the Palestinian gay movement. We don’t think that kind of activism is sustainable, or relevant to the Palestinian conflicts,” she said.

Though Maikey’s efforts do involve providing spaces for LGBT Palestinians, a lot of alQaws’s work, and what Maikey focused on in the talk, centered around addressing issues of Zionist colonialism that Maikey believes must be tackled before the group can have full conversations regarding sexuality. These issues include the definition of Palestine and Palestinians, the phenomena of imposed borders and normalization politics, and the “pinkwashing” of Israel.

Pinkwashing, a term that refers to gay-friendly publicity that masks unfavorable aspects of a society or place, connects to Israel because its perceived status as being a kind of LGBT haven in the Middle East softens the harsh realities of Zionist colonialism and occupation of Palestine, according to Maikey.

Maikey stressed that alQaws refuses to cooperate with the Israeli government and any international organizations that also work with Israeli LGBT groups.

“We don’t cooperate with any organization that doesn’t challenge Jewish supremacy in Israel,” she said, mentioning that the normalizing peace talks between parties have historically been ineffectual, and that internal discussions exposing the state of occupation and colonization is the first main goal.

“We refuse to educate our colonizers,” she said.