One of the most bizarre groups in California’s political galaxy goes by the name of Q.U.I.T. — Queers Undermining Israeli Terror — also known sometimes simply as Queers for Palestine.
QUIT tags along and makes regular appearances at the various omnibus anti-war and anti-Israel rallies around the Bay Area; they almost never organize protests on their own. But yesterday, April 8, was one of those rare days in which there was a protest organized by and exclusively attended by QUIT.
The focus of their anger this time around was the “Out in Israel” film festival at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater, which is “a special showcase of new, recent and classic films from Israel exploring lesbian and gay life, imagery and stories.” The film festival is itself part of the larger overall Out in Israel LGBT Culture Festival, which celebrates all things gay in Israel.
Now, one would think that there would be nothing controversial in the slightest about a pro-gay festival in San Francisco. So I was mystified as to what exactly QUIT — itself purportedly a gay rights group — could possibly find so offensive about a pro-gay-rights festival as to merit a full-blown street protest. Out of curiosity, I decided to check it out, and to sincerely try to comprehend and present to the public their point of view.
QUIT did not go unopposed. Local pro-Israel groups San Francisco Voice for Israel (SFV4I) and Stand With Us got wind of the QUIT protest and quickly put together a counter-protest to bring a dose of sanity to the proceedings.
Here’s an overall shot of the protest, showing QUIT’s pink banner on the right, and a crowd in front of the Roxie Theater on the left. (Apologies for the extremely poor quality of these protest photos — they were taken by someone with a low-resolution cell-phone camera.)
“No Pride in Apartheid; Boycott/Divest From Israel” reads QUIT’s banner.
Now, I’ve written about QUIT before, pointing out their suicidal cognitive dissonance in supporting a society (Palestine) in which homosexuality is absolutely forbidden, generally under penalty of death. What I wrote back then (nearly five years ago) remains true; this paragraph bears repeating:
“In fact, the cognitive dissonance of Queers for Palestine — marching in support of those who would kill you if they were given the opportunity — only serves to illuminate the cognitive dissonance of the entire “anti-war movement.” Because the goal of the “War on Terror” is to protect the liberal, free, egalitarian democratic society that we all cherish from the forces of oppression, totalitarianism and religious fundamentalism. Yet the anti-war crowd strives to compel the very soldiers who are defending them to lay down their arms, as if the battle would suddenly cease if one army were to stop fighting. So the anti-war crowd must ignore the evidence that one side is fighting to impose the harshest form of religious conservatism not just on their own countries but on the entire world given half a chance, whereas the other side (our side) is fighting to preserve a progressive civilization. That’s right, folks — this war’s for you.”
The same principle applies to the Israel/Palestine conflict, which is a microcosm of the wider Islam-vs.-the-West “Clash of Civilizations.”
The narrow sidewalk in front of the Roxie was completely blocked with QUIT protesters and SFV4I counter-protesters.
I checked QUIT’s Web site to see if they had anything about this event, but the site is updated so infrequently I found no mention of it. Even so, at the protest itself I was lucky enough to nab a copy of QUIT’s manifesto explaining their rationale behind the protest. Click on the image above or here to view a larger, more readable version.
Our vocabulary word for the day is “pinkwashing,” QUIT’s clever twist on the notion of “greenwashing,” which itself is of course a twist on “whitewashing.” “Greenwashing” describes the PR campaigns of corporations which try to cover up their environment-unfriendly policies with a veneer of supposedly “green” initiatives. “Pinkwashing” apparently means to use the PR-boosting power of being gay-friendly to cover up one’s other flaws. (Unfortunately for QUIT, the term “pinkwashing” has already been reserved by breast-cancer awareness groups to refer to companies that abuse the “pink ribbon” cancer awareness logo to boost sales.)
QUIT is accusing Israel of “pinkwashing” its treatment of Palestinians by promoting how gay-friendly the nation is while sweeping under the rug its “apartheid policies” toward Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. I invite you to read QUIT’s manifesto above and try to wrap your mind around their point of view — which may not be an easy task. Note how QUIT in no way disputes the fact that Israel is queer-friendly; nor do they dispute the fact that gays in Palestine generally face immediate execution (by mob violence, government dictate, or even at the hands of their own families) if ever found out. Mostly, QUIT conveniently fails to mention what happens to gays in Palestine, but to the extent that they do mention it, they lay the blame on Israel. QUIT’s “logic” goes like this: Israel has the Palestinians trapped like rats in a cage, and it is this desperate social condition which causes Palestinian society to become so twisted that it oppresses its own people; furthermore, by closing the borders, Israel prevents gay Palestinians from fleeing the horrors of Palestine for the freedom of . . . Israel.
Of course, my analysis is this: The members of QUIT are in a “hipper-than-thou” arms race with other far-left radicals, and realized that if they want to be at the forefront of leftist political activism, they absolutely need to be anti-Israel and pro-Palestine, as that has become a defining feature of far-left ideologies. But as a gay rights group, QUIT was confronted by the deeply unfortunate fact that gays are safe, free and happy in Israel, while being oppressed, closeted and/or dead in Palestine. Other far-left groups coped with this problematic political conundrum by studiously ignoring the whole issue, thus obviating the need to resolve it. QUIT, on the other hand, uniquely has attempted to address the issue head on. Yet in order to somehow justify being pro-Palestine while at the same time supporting gay rights, QUIT necessarily needed to engage in the most ludicrous philosophical gymnastics in order to find some way to reconcile two irreconcilable positions.
But the end result is worse than QUIT could have imagined, because when all is said and done, they are promoting a society in which gays are simply not allowed to exist, and end up championing the grotesquely oppressive Arab/Islamic social order.
If QUIT truly cared about the rights of gays in Palestine and the Middle East, they would celebrate the treatment of gays in Israel and point to it as a model for other Middle Eastern countries to emulate. Instead of fighting for Arab self-rule in Palestinian territories — which would inevitably lead to a complete extirpation of all gay rights if not all gay people — QUIT should take the position that Israel should administer the Palestinian territories, because only under Israeli rule could gay Palestinians have any chance of survival. And instead of advocating that Palestinians continue their violent confrontational stance against Israel, QUIT should absolutely insist on Palestinian non-violence, which would allow the endless Intifada to fade away, quell all terror incidents, and allow Israel to once again open the border to Palestinian day workers and immigrants — and allow gay Palestinians to escape to the freedom of Israeli society.
But no. QUIT does the exact opposite of all those things. Which makes them among the most mystifying, and in some ways, the most loathsome of all leftist protest groups.
At the rally was a pro-Israel protester waving an Israeli gay pride flag in front of a brutally direct sign which takes the notion of “gallows humor” literally: Under the words “Gaza LGBT Center” are drawings of gay Palestinians lynched by Gaza’s theocratic rulers, Hamas.
Right next door to that sign were members of QUIT displaying their narrative: “Former Palestinian Village Open for Settlement: Jews Only — Queer Friendly.”
Here’s one thing I can say in QUIT’s favor: Unlike many other Bay Area protest groups, they are non-aggressive and non-confrontational. Mostly, they just stand there holding signs without getting into interpersonal conflicts. That’s how, as in this picture, protesters from two opposing camps can stand elbow-to-elbow and yet both remain all smiles, despite having diametrically opposed political views.
One of the SFV4I protesters held a sign riffing on the possible derivation of the acronym “Q.U.I.T.”
Another (again, sorry for the blurry photos) pointed out that Israel has a Gay Pride Parade — something that would be unthinkable in most Islamic countries. I think Dan Kliman — the Oakland doctor who for years was at the forefront of the Bay Area’s pro-Israel gay rights activism and who died over a year ago under somewhat mysterious circumstances — would concur.
Right around the corner from the Roxie, just steps from the protest, I noticed this casual bit of anti-Semitic graffiti on the window of a check-cashing business — unnoticed by all the protesters and counter-protesters. Someone had written the word “Jewish” on a roll of money pointing to the word “tax,” which is apparently either a reference to the old “Jews are money-grubbing” stereotype; or is a reference to the “Jewish Tax or “Kosher Tax,” an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that has been voiced at earlier SF anti-Israel protests; or, more simply, is a way of identifying Jewish-owned businesses for the next Kristallnacht.