Love, Rage and the Occupation, Part 2: Queeruption (2006)

Remember I posted about my article Love, Rage and the Occupation, which got published on Journal of Bisexuality? So, I discovered that I can put the text on my blog without breaching copyrights. Now everyone can read it for free. Hooray!

Since this article is very long, I’m going to be posting it in parts over the next few weeks. This is part 2 out of maybe 8-9, so stay tuned for further updates.

Previous:
Love, Rage and the Occupation: Bisexual Politics in Israel/Palestine – Part 1


First story (2006): Queeruption

My story begins in one of the critical moments in the history of queer anti-occupation activism in Israel1, one that many of us now recall as a seminal moment in our personal histories as activists. This was the summer of 2006. Black Laundry, the first queer group decidedly working against the occupation, had just finished dying out only a year beforehand, and I never got to be a member. (By the time I had heard of their existence – thinking, for the first time in my life: “Oh my god! There are others who think like me!” – they had already begun to disperse. Later on I heard that even had I known of their existence on time, I couldn’t have joined – they refused to accept bisexuals [a policy which some claim later changed]).

My friends’ and my official hang-out at the time was Salon Mazal, the Tel Aviv infoshop (a center for alternative political information, as well as a library, a workshop space and a vegan restaurant). This was where all the cool gay and lesbian radicals used to hang out (the cool transgender radicals had, at that point, not yet migrated from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv). Their clique was very closed, however, and I never felt comfortable going there alone. Until this day I can’t place my finger on the cause of the cold treatment that my friends and I often received: Was it our bisexuality? Did they think we were straight? Did they create a closed culture whose standards we couldn’t achieve? Or was is something else completely? Today I know that I was not the only one feeling left out of those circles, and still the reasons for this remain hazy. Despite this, my friends and I still loved the place, as it echoed with our activist passions, provided us with learning and tools through the many books, zines and workshops, as well as being, of course, an awesome hangout where you could get a full vegan meal for the price of ILS 20 (equal to about US $5).

Salon Mazal, back in the day

When I heard that the people from Salon Mazal and the leftovers from Black Laundry were organizing an international queer anarchist gathering in Tel Aviv (the 9th international Queeruption), I immediately became excited about the idea. The event was planned many months in advance and I knew that an organizing committee was meeting weekly at the Salon. However, the tension of the event dispersed for me when I realized that I was feeling too shy to actually attend an event organized by people I knew but did not seem to acknowledge me. My then-partner and I suggested to host a workshop about queer heterosexual sex (a very bisexual topic, at a time before we started thinking about bisexuality politically). However, the organizers failed to contact us, and I never did attend the gathering place. Where I did come into contact with the Queeruption, was the demonstrations that took place that summer.

On July 12th 2006, the Lebanese “terrorist”2 group Hezbollah kidnapped three Israeli soldiers on the border of occupied south Lebanon. In response, the Israeli military bombed Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, its airport and many of its hospitals, schools, power plants and infrastructure, and killing 1,191 of its citizens over the course of the next month. This murderous attack, thinly disguised as a response in “self defense”, had very quickly come to be known as the Second Lebanon War, and was widely supported by Israeli government, parliament, media and public.

However, not everyone joined to the sound of the war-drums and the smell of blood and fire – the demonstrations against the Israeli attacks on Lebanon – and later the war – started out on the very day the attacks began. The first demonstration, held in front of the Ministry of Defense (such an Orwellian name), attracted 200-300 people. The second day, a 100 more. By the end of the week, we had a full-fledged anti-war march attended by well over 4000 people. By the end of the war, we’d had demonstrations of over 10,000 (all large numbers in Israeli terms).

In light of the war, the Queeruption camp, which was intended to be a creative workshop and activist space, had changed its plans and converted into a queer anti-war activist headquarters, responsible for the now-mythological Pink-Black Block during the demonstrations against the war. Participants were requested to show up in pink-black clothes, and we were handed pink ribbons to tie around our wrists, necks, bags. Some of us even tied them across our mouths or eyes, in reference to ubiquitous hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil of Israeli militarist fascism. The block also included a drumming band, whistles and other noise-makers, chanting, jumping and dancing – making our resistance loud, queer and celebratory. In that period, there was at least one demonstration every week, if not every day, and I attended each and every one of these blocks. Although I still (was) kept at distance from most of the people involved, I began identifying faces, began to make some friends, receive some smiles. I always attended with my own friends, too, and so I never felt alone.

The demonstrations were delightful. We danced, jumped and shouted in the streets, drawing the attention of both the protesters, the media and the spectators. I remember us marching, in the biggest demonstration, on Even Gvirol St.3, the street echoing with our drum beat, our chanting. A moment later, we were standing in place, then jumping, running, and then dancing in a circle to the sound of the drums. Through all our pain and rage, passion and fury, our anger and celebration, we created something new: a spark, a life force.

The pink black bloc, demo against the war 4 Aug 2006. Credit: Keren Manor/Activestills

And in that moment, of protesting against the occupation, being loud and anarchist and queer and surrounded by my kind, all at the same time – in that moment, I had found my political home.

We weren’t spared of police (and other) brutality, of course. One of the biggest demonstrations we had, ended in Maggen David Square, a small square that couldn’t fit the large crowd gathered. Inevitably, people started flowing unto the road. However, before we even finished gathering everyone into the square, the police – on foot and on horses – had already started violently pushing us into the sidewalk (and, inevitably, into each other). There was no space inside the square, and on the other side of it the police were all too happy to push us – when we failed to be pushed for lack of space, we were beaten and arrested by the police. The situation finally became so hard, that the protest organizers (feminist women) had called out to all women on the loudspeakers, to stand between the protesters and the police in order to defend our friends – the policemen are often less brutal with those of us who pass as female. I remember standing there between the lines, feeling scared and defiant. I was lucky enough to prevent a few arrests that day.

Demo against the war 4 Aug 2006. Credit: Oren Ziv/Activestills

After our protest was over, the police disappeared from sight, leaving us alone to deal with violence from the counter (pro-war) demonstration from across the street. Many of us had to stay in the square in order to protect the stage and sound equipment from vandalism, evading the counter-protesters’ violence as we did so. An argument I had with one of the Zionists from across the street (who came to speak to us), ended with him shouting again and again, “Amir Peretz4 wants peace, in your heart you know this!”…

Next – Part three
Second story (2006): the JOH protest vigil

Footnotes:

1 I have decided not to include much background information about the occupation and the history of the anti-occupation movement (for political and other reasons). For more information on this issue, see: Bed-David L. (2010, November 23). Boy//cut Israel: challenging male hegemony through queer&feminist identification [Video file]. Retrieved from http://makore.6tzvaim.com/node/523.

2 “Terrorist” is in quotations because I dispute the single-target use of the word “terrorism” in reference only to non-government and non-Western military violence.

3 Even Gvirol is one of the main streets of central Tel Aviv.

4 The Israeli Minister of Defense during the Second Lebanon War.

[This is an electronic version of an article published in Journal of Bisexuality Volume 12, Issue 1, 2012. The Journal of Bisexuality article is available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15299716.2012.645722]

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