Love, Rage and the Occupation, Part 3: the JOH protest vigil (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
Love, Rage and the Occupation, Part 2: Queeruption (2006)

Second story (2006): the JOH protest vigil

In that summer, the Jerusalem pride march was canceled.

Jerusalem Pride became a hotly contested territory three years after its inception. From 2002 and until 2004, it ran annually, relatively smoothly and with few negative side effects. However, the parade came to national attention in 2005, when a single terrorist (an orthodox Jew) stabbed three of the attendants with a knife, with intent to kill. (Interestingly enough, the person who jumped the perpetrator and caused his arrest, was one of the Jerusalem bisexual activists). When, one year later, the Jerusalem Open House1 had started organizing an international pride parade in Jerusalem (under the ironic title of “Love Without Borders2), a city dominated by religious populations sprouted a hitherto-unforeseen coalition between the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities not to let us dirty perverts march in “their” city. The police’s official reason for denying permission to march was… the Lebanon war, deciding it was “unsafe” to march at such a time.

Previous years: The pink black block in Jerusalem Pride. Credit: Oren Ziv

On August 10th, the JOH organized a protest vigil against the cancellation of the parade by the police. This was the fourth (and, as it turned out, last) week of the war, and many Israeli flags were to be seen amongst the rainbow flags of the vigil. Most of the people were standing quietly, some were singing Jewish songs. The atmosphere was overwhelmingly Zionist. I arrived independently with my friends, and a few minutes after we arrived, the two Queeruption buses came in as well. People joined in with signs, chants, flags and lots of energy, and we joined them, chanting, waving flags, and making noise. The slogans, however, though queer, were mostly focused on the war.

This was later debated within the community: some thought it was legitimate for us to bring our own messages to a protest meant for our community. Others thought that changing the message was insensitive and that priority needed to be given to the queer message over the anti-war message, in the spirit of community solidarity. Though I didn’t think so then, today my opinion leans towards the latter, and I feel uncomfortable about the hijacking of the message such as we did3. In addition, I feel uneasy about the priority which the occupation takes here above and beyond every other topic, to the extent of silencing other activist issues.

An anti-occupation sign at the protest vigil

What’s not debated, however, is the police brutality that then ensued. Even though Israeli law permits any size of gathering, including chants of slogans as well as signs and flags, (so long as there’s no march and no speech), the police often makes its own rules by deciding that chanting is illegal, that a certain number of people is illegal, or that certain content is illegal. The police started brutalizing us maybe 10-15 minutes after the Queeruption arrived. Their reasons: we were chanting, we were many, and we were waving Palestinian flags (In fact, only one of us was, and it’s perfectly legal. But hey, what’s that to the police, if they’re making it up anyway?). The JOH organizers watched idly by as policemen hit the protesters, dragged us, threw us into the street and arrested two of our friends. Only later, while sitting and waiting for the arrestees, did we hear JOH’s official response, claiming not only that we broke the law, but also that we were harming the “gay and lesbian” struggle in Jerusalem. Of course, they lent us no legal support or assistance in releasing our friends from arrest. We had to rely on our own4.

From the moment that two of us were arrested, our protest ended and we found ourselves making our way on foot to the police station where they were taken. I found the group’s lawyer, Yossi Wolfson, and told him all the details that I could about the arrest that I witnessed so that he could talk to the police on our behalf. The whole group sat and waited until the day went dark and the notorious Jerusalem night cold kicked in. We froze, we ate, we sat and played or chatted. I got interviewed to the media for the first time in my life (answering questions from the GoGay Israeli news site reporter). I don’t know how long we sat there when finally, a policeman came out from the station and asked for two people to sign release bonds for the two arrestees. I volunteered to sign for my friend Carmel, and another volunteered to sign for the other arrestee, Yotam. When we came out of the station, all free to go, the group joyfully cheered. We took the bus back to Tel Aviv with the Queeruption. I was dead tired as I got back home, at 2:00 am that morning.

Next – Part four
Third Story (2006): The March That Didn’t March

Footnotes:

1 JOH, the largest LGBT organization in Jerusalem.

2 Jerusalem is divided in half by the Israeli separation wall, forbidding entrance to Palestinians, including Palestinian LGBTQ people.

3 A huge influence in forming this opinion was: Wolfson Y. (2006). Call Me Gay. In Queeruption – Protest (10-12). [Self published]. Retrieved from Queer Zine Archive (http://www.qzap.org). (For an English translation, feel free to contact me).

4 This article mentions the JOH several times in negative context. I would like to mention that despite the difficulties that I experience(d) with them, I bear the utmost respect towards the dedicated activists that work for and run the organization. The JOH is an important organization, vital to the LGBT community in Jerusalem, and its importance should not be dismissed.

[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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