Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique
Sa’ed Atshan


Contents and Abstracts
Introduction: "there is no hierarchy of oppressions"
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This introductory chapter foregrounds Audre Lorde's words that "there is no hierarchy of oppressions." It extends this thesis to the central question at the heart of this book, which is how transnational progressive social movements are able (or not) to balance struggles for liberation along more than one axis at once. The focus here is on the global queer Palestinian solidarity movement, revealing its original aim to empower queer Palestinians to achieve national and sexual freedom. The chapter defines the critical concepts that help account for the rise of this movement in Palestine and globally. These concepts include the empire of critique, radical purists, discursive disenfranchisement, movement plateau, pinkwashing, pinkwatching, ethnocracy, homophobia, Zionism, ethnoheteronormativity, and the white gaze. This chapter also contextualizes this project within the intellectual genealogy of which it is a part.

Chapter 1: LGBTQ Palestinians and the Politics of the Ordinary
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Chapter 1 traces the rise of the LGBTQ Palestinian movement in Israel/Palestine, also known as Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories or as historic Palestine. The first section delineates an ethnographic approach to social movement theory as the conceptual framework through which to understand this movement. The next section outlines the heterogeneity of queer Palestinian subjects, and the following section provides an overview of Palestinian homophobia. I then account for the emergence of the LGBTQ movement in Palestine and follow that with a discussion of queer Palestinian epistemologies and a section on the rise of radical purists in the movement. I conclude with examples of queer Palestinian subjectivities. I argue that queer Palestinian life and resistance derives its power from ordinary acts in extraordinary contexts under ethnoheteronormativity. This chapter furthers the case for attention to affect and more pluralism and inclusivity within the movement.

Chapter 2: Global Solidarity and the Politics of Pinkwashing
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Chapter 2 applies conceptions of victims and saviors to the debates on pinkwashing and pinkwatching. It explicates four examples of pinkwashing. I then provide an overview of homophobia and LGBTQ rights in contemporary Israel, recognizing the elision of Israeli homophobia and elevation of Israeli queer empowerment in pinkwashing discourse. The final section of this chapter offers an analysis of hegemonic critiques of the use of the terms pinkwashing and pinkwatching in the contexts of (a) the charge of singling out Israel for criticism, (b) the invocation of the presence of queer Palestinians in Israel, and (c) debates surrounding the salience of the Israeli occupation. It is in the interplay between pinkwashing and pinkwatching that the queer Palestinian movement has catalyzed global solidarity.

Chapter 3: Transnational Activism and the Politics of Boycotts
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The first section of chapter 3 traces how the conflict over boycotts maps onto successive Tel Aviv Pride parades. It examines queer Palestinian calls to boycott Tel Aviv Pride, decisions to participate in the parade by queer antioccupation activists, and the emergence of resistance to the Israeli state by mainstream LGBTQ organizations in Israel. The chapter then focuses on two cities that emerged as early epicenters of the pinkwatching and boycott debates. The next section examines the politics of boundary policing as they played out on multiple fronts. The chapter then turns to a critical moment in the summer of 2017 when conflict between pinkwashers and pinkwatchers came to a head and surged into the national media spotlight. This chapter demonstrates that we are equipped, from social theory and peace and conflict studies, with conceptual tools to transcend the present impasse animating boycotts in the context of queer Palestinian transnational activism.

Chapter 4: Media, Film, and the Politics of Representation
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Chapter 4 examines the relationship between the global queer Palestinian solidarity movement, representations of queer Palestinians in film and journalism, and the significant mistrust of the global mainstream media that has arisen among movement leaders. The chapter opens with a description of how the mainstream Western press tends to prioritize the most sensational stories about queer Palestinians. The second half of the chapter outlines the movement's critique of pinkwashing films produced by Israelis and internationals and the movement's attendant calls to boycott those films. This chapter delineates examples of cinematic tropes that clearly reinforce pinkwashing as well as others that are more nuanced. It also analyzes films that feature queer love between Israelis and Palestinians. In addition, I discuss a number of queer Palestinian films, highlighting their importance and controversy. The chapter concludes with the story of an as-yet-unreleased documentary on the first US LGBTQ delegation to Palestine.

Chapter 5: Critique of Empire and the Politics of Academia
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Chapter 5 examines two theoretical frameworks elaborated by Western-based scholars—the Gay International by Joseph Massad and homonationalism by Jasbir Puar—as they have been applied to the global queer Palestinian solidarity movement. I reveal the debilitating effects that these academic critiques have had on the Queer Palestine movement and the possibility for academics and activists to formulate a new mode of scholarly engagement aimed at supporting queer social movements in Palestine and across the Middle East. As in previous chapters, I compare contributions that are corrosive, placing activists in the cross-fire between left- and right-wing criticisms of their efforts, to those that raise difficult intellectual, ethical, and practical questions while protecting from paralysis those who struggle for justice.

Conclusion: "we were never meant to survive"
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Just as the introduction foregrounded words of Audre Lorde, this concluding chapter does so as well, with attention to Lorde's call for racialized queer subjects to speak in the face of attempts to undermine their survival. The conclusion conceptualizes how scholars and activists can distinguish between critique and criticism. Drawing on Jose Muñoz's notions of queer futurity and utopia, I outline my vision and road map for the global queer Palestinian solidarity movement. This is done with an eye to transcending the empire of critique and the movement's current plateau so it can become a more democratic and pluralistic movement that can resume growing.