On October 10-16, 2009, the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) is planning to hold a tourism conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, aimed at boosting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) leisure tourism to Israel. The audience of this conference is expected to be made up mostly of travel agents who specialize in promoting LGBT tourism. With this conference IGLTA, in cooperation with an Israeli LGBT organization, the Aguda, will give its symbolic and financial support to a state that continually occupies, oppresses and dispossess millions of Palestinians and murders and imprisons many thousands of them.
We, queer activists and groups, call on LGBTQI people and friends around the world to join us in our protest against IGLTA’s promotion of leisure tourism to apartheid Israel. We demand that IGLTA cancel its planned conference in Israel and cease any promotion of tourism to this country.
For some time now, Israeli officials and organizations such as the Aguda, who are cooperating closely with IGLTA, have been promoting LGBT tourism to Israel through false representations of visiting Tel Aviv as not taking sides, or as being on the “LGBT” side, as if LGBT lives were the only ones that mattered. It is implied that it’s okay to visit Israel as long as you “believe in peace,” as if what is taking place in Palestine/Israel is merely a conflict between equals, rather than an oppressive power relationship. Consistent with globalization’s tendency to distance the “final product” from the moral implications of the manufacturing process, LGBT tourists are encouraged to forget about politics and just have fun in a so-called gay-friendly city.
This Zionist propaganda disguises the reality of anti-LGBT violence. Last month’s Tel Aviv shooting in a gay center has reminded us that it is not as friendly as it is depicted to be. Since that attack, numerous reports have been released on the prevalence of violence against LGBT people in Israel, including a state official report suggesting that “80% of gay teens in Israel suffer some sort of sexual orientation-related abuse” (Ynetnews.com).
Even more importantly, Tel-Aviv’s flashy coffee shops and shopping malls, in contrast with the nearby deprived Palestinian villages and towns, serve as evidence that the Israeli society, just as the Israeli state itself, has built walls, blockades and systems of racist segregations to hide from the Palestinians it oppresses. The intersection of physical and societal separations and barriers have justly earned the term apartheid, referring to an historically parallel racist regime in South Africa against the indigenous Black population of that country. Leisure tourism to apartheid Israel supports this regime. It is not neutral, and it certainly is not a step toward real peace, which can only be based on justice.
We encourage people to visit Palestine and join Palestinians in solidarity with their popular struggle. A number of organizations are doing this, including International Solidarity Movement, Palestine Solidarity Project and International Women’s Peace Service. This clearly is not what IGLTA is doing. Instead, by its actions, IGLTA calls on our communities to turn our backs on the oppression of Palestinians, and to ignore a specifically effective Palestinian popular non-violent initiative – the BDS movement.
On July 9th 2005 171 Palestinian civil society’s organizations issued a statement calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. These measures are to be applied until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194 (http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/52).
In recent months, especially after the murderous assault on Gaza, the BDS movement is gaining momentum worldwide. New groups are forming and many have implemented successful non-violent protest actions around the world. These actions inspire us for what is to come. By supporting BDS now, we can have a significant impact on the overall struggle for justice in Palestine. We urge LGBTQI people and friends around the world to endorse the Palestinian call and to join this particular action of solidarity and protest.
Please email International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, calling on it to cancel its planned conference in Israel and any promotion of tourism to this country. You can compile your own letter or use the sample letter below.
Please email your letter to all management and staff members of IGLTA:
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(John Tanzella, Executive Director; Richard Brower, Strategic Development & Marketing Manager; Deven Chism, Administrative Assistant; Babs Daitch , Special Projects; Ann Corbitt, Event Planner; Tom Nibbio, Manager – Partnership Development; Aaron Riggins, Manager – Membership Development; Carlos Kytka, Manager – Europe; Mark Proffit, Australia / New Zealand Ambassador; André Rojer, Latin America Ambassador; Alfredo Ferreyra, Argentina Ambassador; Clovis Casemiro, Brazil Ambassador; Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce , Canada Ambassador; Clark Massad, France Ambassador; Edwin Brown, Germany Ambassador; Andreas Balakakis, Greece Ambassador; Shai Doitsch, Israel Ambassador; Bertho Makso, Lebanon Ambassador; Ron Kuijpers, Mexico Ambassador; Piotr Wojcik, Poland Ambassador; Adriaan Coetzer, South Africa; Brian Kruger, South Africa Ambassador; Juan A. Carmona Del Solar, Spain Ambassador; Tobias Holfelt, Sweden Ambassador; Spyros Petridis, Switzerland Ambassador; Mustafa Kartopu, Turkey Ambassador; Darren Cooper, United Kingdom Ambassador; Babs Daitch, United States of America Ambassador)
Dear International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association management and staff members,
It was brought to my attention that your organization, IGLTA, is planning to hold a conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, between October 10th, 2009 and October 16th, 2009, aimed at boosting LGBT tourism to Israel. As someone who believes in protecting human rights, I am disturbed by your attempt to promote leisure tourism to apartheid Israel. I plead with you to distance yourselves from Israel’s crimes. Please cancel the conference, along with any other promotion activity on your behalf of tourism to Israel.
Just as I consider LGBT rights to be a human rights issue, the rights of Palestinians are a human rights issue as well. I reject any attempt to depict Tel Aviv as separate from Israel, the state that it is, to a large extent, sustaining. Given the continued occupation, colonization and oppression of the Palestinian people by Israel, it seems to me awful and hypocritical to promote leisure tourism to its largest and richest city in the name of LGBT human rights. In an environment of racist segregation, as imposed on the Palestinians by the annexation wall and other fences and blockades, leisure tourism promotion to Tel Aviv and Israel is especially harmful and morally corrupt.
The extent of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, and its long duration, require that organizations and businesses be wary of connecting themselves with it. In the territories occupied in 1967, unarmed Palestinians, including teenagers and children, are routinely shot and imprisoned by the Israeli army. Israeli forces routinely destroy people’s homes, confiscate their land and resources, discriminate against Palestinians in their access to water, and restrict their everyday movement between Palestinian towns and villages. Millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants are prevented from returning to their homes and hometowns, many living in refugee camps without any compensation for their continued loss and suffering. In only the three weeks of its most aggressive military offensive on Gaza, the Israeli army killed more than 1400 Palestinians, wounded thousands of people and destroyed the houses of tens of thousands of people.
Since IGLTA, in its activities, is providing symbolic as well as financial support to Israel, I see it as inevitable to connect IGLTA to such atrocities. Only by abstaining from dealing with Israel can you distance yourselves from such moral corruption and the rightful criticism that will come with it.
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