Israel/Palestine and the Queer International

Israel/Palestine and the Queer International

Book Pages: 208 Illustrations: Published: October 2012

Author: Sarah Schulman

Activism, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Religious Studies

In this chronicle of political awakening and queer solidarity, the activist and novelist Sarah Schulman describes her dawning consciousness of the Palestinian liberation struggle. Invited to Israel to give the keynote address at an LGBT studies conference at Tel Aviv University, Schulman declines, joining other artists and academics honoring the Palestinian call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Anti-occupation activists in the United States, Canada, Israel, and Palestine come together to help organize an alternative solidarity visit for the American activist. Schulman takes us to an anarchist, vegan café in Tel Aviv, where she meets anti-occupation queer Israelis, and through border checkpoints into the West Bank, where queer Palestinian activists welcome her into their spaces for conversations that will change the course of her life. She describes the dusty roads through the West Bank, where Palestinians are cut off from water and subjected to endless restrictions while Israeli settler neighborhoods have full freedoms and resources.

As Schulman learns more, she questions the contradiction between Israel's investment in presenting itself as gay friendly—financially sponsoring gay film festivals and parades—and its denial of the rights of Palestinians. At the same time, she talks with straight Palestinian activists about their position in relation to homosexuality and gay rights in Palestine and internationally. Back in the United States, Schulman draws on her extensive activist experience to organize a speaking tour for some of the Palestinian queer leaders whom she had met and trusted. Dubbed "Al-Tour," it takes the activists to LGBT community centers, conferences, and universities throughout the United States. Its success solidifies her commitment to working to end Israel's occupation of Palestine, and it kindles her larger hope that a new "queer international" will emerge and join other movements demanding human rights across the globe.


“[T]he US playwright Sarah Schulman’s Israel/Palestine and the Queer International (Duke, 2012) undermines the idea that Israel is the bastion of social freedom in the region. Her careful, analytical memoir of her 2010 visit to Palestine and Israel, and of the tour she organized for queer Palestinians around the US in 2011, bristles with the possibilities of genuine solidarity if patience allows various political agendas committed to freedom to find the common space for their differences and unities to find each other.” — Vijay Prashad, Jadaliyya

“In this brave nonfiction work . . . Schulman takes up the occupation, and the BDS (boycott/divestment/sanctions) movement. The book follows Schulman as she dissects her own complicated relationship to the Middle East, immerses herself in an intensive re-education process, and embarks on a unique, eye-opening Solidarity Tour of Israel/Palestine.” — Bec Zajac, The Brooklyn Rail

“Solidarity, reciprocity, and recognition here reinforce each other, broadening the range of human rights that each movement affirms. The queer activist learns about colonialism and the anti-occupation activist learns about feminism. It is a remarkable testament to the value of the risk that Schulman ran in agreeing to deny her lesbian and gay constituency in Israel in favour of a broader human rights agenda in which their rights too might find validation and defence.” — Gerry Kearns, Dubin Review of Books

“Through her writing, Schulman equips queer internationals with tools to push back, reflect, and synthesize. . . . Counterintuitive to the depressing subjects she explores, there is no pessimism in Schulman’s cataloging of what is wrong with the world. Instead, demonstrating a trait of the queer international, she is proactive in the face of adversarial forces such as familial, state, and capitalist violence.” — Ted Kerr, Pretty Queer

“Written with verve and grace, Israel/ Palestine and the Queer International is eye-opening, courageous, investigative, an activists’ how-to manual, and a shining example of the best in contemporary gay liberation thinking of the sort we have come to expect from Sarah Schulman. The book is by turns hard-headed (in the best sense), clear-sighted, and tender and moving.” — Doug Ireland, Gay City News

“[A] provocative argument against Israel’s recent attempt to market itself as a gay tourist destination. . . . [H]er skepticism regarding power is bracing. Schulman not only upends many of her own unquestioned assumptions, she also clarifies the connection between seemingly innocuous acts, like an effusive travel-section article extolling Tel Aviv’s gay-friendly cafes, and imperialism, racial prejudice and class struggle.” — Raymond Simon, Philadelphia Weekly

“[Schulman] eloquently and cogently describes how her awareness and transformation happened. She presents interesting stories about the queer Palestinians she meets, and bonds with, including anti-occupation activists, as well as details about the unique coming-out process for Palestinians.” — Gary Kramer, Philadelphia Gay News

“Schulman offers an honest and unflinching look at her step-by-step process for challenging her own biases. It's courageous work, and something we don't see nearly enough of, especially when it comes to hot-button issues.” — Kel Munger, Colorado Springs Independent

“Schulman’s ‘willful ignorance regarding Israel and Palestine’ is both acknowledged and interrogated through her own self-questioning and activism in this concise yet powerful activist-roman. . . . Is homonationalism the activist’s cry of the 21st century? Are you ready to interrogate your privilege? It is this call to acknowledge and interrogate our privilege and our ignorance that concludes Schulman’s fine work. . . .” — Marcie Bianco, Lambda Literary Review

“Schulman’s greatest strength in this moving accuont of her politicization around Palestine is her personal exploration of how Jewish historical trauma is linked to the Israeli oppression of Palestinians. . . . This powerful narrative will be particularly helpful for folks struggling to understand the intersection of Jewish identity, queerness, and anti-occupation work.” — Wendy Elisheva Somerson, Bitch

“Schulman’s grappling with a Jewish history that kept her willfully ignorant about the Israeli occupation is a compelling piece of her narrative.... I hope that Schulman’s visibility will inspire more queers to pick up her book and become involved in Palestine solidarity work...” — Wendy Elisheva Somerson, Make/Shift

“Life is hard for the Palestinians. It isn’t a picnic for leftists in LGBT movements either. So a book that brings good news on both fronts is a definite reason for celebration... So there are discussions remaining to be had about internationalism with queer internationalists like Schulman. Still, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International is a fun, moving and inspiring place to start.” — Peter Drucker, Against the Current

“A great introduction to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and to the role of queers in that struggle. Schulman offers a thoughtful, if somewhat uneven, presentation of the relationship between the two struggles, the impact of identity politics, and the devastation caused by colonialism and nationalism. She has generously taken us on her journey of self-examination and inspires others to do the same.” — Jody Raphael, Women's Review of Books

"Israel/Palestine and the Queer International offers an insightful, critical and personal interpretation of the issues surrounding movements to divest from Israel, boycott Israel’s official economy and draw attention to Israel’s supposed pinkwashing. As always, Schulman’s writing is sophisticated, intelligent and yet accessible." — David Gorshein, Journal of Modern Jewish Studies

“I am hopeful that Schulman's book can help more queer folks understand the link between queer issues and Palestine solidarity, as well as how to combat pinkwashing efforts. This book can help us learn how to respond to arguments that use the concepts of dialogue, discrimination, and diversity to promote a narrow vision of gay rights aligned with state rights. By insisting on a power analysis as part of her critique of global politics, Schulman demands that we consider who is being excluded when we focus on the ‘safety’ and ‘rights’ of some LGBT folks without linking these rights to anti-colonial struggle.” — Wendy Elisheva Somerson, Tikkun

“. . . Schulman’s book is rich and accessible; her powerful account of passing through the Qalandia checkpoint is a highlight (94). In a compelling narrative Schulman provides an alternative script of exile and home and suggests complex, less dichotomous ways of imagining oneself as a queer, a Jew, and an activist for Palestine.” — Ruth Preser and Chen Misgav, Journal of Middle East Women's Studies

"Al-Shulman has written an honest, warm, and moving book. This is a book about how the political heart expands to encompass the rights of queers and the rights of Palestinians, the rights of you and the rights of me, the rights of individuals and the rights of collectivities. This vision is neither stingy nor utopian, but deeply realistic. A must-read." — Vijay Prashad, author of Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today

"This is a great book, brave, and compassionate. A journey of discovery, a coming of age, and more important, a search for justice. Our world is a better place for its existence. Read it, please." — Rabih Alameddine, author of The Hakawati

"This is an extraordinary, challenging, and moving book. It is both an honest account of the work Sarah Schulman had to do to allow the full reality of the occupation of Palestine to be registered in her consciousness, and a story—told firmly yet gently, with patience and care—of the shared labor of building activist worlds on occupied grounds. We embark on a journey with Sarah Schulman and many other activists, from Palestine, the U.S. and beyond, as they persist in the effort to make the liberation of Palestine essential to queer politics. We follow their footsteps, we trace the paths; we hear the conversations; we share the meals. If activism involves hard often painstaking work, if it involves mundane and ordinary tasks, we learn that it can also create connections that nourish and sustain. I hope this book becomes a teacher. I hope we join the invitation to become part of a new queer international where liberation for all is the common goal." — Sara Ahmed, author of On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life


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Price: $24.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sarah Schulman is a longtime AIDS and queer activist, and a cofounder of the MIX Festival and the ACT UP Oral History Project. She is a playwright and the author of seventeen books, including the novels The Mere Future, Shimmer, Rat Bohemia, After Delores, and People in Trouble, as well as nonfiction works such as The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination, My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life during the Reagan/Bush Years, Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences, and Stagestruck: Theater, AIDS, and the Marketing of Gay America, which is also published by Duke University Press. She is Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at The City University of New York, College of Staten Island.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Before 1

Part I. Solidarity Visit

1. Awareness 23

2. Preparation: Learning from Cinema 40

3. Maps 48

4. The Jewish Embrace 58

5. Solidarity Visit 67

6. Palestine 77

7. Finding the Strategy 86

Part II. Al-U.S. Tour

8. Homonationalism 103

9. Amreeka 133

10. Backlash 156

11. Understanding 172

Conclusion: There Is No Conclusion 175

Appendix; Brand Israel and Pinkwashing: A Documentary Guide 179

Index 187
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Sarah Schulman is the recipient of the 2018 Publishing Triangle's Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Finalist, 2013 Lambda Literary Awards, LGBT Nonfiction category

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5373-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5358-4
Publicity material