Editor’s note: This is in response to the recent op-ed “Israel Divestment campaign poses threat to peace, cooperation,” and concerns the overarching debate over student proposals for divestment from Israel.
The Israeli military occupation of Palestine is an important issue for trans* communities (editor’s note: the asterisk stands for inclusivity and refers to all identities in the gender spectrum that do not adhere to the gender binary). We as members of Trans*(formation) DePaul are proud to be a part of DePaul Divest, a student coalition calling for our university to divest from companies that profit from human rights violations committed by the Israeli government.
We see our struggles as transgender people as connected to the struggles of Palestinians. When we compare the experiences of Palestinians living under military occupation and the experiences of transgender communities in the United States, we see striking similarities: policing and mass incarceration, denial of access to healthcare, harmful stereotypes, media images that depict us as violent and unstable, and legacies of colonialism. Our communities are suffering at the hands of the same systems – and even the same companies.
Some of the companies that DePaul Divest is targeting also profit off of the oppression of transgender people. For example, DePaul is invested in Hewlett Packard. In Palestine, HP provides technology for checkpoints and surveillance systems and computer technology used by the Israeli military. HP products are also used in prisons and detention centers where Israel detains African migrants. Here in the United States, HP provides database technology used in prisons. Trans people – especially trans women of color – are disproportionately incarcerated. Therefore, HP profits from our oppression too.
We resent attempts to enlist our community in supporting the Israeli government. Since the early 2000s, the Israeli government has spent thousands of dollars targeting U.S. LGBTQ communities. Activists call this PR strategy “pinkwashing.” Through pride floats, film festivals, tours and advertising campaigns, the Israeli government has tried to persuade us that Israel is a gay- friendly country. But it’s obvious why the Israeli government wants to sell us its gay rights record. As Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) writes, “It’s not about gay rights … Pinkwashing aims to disparage Israel’s neighbors in order to justify the country’s existence as necessary by any means, relying on the image of a lone democracy barely surviving surrounded by violent, intolerant, women- hating and backward societies.”
As trans* people, we’re not duped. We know that the Israeli government wants to use our struggles to deflect awareness away from its human rights violations. Moreover, the civil rights and legal recognitions touted by the Israeli government, like same-sex marriage and military service, do not address our real needs. As trans* people, we need an end to the structural violence that limits our chances for survival. We need healthcare, economic justice, a world without prisons and police and a federal budget that prioritizes human need over military spending.
We stand in solidarity with queer and trans* Palestinians who are asking us to divest from companies that profit from their oppression. As Palestinian Queers for BDS has said, “Human rights should not be compartmentalized, and the human rights of a certain group should not be more important than others.”
Our struggles are connected. We want our university’s investments to reflect our commitment to justice. We stand with Students for Justice in Palestine and DePaul Divest and call for DePaul University to divest from Israel.