Tel Aviv saw two very different parades during Pride celebrations on June 10. The Radical March, led by a group of local activists, split from the main parade and “turned left” in protest of the commercialization and de-politicization of Tel Aviv Pride.
Radical march organizers estimated that close to 500 people joined the protest. The group included a contingent of transgender people and supporters, bi community members and animal rights activists. The unifying theme was solidarity with the struggles of those on the margins.
“This is even a bigger turnout than we expected this year,” said Shiri Eisner, a member of the organizing committee. Protesters chanted in Hebrew about discrimination within their own communities and encouraged other marchers to show support by physically turning left at the intersection.
Over the last years, the municipality of Tel Aviv has put effort and money toward portraying the city as one of the world’s hottest gay travel destinations. The polished images of young, model-esque, usually light-skinned men and women appear on most promotional materials marketed to tourists. “Tel Aviv allows us to be free and proud and live exactly as you please,” says one of the English captions on the Pride guide. But for many local queers and trans people who also deal with economic disadvantages and racism, the reality is quite different.
“It’s pink-washing,” says Shiri. She explains that the Israeli government has taken advantage of the fact that there is more acceptance toward gays and lesbians in today’s society. It has used this progress to create an image of Israel as a totally liberal and free country. At the same time, she says, the government continues to support oppression towards queers, trans people, sex workers and Palestinians.
While the radical queer movement in Tel Aviv has been active for a long time, the decision to create a separate march came after the municipality took over the management of Pride in 2007. This shift left many feeling disconnected because of the government’s history of discriminating against gays and sex workers. There was also the problem of Pride becoming a big corporate-sponsored party, which left many queer and trans people feeling silenced and invisible.
Since the police refused protesters’ request to gather outside the boundaries of the municipal parade, after the split the contingent was pushed to the sidewalks, and marchers risked arrest. Still, the march ended peacefully with powerful speeches and performances. The organizers are considering filing a human rights complaint against the police.