The introduction to this special issue of GLQ analyzes the intricate and most complex dynamics defining the relationship between what can be called “queer politics” and “the question of Palestine/Israel.” It sets the parameters for the theoretical questions raised by the following essays, reviews, and interviews, and offers a broad sociopolitical and cultural context that frames the discussion and grounds it historically.
Discussions of “queerness” (and sexual politics more extensively) are essential for our understandings of national movements, colonial oppression, new technologies of state surveillance, and new modes of racial/ethnic/religious segregation. This is true as a general rule, and it is certainly the case for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the complex set of ideologies and technologies that help sustain and regulate the separation between Jews and Arabs/Palestinians, occupiers and occupied. The discourses about gay rights and sexual tolerance, on the one hand, and the strict state regulation of sexual behaviors, identifications, and bonds, on the other, both come to crisscross and complicate the more common and openly discussed concerns associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as national security, militarism, border control, colonial oppression, terrorism, secularism, religious conviction, and ethnonational self-determination. Indeed, as clearly demonstrated by the following essays, sexual politics and most specifically issues concerning queerness, which might initially seem marginal in this context, do in fact play a central role in both facilitating and transgressing the current hostile and oppressive relationship between Israelis and Palestinians.