Over the last few years, Israel has presented itself as a modern haven for gay and lesbian
constituencies – both tourists and locals – within an allegedly retrograde and oppressive Middle East. Labeled as ‘homonationalism’ and/or ‘pinkwashing’, these nation-branding strategies make Israel potentially attractive for a variety of LGBT individuals, including Israeli Palestinians. In this talk, I investigate how Israel’s affective traction operates in practice, along with the ambiguous entanglement of normativity and anti-normativity as expressed in the agency of some gay Israeli Palestinians vis-à-vis the Israeli homonationalist project. For this purpose, I analyze the documentary ORIENTED (2015), produced by the British director Jake Witzenfeld together with the Palestinian collective, Qambuta Productions. ORIENTED presents the lives of three gay Palestinians who ‘hold Israeli passports, vote in Israeli elections, speak primarily in Hebrew, and yet can’t and won't call themselves Israeli, because they are Palestinian’ (McDonald 2015). More specifically, the aim of the talk is twofold. From a theoretical perspective, I seek to demonstrate how Foucault’s notion of heterotopia provides a useful framework for
understanding the spatial component of Israeli Palestinian experience, and the push and pull of conflicted identity projects more generally. Empirically, I illustrate how Israel is a homotopia, an inherently ambivalent place that is simultaneously utopian and dystopian, and that generates what I call vicious belonging – a complex pattern of unresolved ‘mobilities, immobilities, and moorings’ in which ‘forms of detachment or deterritorialization’... are always accompanied by rhizomic attachments and
eterritorializations of various kinds’ (Hannam et al., 2006:3).