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UK ‘Dyke Project’ Hacks London Bus Ads to Challenge Israeli Pinkwashing

“None of us are free until all of us are free,” the Dyke Project said.

An advertisement on a bus is replaced with stories from queer Palestinians as part of a protest act by The Dyke Project.

The Dyke Project, a collective of trans, cis, and nonbinary lesbians and queer people, “hacked” over a hundred advertisements on bus, tube, and rail networks in London on Friday to declare that London’s LGBTQ community stands with Palestine.

The collective covered physical ads on public transport with placards containing stories from queer Palestinians that had been shared on the platform Queering the Map, a community-based online LGBTQ project. The placards also included a call for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

“None of us are free until all of us are free,” the Dyke Project said on social media. “We are also calling for an end to British funding of Israel’s military. The British state is complicit in the genocide of Palestinians, and we DO NOT consent.”

The group condemned the Israeli government’s use of “pinkwashing,” a deliberate strategy to obfuscate Israel’s apartheid and occupation of Palestine by drawing attention to Israel’s record on LGBTQ rights. Israeli nonprofit StandWithUs launched its ‘pinkwashing campaign’ almost twenty years ago; in a 2009 Haaretz article celebrating the nonprofit’s iPride campaign, Cnaan Liphshiz wrote that,“Tel Aviv’s burgeoning gay scene may be the single most effective Israel-advocacy instrument in the Zionist toolbox, according to [iPride] participants.”

This campaign was extremely successful in its goal of enhancing the world’s image of Israel. After the Hamas-led infiltration attack on October 7, numerous public figures denounced LGBTQ people who expressed solidarity with Palestine, alleging that Hamas is homophobic.

“I welcome the LGBTQ community to go to Gaza,” Israeli columnist Hillel Fuld said during an interview with The National Desk. “Let them bring their flags, let them go to Gaza and let them fight for human rights there and let’s see what happens.They’re going to get lynched and murdered.”

Armin Laschet, leader of Germany’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, similarly questioned why LGBTQ people have joined pro-Palestinian demonstrations, saying that he “completely fails to understand” why LGBTQ Germans would participate in the protests. “What would happen to a person from the LGBTQ community who would spend even an hour in Hamas-ruled territory… [such a person] would not survive walking around Gaza with a rainbow flag,” Laschet told the newspaper Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

However, the stories of LGBTQ Palestinians shared by the Dyke Project challenge this narrative.

“Israel frequently uses ‘pinkwashing’ and a ‘progressive’ image for LGBTQ+ rights, to distract from and legitimise its terror and violence in Gaza,” the Dyke Project said. “Queer people say NOT IN OUR NAME — free Palestine.”

The action by the Dyke Project has been celebrated by pro-Palestine activists across the world.

“Beautiful action from [the Dyke Project], which has hacked over 100 ads across [London transport] bus, rail and tube networks to share queer Palestinian stories, and show queer solidarity with Palestinians,” writer Micha Frazer-Carroll said on social media.

The post is accompanied by an image of one of the bus stop ads hacked by the group, which now shares a story by a LGBTQ Palestinian: “Pls know despite what the media says there are gay Palestinians. We are here, we are queer free Palestine,” it reads.

Another activist wrote on social media, “this rocks. fuck all the homophobes who salivate at the opportunity to put their own fantasies of degrading queers in the mouths of palestinians they’ve never met to further deny their humanity.”

Included in that post is an image of another one of the Dyke Project’s ads sharing a queer Palestinian’s story.

“I’ve always imagined you and me sitting out in the sun, hand in hand, free at last,” the ad reads. “Yet you are gone now. If I had known that the bombs raining down on us would take you from me, I would have gladly told the world how I adored you more than anything.”

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