The Aqua Foundation for Women has found itself under scrutiny after apologizing for its executive director using a specific hashtag in his demand for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Mateo Ventura Bruer posted on his personal Instagram account on Nov. 21 calling for a ceasefire and including #FromTheRiverTotheSea.
“I will not ignore the suffering of millions who live in an open air prison and are being subjected to increasingly atrocious crimes against humanity, simply for living in a place that others want to take for themselves,” he wrote.
On Nov. 28, the Aqua Foundation posted an apology “for the offense caused by a hashtag used by our Executive Director’s recent personal post about the Palestine-Israel conflict.”
The Anti-Defamation League explains that “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is an anti-semetic slogan. The advocacy group notes that the phrase has been used by Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and is “fundamentally a call for a Palestinian state extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, territory that includes the State of Israel, which would mean the dismantling of the Jewish state.”
In a later post, Bruer posted a clarification for his use of the hashtag the way it was used by Rep. Rashia Tlaib, as “an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction or hate.” Bruer took the helm of the organization in February as its Aqua’s first trans/nonbinary man to hold the position.
Not everyone was pleased with the response from the Aqua Foundation. For one, drag artist and Aqua scholar Bad Papi announced that he would no longer be performing at the foundation’s Aqua Affair this Saturday.
“As a person with multiple marginalized identities, it is his duty to speak out against injustice, and that includes the plight of the Palestinians who are currently being colonized, oppressed, and murdered in cold blood,” he wrote in a statement.
On Friday, Dec. 1, the foundation announced that the event had been postponed.
Others shared their opinions about Aqua’s apology on social media.
“It is deeply disappointing to know that Aqua Foundation for Women would rather be complicit in the genocide of Palestinians and stand in a stained history that is rooted in the exploitation of land and people for profit by the American and Israeli governments,” one person wrote on Instagram.
Another wrote, “As has been the case for several years, Aqua wants trans folks' faces, labor, and ideas at the table - until we are just a little bit too radical.”
And another said, “WE SEE YOUR TRUE COLORS. An apology will never change that.”
Editor's note: This story was updated on Friday, Dec. 1 to add that the Aqua Affair was postponed.