When LGBT rights in Israel are brought up in conversation, there usually seem to be two major responses. The first of these responses is praise for Israel’s record as the most liberal country in the MENA region on this issue. Others will dismiss the Jewish state’s LGBT rights record as simply “pinkwashing” to distract from its less desirable policies towards Palestinians.
While Israel has an imperfect LGBT rights record, the accusations of pinkwashing imply that earnestly supporting the queer community and supporting human rights abuses against Palestinians are directly related. Common sense dictates that this is not the case, and such ridiculous claims flung at Israel cross the line from anti-Zionist to anti-Semitic. These accusations are not only obviously bigoted against Jews, they are subtly bigoted against Arabs as well.
Even if human rights activists who accuse of Israel of pinkwashing are correct, they still have their priorities wrong for criticizing a country for having LGBT rights while ignoring, tolerating or even accepting their absence in Arab countries. People with such attitudes effectively imply that Arabs are incapable of tolerating gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, displaying a phenomenon that Maajid Nawaz, a prominent British Muslim activist who works to combat Islamism has called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”
By demonstrating their low expectations of Arabs, many anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian activists prove what they can do better for their cause. While they are absolutely justified in criticizing many of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, they should not use them to attack unrelated policies in Israel that are considerably more progressive. Instead, those who generally care about the well-being of Palestinians should expect the leadership of a future Palestinian state to be at least as strong on LGBT rights as Israel.