For 64 years Israel has proudly displayed two colours on her flag: white and blue. They are the eternal colours of the State of Israel. The flag is instantly recognizable and holds a special place within the hearts of all Israelis and Jews because of the symbols that adorn it. The two blue stripes represent the talit in which Jewish men have, for millennia, wrapped themselves to bring them closer to God. The Star of David is the internationally recognized emblem of the Jewish people. It is a flag that all Israelis can proudly wave, but it seems that the world is intent on adding a few more colours.
Israel’s attitude towards homosexuals has always made me proud to be a citizen. Yes there are elements in Shas, UTJ or other political parties whose platforms on homosexuality, and other issues, are truly illiberal, but many Israelis generally have a very progressive view of homosexuality. The gay pride parade is an annual event that is never to be missed and Tel Aviv was recently declared the world’s best gay travel destination. This is something that the government was, rightly, incredibly proud of and made sure to highlight in various press statements and interviews. Most countries (Saudi Arabia and Iran as exceptions) would want to let the world know that it is a safe haven for gays and minorities.
Israel has often been accused of ‘pink washing’ by left wing groups such as Mondoweiss, Electronic Intifada or the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. Essentially Israel is highlighting its liberal attitudes towards gays in order to wash away the crimes of the occupation. Having it end as quickly as possible is in Israel’s best interest. That being said just as a gay man is more than his sexual orientation or an African, Asian or Caucasian woman is more than the colour of her skin, so Israel is more than the occupation.
However according to my Twitter feed this morning, there’s a new word that I had not seen before: ‘green washing’. Yes, apparently Israel’s contribution to ridding the world of her addiction to oil is ALSO a part of our nefarious plan to distract the world from what’s happening in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (I often wonder how distracted the world can be when Israel is host to scores more journalists than any other conflicted region in the world and multiple NGOs routinely report on the most minor of actions by the IDF).
Apparently Israel can’t help saving the world without it being used as a smokescreen to make life more difficult for the Palestinians. One of the many facts we can be proud of, is that Israel was the only country in the world to end the recent century with more trees than it started. Considering all the effort that Israel puts into ‘greenwashing’ it seems that we can now label these as ‘Zionist, imperialist, colonialist trees’.
Ali Abunimah, editor of the anti-Zionist blog ‘electronic intifada’ notes that Better Place, one of the few companies in the world that is actually making the dream of a world without gas guzzling cars a possibility, has charging stations in the West Bank. What Abunimah fails to understand is that Better Place is doing more for peace in the Middle East than he has ever done. Better Place recently hosted a number of Palestinian engineers and IT workers and it is these trips which help foster understanding that will eventually lead to a peaceful resolution of this conflict. However Abunimah doesn’t stop there. He also talks about the fact that there is a large amount of sewage affecting areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. What Abunimah forgets, or simply omits due to his own bias, is that Palestinians have, for years, been digging up their own sewage pipes in order to make rockets to fire at Israel. Apparently conflict is more important than hygiene.
But how far can we go when it comes to washing ourselves of the occupation? How many more colours can we include with our liberal attitude towards various minorities?
Israel can be accused of all manner of colour washing; such is the fact of life when the country you live in is a democracy. Is Israel perfect? No. Absolutely not. But should Israel be lambasted for contributing to the betterment of mankind? For being a haven for Palestinian gays? For sending medical teams to natural disasters in Haiti, Turkey and Japan? No. It shouldn’t. Last week the head of the IOC noted in his speech to the opening ceremony that Saudi Arabia had finally allowed women to compete and that this was ‘a major boost for gender equality’. Yes it is. But that does not mean that Saudi Arabia is now a haven for liberalism and you would be a fool if you thought so. Israel is so much more than the occupation, and failing to see that makes people who view the conflict in such a prism as narrow minded and nothing more than extremists.