I’ve lately come to realize that when I mention “pinkwashing,” most friends of mine in Israel and the US aren’t familiar with the term. Pinkwashing is an accusation against Israel for using its strong pro-gay rights record to distract from its “oppression of Palestinians.” Adherents of pinkwashing argue that Israel’s fostering of strong ties with the Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bi-sexual, and Queer (LGBTQ) community is pinkwashing (obscuring) its human rights abuses.
(There is another meaning regarding breast cancer: Breast Cancer Action coined the term pinkwashing as part of their Think Before You Pink® campaign. A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.)
The pinkwashing anti-Israel movement has spawned a local branch in the Middle East: Pinkwatching Israel: “A global movement for queer-powered BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment launched by queer Arab activists in 2010, operated as a hub for information sharing on Israeli efforts to transform public perception of Israel from an Apartheid settler state to a harmless, liberal, gay-friendly playground by juxtaposing this false image with a portrayal of Palestinian and Arab societies as backwards, repressive and intolerant.
Today, anti-pinkwashing activism is exploding everywhere. To build on this momentum, Pinkwatching Israel and Palestinian Queers for BDS revamped Pinkwatching Israel’s platform and mission to fill one evident gap: creating a global movement to promote queer-powered calls against pinkwashing and pushing the BDS Campaign against Israel to the forefront of the global queer movement. Pinkwatching Israel brings together vibrant queer and BDS activists from around the world to imagine, visualize, and campaign for BDS and expose pinkwashing.”
One can take it for granted that none of these pinkwatchers actually lives in an Arab country, where they might be condemned to death. No Middle Eastern country, except for Israel, extends civil rights to gays. Nevertheless, Israel is the country this community of anti-Semites/ Zionists loves to hate. Yes, Israel actively promotes its gay-friendly atmosphere as a tool to attract gay tourists. Which is worse, death or tourism?
The connection between pinkwashing and the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) is quite strange. Why would the LGBTQ community join with BDS, a group dedicated to destroying the only democracy in the Middle East, the place where they are part of the mainstream, and the country in which Arab citizens have the most civil rights? For one thing, the Gay Pride Week events in Israel are said to be fantastic.
Activist and professor Sarah Schulman wishes to enlighten us about pinkwashing. It was her November 2011 New York Times Op-Ed on pinkwashing which brought attention to the movement. She wrote: “Last year, the Israeli news site Ynet reported that the Tel Aviv tourism board had begun a campaign of around $90 million to brand the city as ‘an international gay vacation destination.’ … The long-sought realization of some rights for some gays should not blind us to the struggles against racism in Europe and the United States, or to the Palestinians’ insistence on a land to call home.”
In the same article, Schulman notes three emerging Palestinian gay organizations: Aswat, Al Qaws and Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, none of which can be found on the Internet today. Ironically, the voices which speak most openly about gay Palestinians are actually Jewish Israelis, because outspoken Palestinians endanger themselves by speaking out about this subject and anything political.
At a gay rights conference in Chicago this year, dedicated to advancing and supporting “allied movements for justice and equality,” hundreds of demonstrators obstructed a Jewish reception hosted by an organization which builds connections between LGBTQ communities in North America and Israel.
The event was organized by A Wider Bridge, a Jewish LGBTQ organization, that featured members of Jerusalem Open House, a gay rights group from Israel. Throughout the rally, those protesting bellowed a series of chants, including “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, occupation has got to go.” (The Times of Israel, January 2016)
In the Middle East, there is an extreme lack of tolerance for gays:
“A group of 51 Muslim states has blocked 11 gay and transgender organizations from attending a high-level meeting at the United Nations next month on ending AIDS, sparking a protest by Canada, the United States and the European Union.… As of this moment, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid had no comment. Neither did any of the other anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hate groups who throw around pinkwashing claims.
Last year, a group of gay Palestinians visiting East Jerusalem (Arab neighborhoods) from the United States, were threatened and one of them badly beaten after they announced plans to join an Israeli gay pride rally.” (FrontPageMag.com, May 2016)
So, now we understand pinkwashing and pinkwatching. Because Israel denies the Palestinian Arabs “a land to call home” in our Land of Israel, Israel should be eradicated via BDS. This, even though the LGBTQ community has rights in Israel but not in Arab countries, including in the hoped-for State of Palestine which will replace Israel.
Pinkwashing is a strange manifestation of hatred toward the Jewish state. It is a case of “the perfect is the enemy of the good,” wherein Israel is castigated for not being perfect while the Palestine Authority and Hamas, the anti-gay rulers of millions of Palestinian Arabs, are encouraged to defeat and destroy Israel. LGBTQ groups ally themselves with the BDS movement in a frenzy of Jew hatred. Go figure.