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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Israeli Pinkwashing

As LGBTQ communities around the world struggle to gain advancements in obtaining legal rights, their causes are sometimes exploited by malignant self-interests. In particular, such self-interests use the celebration of LGBTQ rights as a means to mask systematic acts of oppression. This is known as pinkwashing. The Israeli Government broadcasts itself as a haven for LGBTQ Jewish people, often in contrast to the policies of other Middle Eastern countries.  Following its 2005 marketing initiative “Brand Israel,”  the Israeli government spent over $100 million to re-brand itself as modern and progressive.1 In 2010, it spent an additional $94 million on gay tourism ads in Germany and England.2

This government-lead campaign functions to cover up the long standing human rights violations against the indigenous Palestinian people, and against Sudanese and Eritrean refugee immigrant populations. After Zionist forces depopulated over 300 Palestinian Villages in 1947 and 1948, the Palestinian people have lived under a harsh apartheid regime.3 The day-to-day experiences of a Palestinian living under apartheid include navigating through Israeli military checkpoints within Palestinian territory, taking segregated Palestinian-only highways and buses, and living under complete and separate racial laws. Furthermore, the Israeli military conducts unwarranted military raids, violently suppresses peaceful protests, imprisons and tortures Palestinian civilians, demolishes Palestinian homes, and confiscates Palestinian natural resources.

Pinkwashing creates the illusion that Israel is bringing progressive ideals into a fundamentalist region. However, pinkwashing fails to account for the fact that these ideals are widely publicized while the internationally condemned Palestinian human rights abuses are overlooked. Furthermore, any non-Jewish residents of Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza are not qualified to reap the rewards of the Israeli LGBTQ movement.

The idea of pinkwashing has angered many both inside and outside Israeli and Palestinian queer communities, culminating in the creation of organizations such as Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Pinkwatching Israel, and Queers Against Israeli Pinkwashing. Israeli queer rights organizations point out that despite the propaganda, Israeli LGBTQ continue to lack many fundamental rights, including the right to marry. For example, Israeli LGBTQ activist and Professor Dalit Bam rhetorically asks:

“Why all of a sudden do you care about gay and lesbian Palestinians when you don’t care about them any other day of the week? It’s preposterous how this is used as a form of propaganda...when people hear how Israel actually treats, for example. queer Palestinian youth looking for asylum--they don’t give these people any kind of asylum. There’s seven million Israeli citizens and then four million Palestinians who have no civil rights but are controlled by the same government--that’s a very flawed democracy.” 4

Finally, not only does Israel do little to nothing to support the struggles of Palestinian queers and queers elsewhere in the middle east, it also uses its supposed queer-friendly image to promote hatred  all Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims, including queer Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims.5 And hence, that is why pinkwashing is so concerning.

1. “Israel Aims To Improve Its Public Image”, by Nathaniel Popper. Jewish Daily Forward.  October 14, 2005.

2. “Israel Promotes Gay Tourism In Berlin.” Ynet. March 9, 2011
3. Benny Morris (2004). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited

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