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April 12, 2012 0

The Persistency of “Pinkwashing” Allegations at Columbia University

Colum­bia University’s Cen­ter for Gen­der and Sex­u­al­ity is the lat­est insti­tu­tion to jump on the “pinkwash­ing” band­wagon and claim that Israel’s pro­mo­tion of its pro­gres­sive record on LGBT rights is an attempt to divert atten­tion from its alleged human rights vio­la­tions against Palestinians. 

 On April 10, the Cen­ter – in con­junc­tion with Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) – held an event titled, “The Ethics of Pinkwash­ing: LGBT Rights in Israel/Palestine,” the sec­ond of two pinkwash­ing events at the uni­ver­sity in less than a week.

On April 4, the Cen­ter had spon­sored an event fea­tur­ing three pro­fes­sors and pro­fes­sion­als employed at the uni­ver­sity who trav­eled on an LGBT del­e­ga­tion to the West Bank sev­eral months ago.The Center’s deci­sion to sin­gle out Israel for crit­i­cism seems counter-intuitive given their shared com­mit­ments to pro­mot­ing sex­ual equal­ity rights. Indeed, this rel­a­tively new “anti-pinkwashing” cam­paign, which seeks to min­i­mize Israel’s LGBT val­ues and solely judge it within the con­text of the Israeli occu­pa­tion, appears to be an attempt to dis­credit any and all pos­i­tive aspects of Israeli society. 

The lead speaker at last week’s event, Kather­ine Franke (the direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Gen­der and Sex­u­al­ity), crit­i­cized Israel’s alleged exploita­tion of LGBT peo­ple, describ­ing it as a “self-conscious” and insin­cere pro­pa­ganda effort to divert atten­tion from the occu­pa­tion. Franke argued that “the one has noth­ing to with the other” and that Israel’s record on LGBT peo­ple should be kept dis­tinct from the occu­pa­tion. In fact, pro-Israel advo­cates com­pletely agree, albeit from the oppo­site per­spec­tive: Israel has the right to be proud of and pro­mote its LGBT record, which indeed has absolutely noth­ing to do with the occupation.

Franke also claimed that Israeli secu­rity orga­ni­za­tions often pres­sure gay Pales­tini­ans to col­lab­o­rate with the Israeli gov­ern­ment in exchange for asy­lum or promises of safety. She then accused Israel of cre­at­ing a sit­u­a­tion where gay Pales­tini­ans are viewed with sus­pi­cion and are iso­lated by Pales­tini­ans because it is assumed that they are col­lab­o­ra­tors, rather than hold­ing Pales­tini­ans account­able for their treat­ment of LGBT people.  

Franke’s co-panelist, Pro­fes­sor Kendall Thomas, claimed that the sit­u­a­tion in the West Bank reminds him of the era of seg­re­ga­tion and Jim Crow laws in the U.S. Thomas also asserted that Israel’s Jew­ish char­ac­ter and democ­racy are on a “col­li­sion course” and can­not be rec­on­ciled with each other.

Claims of Israeli pinkwash­ing gained main­stream atten­tion after an op-ed on the sub­ject was pub­lished in The New York Times in Novem­ber. Pinkwashing-related events have since taken place dur­ing this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week pro­gram, and at sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties and other venues in recent weeks. 

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March 5, 2012 2

A Round-Up of Israeli Apartheid Week Events

With Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) draw­ing to a close in cities around the United States, here is a sam­pling of what took place on col­lege cam­puses and else­where this past week:

  • Bran­deis Uni­ver­sity: Ali Abunimah deliv­ered a talk in which he dis­cussed his sup­port for a one-state solu­tion and described Israel as a “sec­tar­ian gov­ern­ment.” Abunimah was quoted say­ing: “The claim that Israel should be a Jew­ish state can be asserted, not defended—not legally, polit­i­cally or ethically…Israel has reached a moral, polit­i­cal and eth­i­cal dead-end. The notion that Israel can be both Jew­ish and demo­c­ra­tic vio­lates the rights of Pales­tini­ans, which is fine if you don’t see Pales­tini­ans as humans, but, if you do, it is wrong.” He also offen­sively com­pared the Holo­caust to the “Nakba,” a term Pales­tini­ans use to describe the 1948 War of Inde­pen­dence and the estab­lish­ment of the state of Israel. He said, “We must con­demn Nakba denial as strongly as we must con­demn Holo­caust denial.”
  • George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity: Mem­bers of the Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP) chap­ter tried to dis­rupt an event orga­nized by GW’s pro-Israel orga­ni­za­tion MEOR. The event hosted a for­mer Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sol­dier, Sergeant Ben­jamin Anthony.
  • Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity: Mem­bers of SJP staged a “house demo­li­tion act” that was intended to mimic Israel’s demo­li­tion of ille­gal Pales­tin­ian homes. One of the activists argued that these demo­li­tions are made pos­si­ble by U.S. tax dol­lars and Colum­bia University’s invest­ments, which fund “spe­cial Cater­pil­lar bull­doz­ers for Israel to demol­ish Pales­tin­ian homes.”

  • New York City: Approx­i­mately 100 mem­bers of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) gath­ered in the lobby of the LGBT Cen­ter to protest the Center’s deci­sion not to host events related to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict. [In March 2011, the Cen­ter had decided not to host an IAW event.] Pro­test­ers held signs that read “Stop Pinkwash­ing Israeli Apartheid” and “End Israeli Apartheid,” and accused the cen­ter of “suc­cumb­ing to the out­spo­ken in power” and “betray[ing] its his­toric mis­sion.” After an hour indoors, the protest moved out­side to the sidewalk.

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