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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 7, 2012 1

Upcoming Conferences to Promote Anti-Israel Initiatives

Two upcom­ing left-wing anti­war con­fer­ences, one tak­ing place at Pace Uni­ver­sity in New York next week­end and the sec­ond tak­ing place in Stam­ford, Con­necti­cut the week­end after that, will have a sig­nif­i­cant Israel angle. These con­fer­ences are sched­uled to include ses­sions on a one-state solu­tion, Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns against Israel, oppo­si­tion to a U.S. or Israel attack against Iran, and more.

The anti­war and anti-Israel move­ments have long sought to cre­ate com­mon cause and unite their objec­tives. In recent years, many of the larger anti-Israel ral­lies and gath­er­ings have been co-organized by local and national anti­war orga­ni­za­tions like ANSWER. In turn, anti­war events are often marked by anti-Israel slo­gans and claims that Israel is respon­si­ble for pres­sur­ing the U.S. into wars in the Mid­dle East.

The fol­low­ing are some details about the planned anti-Israel ses­sions at the two upcom­ing conferences:

Left Forum:
Every year, left-wing activists par­tic­i­pate in a major gath­er­ing called “Left Forum.” The con­fer­ence, which in the past has attracted sev­eral thou­sand atten­dees, is titled “Occupy the Sys­tem: Con­fronting Global Cap­i­tal­ism.” It will take place at Pace from March 16–18, 2012. 

The con­fer­ence appears to have an anti-Israel agenda that goes beyond Israel’s alleged role in U.S. for­eign pol­icy. It will include ses­sions on Israeli “pinkwash­ing” (the claim that Israel show­cases its pro­gres­sive record on LGBT issues to cover up its poli­cies toward Pales­tini­ans); a one-state solu­tion to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict; “resist­ing” a U.S.-Israel war against Iran; Israel as rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the global 1%; and BDS as a form of “cor­po­rate resistance.”

A descrip­tion for the 1% ses­sion, titled “Israel: Strate­gic Asset to the Global 1%,” reads:

“We will ana­lyze the impact of Zion­ist strate­gies in the US includ­ing the increased vio­la­tion and ero­sion of civil rights, attacks on our move­ments, and the esca­lated tar­get­ing of Arab, South East Asian, and Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties and com­mu­ni­ties of color.”

United National Anti­war Coali­tion (UNAC) Conference:
UNAC, a newly formed coali­tion com­prised of two dozen anti­war groups, will hold its first annual con­fer­ence in Stam­ford, Con­necti­cut from March 23–25.

Con­fer­ence atten­dees will vote on two major agenda items dur­ing the con­fer­ence, one of which is a pro­posal on end­ing U.S. aid to Israel. The con­fer­ence will also include a ses­sion on BDS as tool of “non­vi­o­lent resis­tance” fea­tur­ing Nancy Kri­co­rian, an activist with CODEPINK, and Ethan Heit­ner, an anti-Israel cartoonist.

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February 23, 2012 1

Israeli Apartheid Week Slanders Israel with “Pinkwashing” Falsehoods

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) begins in cities across the United States this Sun­day, includ­ing at approx­i­mately two dozen col­lege cam­puses. One of the cen­tral themes of this year’s events is “pinkwash­ing,” a short­hand for claims that Israel tries to show­case its pro­gres­sive record on LGBT issues as a way to white­wash its poli­cies toward Palestinians.
Three uni­ver­si­ties, Yale, Boston Univer­sity and Tem­ple, will host events about “pinkwash­ing” and LGBT issues as part of their IAW pro­grams. A fourth event calls on indi­vid­u­als to rally out­side the LGBT Cen­ter in New York because the Center refused to host an IAW event last year.
Alle­ga­tions of so-called Israeli pinkwash­ing have become more promi­nent in the past sev­eral years and gained main­stream atten­tion a few months ago when The New York Times pub­lished an op-ed on the sub­ject by CUNY pro­fes­sor Sarah Schul­man. She argued that Israel’s accep­tance of gays into the mil­i­tary is an “incom­plete indi­ca­tor of human rights” and shouldn’t “blind us” to the Pales­tini­ans’ issues.
This is a clas­sic straw man argu­ment: No one was assert­ing that Israel’s record on LGBT issues was the final say on its human rights record.
The pinkwash­ing alle­ga­tion uncov­ers some­thing deeply nefar­i­ous about the anti-Israel move­ment: Oppo­si­tion to Israel is rarely lim­ited to  crit­i­cism of Israel as it relates to the con­flict. Instead, it often becomes an all-out attempt to slan­der every facet of Israel’s exis­tence and to claim that Israel’s real and laud­able achieve­ments are just an attempt to “cover up” the darker truth. Israel’s swift responses to the recent human­i­tar­ian crises in Turkey and Haiti were sim­i­larly dis­missed by anti-Israel activists as an oppor­tu­nity exploited by Israel to white­wash its record.  

Even if one dis­agrees with some of Israel’s poli­cies, Israel has every right to pro­mote its legit­i­mate accom­plish­ments on LGBT rights, includ­ing annual pride parades, anti-discrimination laws, adop­tion rights and, most recently, Tel Aviv being ranked the “best gay city” in the world. Israel deserves and should be enti­tled to claim credit for a gay rights record that far sur­passes most other coun­tries in the world. 

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