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April 12, 2012

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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April 5, 2012

Jewish Voice for Peace Promotes Anti-Israel Hagaddah

As Jews around the world prepare to celebrate Passover this Friday night, one Jewish organization has opted to use the holiday as an opportunity to promote an anti-Israel agenda.

Jewish Voice for Peace, a Jewish anti-Zionist organization, recently published an alternative Hagaddah that compares the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, replete with asserting that the third of the four cups of wine represents the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, the Ten Plagues represent the “Ten Plagues of Israeli Occupation” and that the maror (bitter herbs) represents the “bitterness of life under occupation.”

While some elements of the alternative text focus on social justice and progressive causes (and includes texts and poems from some of the moral leaders of our time), much of the Hagaddah tries to exploit the text to advance anti-Israel initiatives. The introduction, for example, compares Moses’s famous declaration to Pharoah, “Let My People Go!” to the efforts of the Gaza Flotilla to “free” the Palestinian people by breaking Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

According to JVP, the third cup of wine, which is traditionally consumed after the meal portion of the Seder, represents BDS and Seder participants are encouraged to “make a L’Chayim” to BDS.

The constant supremacy of the Palestinian cause is also startling. When the text, for example, reaches Yachatz, the breaking of the middle matzah, the text reminds participants to acknowledge the “break that occurred in Palestinian life and culture with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.”

JVP had trouble inserting two additional core parts of its agenda into the Hagaddah text and instead included them as “Addendums” at the end. The first is a letter about “pinkwashing,” which details a recent success by anti-Israel activists in Seattle to cancel an event with Israeli LGBT people. The second is a letter signed by JVP’s Rabbinical Council opposing a war against Iran.

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March 7, 2012

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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