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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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April 5, 2012 6

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 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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