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March 5, 2012

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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February 23, 2012

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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