Pinkwashing Israel in the New York Times

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A New York Times op-ed weighs in on Israel and “pinkwashing.” That’s the simplistic idea blocking the gay community from crediting Israel’s liberal record on gay rights — as it means taking away the moral high ground from the Arabs and deliberately covering up or distracting from Israeli “crimes” against the Palestinians.

Professor Sarah Schulman writes:

Increasing gay rights have caused some people of good will to mistakenly judge how advanced a country is by how it responds to homosexuality.

In Israel, gay soldiers and the relative openness of Tel Aviv are incomplete indicators of human rights — just as in America, the expansion of gay rights in some states does not offset human rights violations like mass incarceration. The long-sought realization of some rights for some gays should not blind us to the struggles against racism in Europe and the United States, or to the Palestinians’ insistence on a land to call home.

Is Schulman saying that Israel’s acceptance of gays means nothing to her as long as the Mideast conflict — which is not an Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender (LGBT) issue — remains unresolved? Yes, apparently.

As HonestReporting pointed out earlier this year in response to similar pinkwashing charges at Time Magazine:

Israel’s progressive and liberal policies towards its gay community are a natural outgrowth of its liberal democratic value system. Why shouldn’t Israel include this as part of its efforts to present itself to the world which tends to view the country solely through the lens of the Middle East conflict?

Indeed, Israel’s legitimate self-promotion sees gay rights as a positive value in their own right. Schulman, however, twists this into a negative. According to her, this is part of:

a nefarious phenomenon: the co-opting of white gay people by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political forces in Western Europe and Israel.

Thus, Israeli gay rights are framed purely as a means to promote an anti-Muslim agenda by drawing attention to the conservative, illiberal and sometimes openly hostile policies towards gays in neighboring Arab and Muslim states.

For example, after Qatar was awarded the 2022 football World Cup, Sepp Blatter, the president of the sport’s governing body, foolishly said that gays should “refrain from sexual activity” if they go to Qatar because homosexuality is illegal in the emirate.

The gay community needs no reminding of their situation in the Middle East, least of all from Israel, which is perfectly entitled to sell Tel Aviv as a holiday destination for anyone without having to resort to negative campaigning. The comparative lack of gay rights in Arab and Muslim states is a harsh reality and should not be ignored. This, however, should not detract from Israel’s gay rights as a positive value in itself irrespective of the policies of others.

If the international LGBT community is going to mindlessly delegitimize Israel by allying itself with people who stone women, hang gays and persecute Christians, one has to wonder about their leaders’ priorities. Schulman is also one of the “towering moral leaders” of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

That the New York Times sees fit to publish this opinion piece perhaps indicates that the Gray Lady, like the BDS movement, is also in favor of discriminating against one country alone. The newspaper of record that attaches so much on promoting liberal values is evidently prepared to jettison those values if it means allowing the bashing, in its pages, of Israel’s own liberal values.

Send your considered comments to the New York Times – letters@nytimes.com – remembering to include your address and phone numbers and to keep within 150 words.

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