Tyler Lopez is dismayed that Palestinian activists still accuse Israel of “pinkwashing” – i.e., using its mostly positive gay rights record to distract from its human rights abuses in the occupied territories – and are discouraging gay tourism to Israel during pride month:
Pinkwashing advocates are trapped in their own gender studies/international relations fantasyland. Legitimately concerned with human rights abuses in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, they have created an entire academic language in order to hype up a concept that draws an unrealistic correlation between their cause and the gay rights movement. Because of this, any LGBTQ person traveling to take part in a gay rights demonstration is a homonationalist, unwittingly part of the pinkwashing agenda. It’s no longer appropriate to label any city as “gay-friendly” or “homophobic,” because, according to pinkwashing activists, pro-gay legislation and LGBTQ visibility aren’t the appropriate barometers with which to measure social change. Gays, perhaps it’s time to book your tickets to Saudi Arabia. (Don’t worry about finding a hotel; if you’re openly gay, the Saudi government will be happy to provide accommodations.)
Of course, LGBTQ rights aren’t the only marker of social change or human rights. But suggesting that they’re separate from any other universal human right is dangerous. An accusation of pinkwashing presumes that gay human rights causes are less salient than Palestinian human rights causes, when in fact they’re all equal.
I rendered a similar verdict on “pinkwashing” way back in 2011. I see no reason to change my mind. It is perfectly possible to decry the brutal occupation and the relentless settlement building of the Israeli government in the West Bank while also celebrating Israel’s amazing commitment to gay freedom. In its region, Israel isn’t just an exception; it truly is a shining city on a hill. The tragedy of Israel is that so much of its democratic energy has been diverted into the oppression of another people. I favor engagement, not disengagement; argument, not sanctions.
(Photo: Russian tourists attend the annual gay pride parade in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on June 13, 2014. By Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images.)