The Case Against Pinkwashing

A gay Jew takes on the “pinkwashing” charges against Israel.

Imagine a nation that prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, allows gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, provides domestic-partner benefits in the private and public sectors, recognizes gay adoptions (and gay marriages performed abroad), has LGBT celebrities whose careers haven’t been hurt by their coming out, and saw more than 100,000 people attend its most recent Pride parade—even though the whole country is smaller than the state of New Jersey?

What if I told you that, despite being one of the most pro-gay democracies on Earth, this country is under fire from the gay-activist set?

You may have guessed: I’m talking about Israel—a country that, when it comes to Pride, proves size doesn’t always matter.


Many vocal queer activists are accusing Israel of using its positive record on LGBT rights to divert national and international attention away from Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. They’ve created a term for this: Pinkwashing.

In the New York Times op-ed “Israel and Pinkwashing,” Jewish lesbian writer and playwright Sarah Schulman defines the term as “a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.”

Pinkwashing is a misleading term because it implies that Israel’s treatment of gays is merely a stunt, which is completely invalid. Are pinkwashing activists really suggesting that the richness and diversity of pro-gay life there is all a conspiracy by the government to distract me from other issues within the region? It would be hard to make up the reality that is gay life in large swaths of Israel.

You really can’t invent a climate of not just tolerance, but acceptance, for the sole sake of propaganda.

If people like Schulman are claiming that progressive attitudes towards the gay community are being used to conceal certain violations against Palestinian people, then they must also accuse Israel of womenwashing (for the rights women have), speechwashing (for freedom of speech), presswashing (freedom of press) and other transgressions.

Each year the Human Rights Campaign applauds Fortune 500 companies that provide benefits to their LGBT employees. Is HRC pinkwashing by not highlighting some questionable practices of Corporate Equality Index honorees like Bank of America and Nike?

In January, members of our LGBT community have been arrested and tortured in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for their sexual identity. Why have we heard so little from these same activists protesting such atrocities?

And how many of them protested Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s  anti-gay statements when he visited New York City?

I have no issue with people criticizing Israel’s policies or treatment of the Palestinians but the Jewish State is singled out more than many other nations. Activists are perpetually dismissing Israel’s record on LGBT rights for the sake of highlighting other issues.

This is wrong.

Israel is held to a standard that no other country has to clear: In the last ten years, the United States went to war with Iraq and Afghanistan and civilian losses there caused by the U.S. military are far higher and have continued longer than any conflict in Israel.  

Read the whole thing.

About Aussie Dave

An Aussie immigrant to Israel, Aussie Dave is founder and managing editor of Israellycool, one of the world's most popular pro-Israel blogs (and the one you are currently reading) He is a happy family man, and a lover of steak, Australian sports and girlie drinks

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  • Jim from Iowa

    Wow, talk about a subject that I’M interested in! I know Israel is a small country, much smaller than the US. But I’m under the impression that Tel Aviv is as culturally different from Jerusalem as San Francisco is from Lubbock, Texas. So it might be a bit misleading to say that Israel has a nationwide attitude on anything, including acceptance of gay people. Among the polictically-active, gay people can get really militant (just try forming a gay bowling league with people who don’t see it so much as a recreational activity but much more as another way of expressing Queer Pride!). But we do get used a lot by other groups with no reciprocity on gay issues. That’s politics, I guess.

    • juvanya

      Youre right, but thats irrelevant. The point is that the anti-gay folks in one town cant go over to Tel Aviv and start beating up gays like they can in Gaza or Riyadh.

      • Jim from Iowa

        Oh, yeah? (I love saying that.) Just try dressing up like Bruno in Beit Shemesh and see what happens.

        • juvanya

          Reread what I said.

          • Jim from Iowa

            Oh, yeah?

  • pattyjean moore

    Sometimes I really wonder if lefties like Sarah Schulman seriously believe the ridiculous stuff they write. If Israel’s gay rights are only a smokescreen, then what evidence is there that any other country is not also just providing a smokescreen? Is Canada’s legalization of same-sex marriage just a ploy to deny aboriginal land claims? Is the appalling – and very open – persecution of gays by countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia just a sign of their delightful honesty in not trying to ‘pinkwash’ their oppression of religious minorities?

    I have 2 words for anyone who wants to read some sense on this subject: Bruce Bawer.

    • juvanya

      They probably do. Remember Rachel Corrie had contradictory feelings, but could not accept or assimilate it at all. This is what happens when parents dont raise their children or give them purpose. They find new parents in the ISM, socialism, the Unification Church…

  • Olivia Rodan Jacobs

    There is a difference between persecution and celebration. Persecution is wrong, but celebration doesn’t feel right either–definitely not for the country from which came Torah. I do not support forcing anyone to adopt my views (or, heaven forfend, ultra-Orthodox views), but I grieve for what we have lost in turning away from the G-d of Torah. Toleration, yes, but sadness also.

    • ziontruth

      Shavua Tov.

      I agree with much of your comment, the treatment of this transgression and others is better done with soft speech than brands of fire and brimstone that usually achieve nothing but increase the antagonism of those you preach to. I don’t grieve, however. And why, because I know demography is on the side of the Torah keepers, coupled with the religious revivals (many unobservant Jews returning to the Torah).

      This is a nation of tsaddikim that will, with HaShem’s help without any doubt, surmount the perils of the age slowly but steadily, by keeping for themselves, reaching out to the yet unobservant and breeding a copious new generation, until one day a great change is effected without any hate-filled fights and struggles involved. Speedily in our days, amen.

      • Olivia Rodan Jacobs


  • jpl

    Israel cannot win in the eyes of some. If it does anything good, then it’s a ‘smokescreen.” If it doesn’t, then it’s criticized for the shortcomings. Oy

    • sabril

      I totally agree. If Israeli scientists invent a cure for cancer, you can bet that Israel will be lambasted for it.

      Which shows that Israel’s detractors are primarily motivated by envy and hatred, not out of any concern for justice or human rights.

    • ziontruth

      “Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.” The wise man laments it at first as do all normal people, but does not persist in lamenting; he soon pulls himself up and encourages himself with the fact that here is a great opportunity.

      Namely: “Damned if we do, damned if we don’t? That means we can do anything we want!”

      When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. Our enemies’ unjust standard toward us means that we should stop taking their opinion as worthy of the slightest consideration. The bounds set by Jewish Law must be the only ones to limit the Jewish State’s conduct of both statecraft (internal politics*) and warcraft (the battlefield).

      *I’m talking chiefly about the question of nationalism vs. multiculturalism. Jewish Law says we are not to share our state with an enemy nation.

      • Jim from Iowa

        I’ve never thought of this before, but I bet that’s where World of Warcraft really comes from–ancient Jewish law. But then pretty much everything comes from ancient Jewish law, except artificial colors and flavorings.

        • ziontruth

          I was in two minds whether to write “warfare” or “warcraft.” Then I said to myself, “I’ll write ‘warcraft’ so the WoW fans will feel good connecting it.”

          Worked like a charm! ;)

    • juvanya

      You should take a few steps around a US college campus or poke around facebook, such as on the articles posted by RT. It feels hopeless. How can we ever reverse the trend in public opinion? I can convince people, but it takes time. For every one I convince, they convince five or ten.

      • Jim from Iowa

        Not if you’re on the campus of Liberty University or Moody Bible Institute. They’ve been brainwashed the Right way! And good luck to Ron Paul today. As Maine goes, so goes Vermont, which are two more states than Dr. Paul has won to date.

      • juvanya

        Heres an RT post:

        ftr, anonymous is not a uniform group. Its usually a handful of people. Theyre probably just Muslims adopting the banner.

  • copyleft

    I wonder why ‘activists’ like Ms.Schulman confine themselves to condemning the Israeli policies against her pet cause -the “Palestinians”- from the comfort of her home.Shouldn’t she really get down and dirty (no pun intended!) and join the “struggle” on the ground.Bet Gaza has LGBT clubs all over the place (or else, what do they lash the gays with to “cure” them?)

    • juvanya

      There are several reasons. They get brainwashed into these causes. As I said on another post, their parents dont raise them or give them purpose and the find new parents and purpose. Its impossible for them to see contradictions because they are so attached to this movement. And finally, to some degree its because Israel is seen as one of us, expected to be civilized. Gaza is seen as obviously bad, and completely put out of mind.

      Someone really should do a psychological study of this.

  • soloman4israel

    israel is as always an easy target for the various activist movements,for one reason or another, either a way of getting badly informed stories printed where the sheep will follow without question, to the lay abouts with nothing better to do than follow any cause, to the out of work so called artists, who need to get their name in the papers,with a whole bundle of various follow any cause empty heads.
    well i’m still waiting for all these people to pop over to various other countries to defend those that rearly need some help,not just with freedom of speech issues, womens rights,gay rights,and many more problems that are dealt with by sentances of stoning,torture,and death.
    what! put them-selves in real danger for real causes,no pop over to israel for a couple of days sun and fun dont want to put them-selves in any real danger any way they have got to go and falsly brag when they get home,cant do that from a prison cell being kept captive by arab/muslim leaders/jailers who want nothing more than to chop you up in public,and jail you as spies,no dont take on any real causes.
    no go to israel the weekend destination for your news seeking plastic activists,and dont forget granny,she will want to go.

  • Joe

    I used to be one of those left-wingers who admired jews but hated Israel. But I could never reconcile my support for “Palestinians” with their misogyny, murderous homophobia, and general islamic medievalism.

    The propaganda comes from the media and universities. The context of the formation of Israel has barely ever been discussed in the media, despite the fact that Israel is the most over-reported country in the world. Equally, the context of the Crusades has never been discussed (not even in the 2012 BBC documentary). And the reason is the same: liberals and leftists in the west have aligned themselves uncritically with the lot of the “poor muslims” in their countries, and the “poor muslims”
    in “Palestine”.

    Many of the things I discovered for myself about islam and Israel over the past few years I met with incredulity at first. It seemed outright unbelievable that so much information could have been suppressed from discussions about such a “newsworthy” issue.

    The reason why Israel is held to a different standard is anti-semitism (or more precisely, jew-hatred). There is no other explanation.

    When I visited Israel for the first time recently, what surprised me was not that Tel Aviv was a gay-promoting city (it’s not — the gay bar/club life there is pretty dire compared to at least 10 other famously “gay friendly” cities). What was truly amazing was the sheer openness of the gay men and lesbians I saw on the streets and in normal (non-ghetto) bars. And no-one even blinked. I’ve never seen such levels of tolerance of homosexuality anywhere in the world — not in Amsterdam, not in San Francisco, not in Bangkok. There’s far less need for a gay ghetto when the straight people all around a city are civilised, as they are almost everywhere in Tel Aviv.

    I found it profoundly moving that for the first time in 30 years of being gay, I was staying in a city where no-one seemed to notice or care that I was gay.

    Whilst these deluded leftist homos think their “pinkwashing” claims will work, they don’t work amongst most gay people. Even those who have never been to Israel are deeply supportive of Israel. It’s only the blinkered leftist ideologues who fall for this Goebbelsesque propaganda.

    All this proves to gay people, is that when push comes to shove, the Left do not support gay rights. They will happily push us under a bus in order to bring in their totalitarian leftist/islamic state.

    • Jim from Iowa

      I think Monty Python was on to something when, in a skit about a group of hairdressers climbing Mount Everest, there was the observation that “there was a lot of bitching in the tents.” Gay politics can get really overheated with outside groups trying to gain our support for one cause or another. But the Left feels a lot more like home for me than anything I see at CPAC.

      • Joe

        I think that our frames of reference are different. Such confusion in frames of reference is inevitable when the notions of left and right are seen as one-dimensional. But trying to raise the debate into a richer visual metaphor almost never gets anywhere.

        “Left” in Britain means having a mayor who previously supported gay rights, inviting a pro-terrorist, anti-semitic, homo-hating muslim to be feted in the capital. “Left” in Britain means blaming Israel for all the problems of the middle-east. “Left” in Britain means having an international human rights organisation promoting those who claim that there is no difference between Israel and Apartheid-era South Africa (meanwhile excluding articulate jews from the audience). “Left” in Britain means thinking there is nothing wrong with muslims in Gaza killing the homosexuals who emigrate there to support the muslim cause.

        The percentage of active left-wing politicos in Britain who don’t blame Israel for everything (including 9/11) is probably about 3%.

        The Left’s cultural, political and welfare agenda has taken over in western Europe. If in 1980 I had described a vision for what a “politically correct” society would be like you would have called me an deluded extremist. But it has come about. Meanwhile, economically it is the Right who have won.

        And I’m more comfortable on an EDL demo than I would be at a trade-union meeting.

        • Jim from Iowa

          My frame of reference for left-right politics and how Israel is treated comes conveniently packaged in one individual, the author Max Blumenthal. I’m with Max 100% on issues of economic justice, gay rights, labor, immigration, etc. But when it comes to Israel, I’m completely opposed to what I view as his despicable smear campaign against a longtime ally and friend. Unfortunately, Max Blumenthal’s views on Israel are more representative of the Left than are mine. My personal view is that the origins of this attitude on the Left come from championing of the underclass rather than Jew hatred.

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