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.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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