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Gay Times Article on Israel’s Supposed “Pinkwashing” is Ridiculous Hogwash

The Gay Times has published a piece by Palestinian-Australian journalist Elias Jahshan who is upset that LGBTQ+ singer Sam Smith will be performing in Israel.

It is the usual “pinkwashing” hogwash, but contains some real “gems” of cognitive dissonance.

For instance, according to Jahshan, pointing out that palestinian Arabs treat their LGBTQ+ horrendously, even resulting in their murders, is just us being “Orientalist” and anti-Arab. They have the right to not “emulate the progressiveness of the west”, after all!

The pinkwashing carried out by Israeli authorities is based on an Orientalist view that Palestinians remain “backwards” in their stance on homosexuality because apparently, we refuse to emulate the progressiveness of the west. Not only does this completely disregard the history and legacies of colonialism and modern-day imperialism in the region, but it’s also an example of euro-centric, western exceptionalism and a pillar of anti-Arab racism. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Of course it is a “discussion for another time” – but I suspect he won’t want to touch it with a ten inch pole.

He also argues that not supporting palestinian Arab rights is “turbocharging queer oppression and ostracization.”

Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy non-resident fellow Hussein Cheaito recently said that Sam Smith’s decision to perform in Tel Aviv was “the result of a lazy conversation on queer liberation— one that rests on white-washed understandings of queer futures”.

“If your activism does not intersect with all quests for ‘freedom’, including Palestinians’, you are turbocharging queer oppression and ostracization,” Cheaito said on Twitter. I couldn’t agree more.

That’s right, supporting the one place in the Middle East where LGBTQ+ individuals do not have to live in fear of their lives and enjoy all the freedoms is a “turbocharger of queer oppression and ostracization” – while legitimizing the actual oppressors and ostracizers (and murderers) of LGBTQ+ individuals is what the LGBTQ+ community actually need.

Lauren Booth hamas
LGBTQ+ rights turbocharger Lauren Booth meeting with fellow LGBTQ+ rights turbocharger Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas

Also, his mess of an article downplays the terrible treatment of LGBTQ+ at the hands of palestinian Arabs, while focusing on so-called bad treatment of LGBTQ+ at the hands of Israel.

I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I’ve been challenged or trolled on social media for showing any ounce of agency as a gay Palestinian, or as a gay Arab. These critics and trolls far outnumber the bigoted homophobes I have to deal with in my own Palestinian and wider Arab communities. They want us to feel ashamed to be queer and Palestinian, rather than be one or the other. They want us to capitulate and accept Zionism and everything that comes with it: apartheid, military occupation, settler-colonialism, second-class citizen rights – because, apparently, we’d be “better off” that way.

But here’s the thing: our Palestinian identity is linked with our sexuality. We cannot and should never be asked to choose between the two. Liberation for queer Palestinians is tied up with liberation from Zionism. Israel may continue to present itself as a haven for LGBTQ+ expression in the region, but queer Palestinians do not enjoy the same rights as their Israeli counterparts.

The Nakba never stopped in 1948 – it continues today. Displaced Palestinians around the world do not have the right of return. Home demolitions and illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank continue unabated. The rise – and normalisation – of far-right, racist ministers in Israeli parliament has provoked a fresh wave of settler violence across the West Bank since the start of the year. And the humanitarian crisis from the siege of Gaza is ongoing. LGBTQ+ Palestinians are just as much targets or victims to all of this as the wider Palestinian society. They are not exempt and never have been.

There have even been allegations of Israeli forces blackmailing queer Palestinians to work as informants or risk being outed to their community against their will. And it’s not easy for queer Palestinians to simply escape the West Bank or Gaza to seek asylum in Israel. When has any immigration authority made it easy for someone from an Arab country to migrate, let alone seek asylum? Even so, Israel enforces restrictions on freedom of movement for all Palestinian civilians, and the segregation wall and military checkpoints along the West Bank – which hark back to Cold War-era Berlin – is shining evidence of this.

On the other hand, the Palestinian citizens within Israeli borders are not Palestinians in the eyes of the government: they’re “Israeli-Arabs”.

By the way, it is not just the Israeli government who see them this way. So many of these Arabs themselves define themselves as such.

I will give credit to Jahshan for one thing, though. He admits that there were palestinian Arabs who fled during the War of Independence, which contradicts the main narrative of Israel-haters that we expelled them all.

As the gay son of a Palestinian refugee who fled Jaffa – now a part of Tel Aviv – as violence engulfed the city during Orthodox Easter in 1948, I simply cannot ignore the politics behind Smith’s planned performance.

My old man was part of the original wave of Palestinian refugees who fled during The Nakba – Arabic for “catastrophe”

Meanwhile, I look forward to more ridiculous articles from Elias Jahshan, who describes himself as an “out and proud gay Palestinian”, from the safety of his home in not “Palestine” London.

Update: Apparently Elias is familiar with my work.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

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
Picture of David Lange

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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