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(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)

PFLAG to take part in Israel Embassy pinkwashing event in Washington

The Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC and PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) will host Anat Avissar, the foreign policy director of The Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association (The Aguda) for an “informal conversation” this Wednesday on the topic of “equality” and “the cultural differences that impact support, education and advocacy in Israel.”

Israel has been strongly criticized for promoting itself as a haven for LGBT rights and sex tourism in an attempt to co-opt what it sees as progressive support, and distract from its human rights abuses against millions of Palestinians, a tactic that has come to be known as “pinkwashing.”

Avissar is visiting the United States to keynote this past weekend’s National Union of Jewish LGBT Students (NUJLS) conference at American University. The Aguda has been actively involved in promoting tourism to Israel and is a sponsor of Tel Aviv Gay Vibe.

Participation in this Israeli-government sponsored event violates the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel. PACBI further interprets the BDS call as it applies to cultural and academic boycott:

We, Palestinian academics and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid, by applying the following:

  1. Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;
  2. Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;
  3. Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;
  4. Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;
  5. Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.

It is important to note that all of these guidelines target Israeli institutions. Anat Avissar and other Israeli individuals are not subject to boycott simply because of their nationality. PFLAG should refuse Israeli government sponsorship of this event.

Katherine Franke’s letter to PFLAG

Katherine Franke, professor of law at Columbia University, has shared the letter she wrote to Jody Huckaby yesterday. As of Tuesday morning (9 AM Eastern), Huckaby has not responded to Franke’s letter. In her letter, she writes:

I write you now, however, to express some concern about a meeting that is underwritten by another state government, through its embassy. I am particularly concerned about the degree to which the Israeli government has enlisted members of the gay community to be part of larger foreign policy efforts to repair Israel’s international reputation. Aguda, unfortunately, has played a key role in this national re-branding campaign, and I hate to see an organization as important as PFLAG become implicated in a public relations campaign that will likely tarnish its well-earned reputation.

Earlier this year, Katherine Franke participated in a LGBTQ delegation to Palestine and stated her support for the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel. In reflecting on her visit to Palestine and the people she met, she had this important insight about solidarity:

…foreign support for the Palestinians in the form of money, aid workers and teams of “experts” (myself included) pour into Palestine seeking to improve the lives of women. Millions of dollars, euros or yen are easily available so long as gender-rights frame the “scope of work”. But by “gender” the donors really mean “women”. Just as with gays, Palestinian culture is understood as toxic and dangerous. Thus, Israel traffics in gay rights to “pink-wash” its international reputation, while the donor community “estrogen-washes” virtually all of its work in Palestine. In both cases the “backwardness” of Palestinian culture and tradition justifies the intervention of others to save its women and gays. When issues of sexuality and gender in Palestine are occupied by the agendas of outsiders, solidarity is tough if you want to avoid the traps of identity set by others.

Comments

As a member of PFLAG I commend Israel's support of gay rights. Is this for real or does the orthodox rabbinate go along? What about gay marriage in Israel? What about gay Palestinian-Israeli rights?

I hope to have an answer ... my email address is above.

I won’t pretend to have the authoritative answers to your questions, but I’d refer you to ACRI and to the references on Wikipedia’s page on LGBT rights in Israel.

Israel abolished many repressive, discriminatory laws decades ago, but Israeli feminist and LGBT activists still had to fight for the rights they enjoy.

As a casual observer, I see a few tensions that illustrate the problems with thinking of “equality” in Israel in terms of LGBT rights. Israel defines itself as a Jewish state rather than a state of all of its citizens. At the same time, it has a substantial non-Jewish (Palestinian) citizen minority, and roughly half of the people who live under Israel’s authority (to the occupied territories) are not Jews.

There are press reports from last year that describe the case of a gay couple in which one man is Jewish and the other man is not. Initially the non-Jewish man was denied citizenship and granted only temporary residency even though they were legally married in Canada.

Israel’s marriage and citizenship laws discriminate against non-Jewish citizens (mostly Palestinians). Regardless of gender, if a Palestinian citizen of Israel marries a Palestinian from the occupied territories or a list of countries that includes Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, the married couple cannot live together in Israel.

It’s clear that Israeli Jews who enter same-sex marriages do face obstacles, but Palestinian citizens of Israel face insurmountable barriers to a normal family life, regardless of the gender of their spouse. Israel’s LGBT rights don’t always protect non-Jewish citizens.

The notice about PFLAG-DC hosting Aguda caught my attention, as a Gay American and a lifelong Washingtonian. So, I tried to research the topic further.

I am newly subscribed to Electronic Intifada, but have been aware of the organization for years, hearing reports many times on Democracy Now. I have never heard of Aguda. I know the work of PFLAG, though I have never been involved.

Knowing nothing about Aguda, I checked their web site. Although the site features much information in Hebrew, and about being Jewish in Israel, the site does not strike me as another example of Zionist Jewish-state apartheid. A search for "Palestinian" produces several articles raising consciousness about the sufferings of gay Palestinians, and even one which specifically draws a parallel between the lives of LGBT people and the inhumanity in Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

Aguda, in fact, sponsors a program aimed at supporting sisters and brothers of Palestine called Project Rescue."

So, as much as I support the aims of Electronic Intifada, it is difficult for me to make a complaint to PFLAG about hosting a program featuring Aguda. It seems to me with as much information as I can gain from a quick search, the group is doing positive, meaningful work, and the work includes Palestinians.

Comparatively, I am highly suspicious of the notice on Electronic Intifada about PFLAG, because it begins by claiming the state of Israel is "promoting itself as a haven for LGBT rights and sex tourism." SEX TOURISM? Where did that come from?

That sounds to me like the age-old prejudicial assumption that everything gay automatically equates to sexual conduct. It reeks of homophobia, on the part of the author, and its inclusion here reduces the credibility for me of information found on Electronic Intifada.

… A search for “Palestinian” produces several articles raising consciousness about the sufferings of gay Palestinians….

… Aguda, in fact, sponsors a program aimed at supporting sisters and brothers of Palestine called Project Rescue.”

… the group is doing positive, meaningful work, and the work includes Palestinians.

This is pinkwashing. Whether or not you’re conscious of it, this is precisely the tactic employed by people who want to distract from Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians. Support for “gay Palestinians” doesn’t soften the harsh reality of Israel’s Jewish-only LGBT rights. It actually casts Palestinians as backwards, homophobic and dependent on Jewish Israelis for safety.

Comparatively, I am highly suspicious of the notice on Electronic Intifada about PFLAG, because it begins by claiming the state of Israel is “promoting itself as a haven for LGBT rights and sex tourism.” SEX TOURISM? Where did that come from?

If you review Israel’s gay tourism industry marketing and press coverage from the last few years, an important feature stands out: they want to attract men. Women are barely an afterthought. Israeli men are even marketed in sexually-charged terms: exotic, rugged, masculine, hot.

So many official and unofficial Tel Aviv gay tourism products use sex in their marketing. Ministry of Tourism web sites have cruising listings. The message is “come to Israel and have sex with these men” combined with orientalist fantasies that Israel is an oasis of liberation in a desert of [Arab] repression. That’s sex tourism.

This Gay Israel is just hedonistic, wild, sexy Tel Aviv. Other places are not marketed so much to gay men for many reasons.

Do your research before you hurl accusations that I’m homophobic.

As a member of PFLAG for more than 20 years and a founding member of two chapters I am disgusted that they would give audience and credence to a terrorist country like Israel, which treats the true owners of the land they have stolen, the Palestinian people, as if they were less than human. it is the Israelis who are less than. If this is true, then I resign my membership.

"Tel Aviv gay vibe"?!?
Has it escaped the zionists notice that they are above all and first of all in dire need of a HUMAN vibe? Sadly it seems to work on some people.
Like Mr Robert Riddle saying that Aguda' site "has several articles raising consciousness about the suffering of GAY [emphasis added] Palestinians"? Now, I'll be pink if that's not being enlightened!
It must be terrible to be a gay Palestinian. Luckily they are not the majority so we can be thankful that all the rest of them are fine and dandy.

Except middle class gay men. And by definition that means Jewish. Mostly
white.

And they most definitely are huge promoters of gay (male) tourism to Tel
Aviv, where it is known that a very large percentage of that tourism is sex
tourism. As a matter of fact, the Aguda has continually pushed down efforts
to fight LGBT teen prostitution, homelessness, AIDS education, testing, or
treatment, and other struggles that conflict with sex tourism, and instead
has announced that their *NUMBER ONE* priority is legislating for surrogacy
rights for gay men (which again, by definition, is an issue only for
family-oriented gay men with money, not the most oppressed group in the
rainbow).

And while Israel as a nation does have several areas in which LGBT rights
have progressed, none of the gains I can think of have been made under the
aegis of the current government. Often they are made in spite of, and after
bitter struggle with, the government.

And no, the orthodox are not okay with any of this... :)