Pinkwashing as a hasbara (propaganda) strategy was exposed and declared dead in November 2011. But Israel’s propagandists continue to try to make pinkwashing work for them, though they’re apparently the only ones who don’t notice the stench it emits.
Pinkwashing involves efforts to portray Israel as a country that espouses ostensibly Western liberal or progressive democratic values such as feminism, gay rights and multiculturalism. The hope is that target audiences will identify with Israel and thus discount concerns about Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Or as I put it on another occasion, pinkwashing is an attempt to change the subject: ‘don’t look at Gaza where we’re besieging 1.6 million people, look over here where we’re having a gay pride parade!’
In the New York Post on 25 February 2013, Alan Dershowitz attacked an upcoming conference at CUNY on homonationalism and pinkwashing by smearing its main organizer Sarah Schulman, calling her criticism of pinkwashing “anti-Semitism with a pink face.” Dershowitz doesn’t address any of the evidence that Israel’s declared public relations strategy has been to promote its liberal values, environmentalism and technological superiority.
Instead he just says Sarah Schulman and everyone who understands the field of public relations are anti-Semites.
The anti-Semite just knows that there’s something sinister at work if Jews do anything positive. The core characteristic of anti-Semitism is the certainty that everything the Jews do is wrong, and everything that’s wrong is done by the Jews.
Dershowitz also makes standard claims about the lives of Palestinian men and women in the occupied territories (whom he cares so deeply for):
In the West Bank and Gaza, by contrast, gays are murdered, tortured and forced to seek asylum — often in Israel. Indeed, in every Arab and Muslim country, homosexual acts among consenting adults are criminal, often punishable by death.
Speaking on the same issue – the upcoming homonationalism and pinkwashing conference at CUNY – trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld seeks to make lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who criticize Israel feel threatened. In the Times of Israel, public relations professional Ronn Torossian, (whose firm’s clients include the Zionist Organization of America, Aish NY and Palestinian Christian Zionist Benny Hinn), quotes Wiesenfeld:
It’s just amazing that one of the few free societies in the world like the state of Israel should be a target for people so stupid that they can’t recognize what their fate would be in any other nation in the Middle East. They don’t need a program of tolerance, it’s a made up term to further an anti-Israel bias.
Let them try their luck, any of them – the members who are going to attend this conference and the participants – let them try their luck with the Islamists, with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, with Assad in Syria, with Hezbollah in Lebanon, in Saudi Arabia. This is a continuation of idiocy by people, leftists, anti-Semites, and Islamists – not Muslims but political Islamists – to demonize Israel. For all the things they do freely in this country and Israel, they would end up like the victims of Bashar Assad if they were to do this in any other country in the Middle East.
Wiesenfeld really knows how to make a girl feel comfortable! If queers don’t appreciate the “gay rights” designed for and enjoyed by Israeli Jews, Wiesenfeld has a litany of explicit and implied violent and bloody fantasies — inspired by ongoing horrors in Syria — of what queers who criticize Israel should experience.
Over-funded hasbara outfit CAMERA spoke up on a parallel issue last week. The LGBT Center in New York City had previously banned all events regarding Palestine, but they ended that policy after hearing the reaction to their decision to reject a request to host a reading by Sarah Schulman of her new book Israel/Palestine and the Queer International.
CAMERA is outraged that people don’t know “that Israel is the best place in the Middle East.” So if the message of Israel’s amazingness isn’t getting through, perhaps we need to hear how violent and degenerate Palestinians are?
In 2010, The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association issued a report entitled “State-sponsored Homophobia”. They report on the penal code in Gaza:
Criminal Code Ordinance of 1936 54 Section 152 Unnatural offences “(2) Anyone who: (a) commits sexual intercourse with another person against the order of nature, or (b) commits sexual intercourse with an animal, or (c) permits or allows the above mentioned acts is considered to have committed a felony punishable by imprisonment for a term of ten years.”
Even ten years in prison for homosexuality is not the worst that can happen to a gay man in Gaza. Last year, the Hamas-run regime executed a gay man.
Gay Palestinians regularly seek to escape to Israel. In considering a case where a gay Palestinian man sought asylum…
It’s common that hasbara organizations assert that men and women whom they identify as LGBT have miserable and impossible lives of constant fear, but here CAMERA claims to have identified a significant case where Hamas executed “a gay man.” But when you look deeper into the report (which they link to), it’s actually quite a different story.
IMEMC reported on 8 April 2012:
Resident M. A., was executed after a court in Khan Younis convicted him of first degree murder in accordance with articles 214 and 215 of the Penal Code of 1936, and also convicted of kidnapping in accordance with articles 254 and 255 of the year 1936.
The resident was also found “guilty of engaging in a homosexual act with a boy under the age of 16”, according to article number 152 of the Penal Code of 1936, and was also convicted of carrying “a harmful tool” in accordance with article 89 of the Penal Code of 1936.
Putting aside the murder and kidnapping, there is a significant difference between “engaging in a homosexual act with a boy under the age of 16” and being “a gay man” — except perhaps in the minds of homophobes who routinely conflate being gay with being a pedophile or child molester.
A male must be at least 16 years of age to be married, and although I am not a lawyer with any expertise in Gaza’s legal system, the minimum age for marriage could be similar to age of consent laws in other countries. I personally oppose executions, but kidnapping, rape and murder are the kinds of crimes that many governments (including 33 U.S. states) consider the highest offenses worthy of capital punishment including execution.
The International Lesbian and Gay Association’s report “State Sponsored Homophobia” (which CAMERA links to) found that the law in effect for Gaza is a British Mandate-era law. Criminal Code Ordinance of 1936 section 152 says that sexual intercourse with “another person against the order of nature [i.e., with a person of the same sex] … is a felony punishable by imprisonment for a term of ten years.”
This situation is typical, as most of the “anti-sodomy” laws on the books of various Arab countries were placed there by European colonial rulers, and though not abolished by the successor independent states, have rarely been enforced.
So while we may consider some of these laws outdated, there’s also nothing particularly “Islamic” about them. This is a point worth noting since Islamophobia is inherent in much pinkwashing propaganda.
Let’s be clear: Kidnapping, raping and murdering children is illegal under Israeli law too despite CAMERA’s use of this example to assert the permissiveness and superiority of Israel. Such horrifying crimes against children sadly happen in every society. It is despicable but not unlike CAMERA to twist the facts of this case to score a cheap point.
The Forward’s Purim comedy at the expense of LGBT people and Muslims
Observances of the Jewish holiday of Purim include costumes and comedy, and the Jewish Daily Forward publishes satirical news during the holiday under the masthead The Backward.
On 22 February 2013, the pseudonymous “Lawrence Zygier” wrote an attack on Muslims and LGBT people masquerading as satire:
Hamas announced last week that it is preparing to embrace gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals for new roles in its own community.
“We think they would make excellent suicide bombers,” Hamas deputy political director Mousa Abu Marzook told the Backward in an exclusive five-hour interview in Cairo. “This is a really prestigious calling, and our Shura has decided it’s a calling these, ah, persons are ready to answer.”
The writer even inserts an element of gloating that suggests that he (or Jews generally) understand the ethics and etiquette of transgender identities and queer sexualities that Muslims or Hamas do not understand:
Islamist theologians affiliated with Hamas are locked in debate over whether LGBT suicide bombers would be rewarded with 72 virgins in paradise after blowing themselves up — and if so, what gender they would be.
“It’s very confusing,” said Sheikh Omar Ibn Al Baz, a Shura Council legal expert. “What if a transgender person is gay?”
Backward indeed. It’s fair to grant a wide latitude to satirists, but the elements of this satire are violent and cliché. Where is the comedy in writing about exploitation and violence against LGBT people?
Reality versus Zionist fantasies of homophobic violence
While Zionists accuse anti-pinkwashing and Palestine solidarity activists of ignoring violence in Arab and Muslim countries, they’re also busy imagining horrific violence against Palestinians and LGBT solidarity activists.
But it’s also a false accusation as mainstream human rights organizations do pay attention and report the facts.
On 1 August 2011, Human Rights Watch issued a statement demanding that the Hamas led authority in Gaza end all executions. This is a principled demand by HRW, which consistently “opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as cruel and inhuman punishment.” None of the cases mentioned in this statement are for homosexual sex acts.
A statement from Palestinian human rights organization Al Mezan on 8 April 2012 makes the same demands that execution of death sentences be halted especially because they are being carried out in violation of the laws that permit them. Al Mezan mentions the same case found by CAMERA, but there is no evidence here that there have been any executions for homosexual sex acts.
The reality is that homosexual sex acts are criminalized, but they are not punishable by death.
The Western Ga(y)ze
It’s also interesting to contrast the portrayal of the situations in Arab countries and in several African states. In both regions, there are juridical prohibitions on homosexuality — again in many cases due to the colonial legacy — and strong forms of social ostracism for publicly identifying as LGBT, but in certain African states, in contrast to the situation in Arab countries where prosecutions have been rare, human rights groups have noted increasingly aggressive enforcement.
This has been the case in Cameroon, where there have been death threats against lawyers who defend those accused under these laws. There have been documented killings of LGBT activists, and initiatives to enact new anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda.
Indigenous activists and movements in African states have faced the challenge of unwanted, harmful and exploitive intervention in their struggles by Western gay rights activists, but what is interesting to me is that for the most part the situations in some African states have rightly not been used by Western activists to vilify Africans and their cultures generally in the same way that Zionist pinkwashing propaganda has been used to vilify Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians indiscriminately as backward and intolerant.
Is it because such vilification would correctly be understood in the African context as racism, when not so long ago anti-sodomy laws existed and were enforced in the United States?
It is time for Zionists to come get their people who issue bizarre distortions and lies and who spew this anti-queer, violent rhetoric when their pinkwashing efforts are exposed as failures. It’s time to stop digging up the corpse of pinkwashing. It’s dead and finished.