commentary on: http://electronicintifada.net/blog/benjamin-doherty/pinkwashing-2008-2011-obituary-hasbara-strategy
Sarah Schulman’s New York Times op-ed Israel and ‘Pinkwashing’ outs Israel’s gay marketing plan that activists have termed “pinkwashing” and consistently sought to resist and expose.
The basic idea of pinkwashing is 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 this will induce target Western audiences to identify with Israel and thus discount concerns about Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians.
This “Brand Israel” campaign also seeks to portray Israel as an environmentalist and high-tech hub and has become a mainstay of hasbara or pro-Israel propaganda from official and unofficial bodies.
The strategy is implicitly racist and Islamophobic because it often manifests in arguments that Israel is morally superior to Palestinians in particular, and Arabs and Muslims in general, who are portrayed as inherently lacking these “progressive” values.
At its core, 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 her oped, Schulman rightly points to rising European Islamophobia as an enabler of pinkwashing, and the shared concern we presume to be “Muslim homophobia,” a post-9/11 anxiety popularized by The Independent’s Johann Hari among others. It is self-destructive and depraved for gays to endorse these Muslims in any way, because Palestinians “would kill or at least beat them” if leftists, queers and Palestinians were not all fixated on hating Israel, so the reasoning goes.
Pinkwashing was always based on an untenable tension: capitalizing on racist and Islamophobic rhetoric and fears while at the same time trying to appeal to progressive communities that have often, though not always, been allied with and participants in anti-racist struggles. It is the insistence that LGBT people cannot recognize their own interests, build solidarity and set political priorities that is dehumanizing and homophobic.
ED: (Sound familiar???)
Israel defines itself as a Jewish State. It doesn’t occupy, expel or besiege Palestinians because Palestinians are homophobic. It does these things because they’re not Jews and their bodies pollute land that Zionists believe should be inhabited only by Jews.
Moreover, Israelis have LGBT rights first and foremost because they’re recognized as Jews. Whether Israeli queers have rights because it is in the “Jewish culture’s DNA” or because they demanded and fought for these rights, the pinkwashing discourse will need to be replaced by one about nationalism and self-determination at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian population.
I'm a straight cisgendered white male so I speak from a position of privilege on basically all issues of gender and sexuality but I find it extremely problematic that the liberal gay rights movement bases its position on a sort of sexual-essentialism, that gays are "born this way" and "cant help it". It is about as scientific and coherent as race science. Sexuality is behavior, and obviously can be controlled and channeled in many, many different ways. This is clear from history and comparative anthropology. There is no such thing as a "gay" person, nor a "straight" person. These are boundaries peculiar to a given culture, and the antagonisms between them are disciplined by the prime socioeconomic forces of the day: i.e. capitalism.
Pinkwashing demonstrates how this is instrumentalized towards colonial ends.
For me, a coherent and truly democratic sexual rights program would be a complete neutrality on the part of the state. Civil unions and all that. The question I guess that arises from there is that this solution in other contexts simply hands over the reigns of oppression to the (heteronormative?) hierarchy of the market. I would never argue that the state should be hands-off i/r/t racism. What exactly is the difference? I suppose that one really is "born this way" as a person of color, whereas queer behavior, like any sort of act, can be manipulated i/r/t its political contextualization and maybe the abolition of privileging heterosexual marriages explicitly by the state is equivalent to a queer affirmative action.
This is only tangentially relevant to the article I guess but there you go. Words.