[Ads-l] pinkwashing and anti-pinkwashing

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Mon Jun 27 01:10:14 UTC 2016

From the Jerusalem Post 6/27/2016, too complicated an article to try to condense:


Last month, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) activists were floored when the Tourism Ministry announced an NIS 11 million campaign to promote international attendance at Tel Aviv’s annual gay pride parade. As part of a campaign, the ministry had “set up an international competition whose winners [would] be flown to Israel in a plane specially painted in gay pride colors,” Haaretz reported in April.

Imri Kalman, the co-chairman of The Aguda – The Israeli National LGBT Task Force, lashed out at the government for this gross hypocrisy, noting that Israel had a particularly egregious year for LGBT rights.“Unlike the gay communities around the world who celebrated historic achievements,” he told Channel 2 on April 17, “the gay community of Israel had one of its worst years: Murder at the Jerusalem parade,” he said, referring to the murder of Shira Banki, “many bills did not make it past the ministerial committee [for legislation] and the plenum, violence, and inciting comments from MKs and a government minister,” he said, referring to MKs such as Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, who in February equated the LGBT community and biblical sinners.

Kalman added wryly, “In response to the community’s demand to increase the budget... we got a painted plane instead.”

Though the plane idea was nixed, this debacle highlights what LGBT activists such as Aeyal Gross have been saying for years: that Israel is engaging in pinkwashing, which Gross defined in a Haaretz op-ed last month as “Israel using LGBT rights for propaganda purposes.” LGBT organizations in Israel receive NIS 1.5m. (approximately $400,000) in state funding, a fraction of the budget for the proposed party plane. After the attack that led to Banki’s death at last year’s Jerusalem pride parade, Education Minister Naftali Bennett promised to double the budget for Israel Gay Youth, which provides educational and social programming for LGBT youth. IGY president Gal Uchovsky said that the budget increase they actually received “wasn’t even close” to Bennett’s pledge, according to The Forward. And that, according to LGBT activists in Israel across the political spectrum, is pinkwashing.

But the word “pinkwashing” carries a wholly different set of implications outside of the State of Israel. When critics such as City University of New York professor Sarah Schulman accuse the country of pinkwashing, it suggests that Israel touts its LGBT freedoms to demonstrate that it is a progressive society when, in fact, it is not, since the government treats Palestinians with little dignity. These critics argue that Israel advertises its LGBT record to create a smoke screen and distract the world from its oppression of minorities, most notably non-Jews.

ANTI-PINKWASHING critics in the United States began as a fringe group of academics, led by individuals such as Schulman and Judith Butler. Since Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip in 2014, anti-pinkwashing criticism has spread. In the current era of increased intersectionality between progressive groups fighting oppression, criticizing Israel’s pinkwashing efforts is no longer reserved for the academic elite. It has now permeated into the discourse of how Israel violates Palestinian rights.

Pinkwashing has also become a talking point among Jewish and pro-Israel groups in North America, and is rigorously combated like the notorious Iran deal. These groups see the local anti-pinkwashers’ critique of Israel in tandem with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which organizations such as AIPAC and the Jewish Federations of North America see as a form of “warfare against Israel,” as AIPAC states on its website. They see non-Israeli pinkwashing critics as part of a larger scheme of individuals working to delegitimize Israel. Israeli anti-pinkwashers do not fit into the narrative. The dynamic currently at play between Israeli anti-pinkwashers, American anti-pinkwashers and the Jewish and pro-Israel lobby, and the fact that they all use the word “anti-pinkwashing” differently, have added yet another layer of nuance to Israel’s already complex human rights narrative.

Anti-pinkwashing, an American dream When it came to legalizing LGBT rights, Israel was ahead of the curve, suspending sodomy laws in 1963 and legalizing LGBT rights in 1988. Discrimination based on sexual orientation was outlawed in 1992. Openly LGBT individuals are free to join the military as well. Israel is the only country in the region to recognize any sort of same sex union; however, ceremonies cannot be performed in Israel and gay marriage is forbidden by Jewish law. Since 2008, gay couples in Israel could legally adopt children.

To anti-pinkwashing critics outside of Israel, these human rights accomplishments don’t make Israel progressive. In fact, using these pieces of history to suggest that Israel has a good human rights record in this department is pinkwashing, according to detractors abroad. Pinkwashing is “when Israel points to gay rights as proof that Israel is ‘progressive,’” Schulman said in an interview with the Magazine. Pinkwashing can also be “using gay rights as a sign of modernity, especially to emphasize some kind of racial or cultural superiority over Arabs, Muslims and the Palestinians,” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does when he says that Iran hangs LGBT people. Schulman calls this “illogic” and pinpoints these straw-man tactics as propaganda. “The fact that a country has gay rights doesn’t mean it’s progressive,” she emphasized.

Schulman is known as a polarizing character in North America’s Jewish and pro-Israel world. Having been called before the anti-Semitism task force at CUNY, the Students for Justice in Palestine faculty adviser is no stranger to clashes with Jewish reporters and groups such as Hillel. Schulman also organized the first LGBT delegation to Ramallah and Jerusalem. Delegates included activist leaders such as Darnelle Moore of Black Lives Matter, Dean Spade, an associate professor at the Seattle University School of Law, and Pauline Park, the chairwoman of the New York Association for Gender Rights, who have impacted progressive student groups and leaders in the intersectional fight for human rights.

By Schulman’s estimation, two major factors over the course of the last two years have contributed to the increased visibility of anti-pinkwashers like herself: the 2014 Gaza War and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the overlapping of liberal progressive movements across the US.

“I think that Black Lives Matter has had a big impact. I think the whole country is looking at racism. Racism is the issue of the election. The rise of emblematic black individuals on television, and in the popular discourse, on campuses has made people more aware of racial oppression and racial separation,” she said, like between Israelis and Palestinians. “Because there’s been a discourse inside the queer community about race and imperialism for decades. So now that these are mainstream concerns, I think that it has amplified the discussion internally.”

Israel’s focus on queer consumers is part of the Brand Israel campaign, a public relations campaign started in 2005 aimed at painting the country as a progressive and Western democracy.

The term "pinkwashing" has been around for a while.  A quick Google search turned up an article from the 11/22/2011 New York Times:


and a longer article by the same writer, dated 30 November 2011


a different meaning from 2006

far greater harm is done by pinkwash: imbuing environmentally harmful products with such a reassuringly fluffy aura that the ordinary shopper has no hesitation in snapping them up 

and still another meaning, also from 2006


I investigate one perhaps unexpected example of greenwashing and pinkwashing that currently frames public discourses about breast cancer: National Breast Cancer Awareness Month 

    - James A. Landau

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