DUBLIN’S annual Pride Parade parade in June saw signs saying “Queers Against Israeli Pinkwashing” as members of Ireland’s LGBT community showed their anger at Israel using a veneer of acceptance of gay people to gloss over its ongoing brutal occupation of Palestine.
In recent years, Israel has been busy promoting itself as one of the few gay-friendly tourist destinations in the Middle East. Tel Aviv was named “World’s Best Gay City” in 2011. The Israeli Tourist Board has pumped millions of dollars into promoting the country as a gay-friendly destination through billboard advertising, sponsorship of LGBT film festivals and other events.
Same-sex marriages may be conducted in Israel but they have no legal recognition, although if a couple have a marriage certificate from another country where it is legal then their marriage is legally recognised. Despite this, Israel still has the most advanced LGBT rights in the Middle East where in some countries, such as Yemen and Saudi Arabia, homosexuality can result in a death sentence.
Though Israel’s Pinkwashing campaign has been going on for over a decade, not everybody got the message.
In 2012, Channel 10 News in Israel exposed a communique from former Israeli Deputy Ambassador to Ireland Nurit Tinari-Modai to Israel’s Foreign Office in which she suggests that left-wing and Jewish activists in Ireland who oppose Israel’s occupation should be smeared by claiming their opposition is based on “sexual identity problems”.
Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah said the Deputy Ambassador’s comments “indicate an innate homophobia that is at odds with Israel’s efforts – known as pinkwashing – to portray itself as supportive of the rights of people who identify as LGBTQ”.
A month before Dublin’s Pride Parade was the world-famous Tel Aviv Pride festival. ‘Pinkwatching Israel’ – an organisation created in 2010 to “expose efforts by Israel and its supporters to pinkwash Israeli crimes” – called on those thinking of travelling to Tel Aviv for the festival to take a deeper look at Israel’s gay-friendly persona.
“Gay pride brochures fail to mention that it is also an hour away from the world’s largest open prison, Gaza, and that it is built on stolen land,” the group said. “They forget to mention that the gay soldiers you dance with in the Pride parade check, arrest, and kill Palestinians on a daily basis.
“After your day of Pride, some tour operators will take you to Bethlehem or the Dead Sea, without telling you that you will travel through the illegally Occupied Palestinian Territories, or that the wine you are drinking in the Golan Heights comes from businesses that have been declared illegal under international law.”
Fadi Khoury, an Arab LGBT activist who boycotted the Tel Aviv Pride parade this year, told the AFP news agency:
“Israel wants to rebrand itself as a liberal democracy – despite the Occupation – by claiming that neighbouring societies, especially the Palestinians, aren’t as tolerant towards sexual minorities. A moral human rights struggle cannot be one that is partial. The state is the same source of human rights infringements for both the Israeli LGBT community and the Palestinians under occupation.”
LGBT activist Haneen Maikey, an Arab citizen of Israel, told Israeli newspaper Haaretz that, despite the hype, in reality there are very few gay rights in the country:
“There are specific court cases that, when won, allowed certain individuals for instance to adopt a child. What is worth noting is that these decisions are case-specific, in the sense that they are made for this specific case, for this specific child and for these two mothers. You cannot build a human rights campaign on court cases that are not ratified.”
Attacking Israel's policy of ‘pinkwashing’, she said:
“Stop speaking in my name and using me for a cause you never supported in the first place.
“If you want to do me a favour, then stop bombing my friends, end your occupation, and leave me to rebuild my community.”
- This article first appeared in the August 2016 edition of An Phoblacht