This week honors Harvey Milk, a brave Jewish LGBT activist who paid the ultimate price for his beliefs. The Internet is filled with discussion of President Obama’s recent affirmation towards gay marriage and the marriage of NY mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn to her partner. It is an age of progress for sexual minorities, despite the backlash.
Like many other liberal democracies, Israel also has much to be proud of, in terms of struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) rights. While there is much work to be done in the future, Israeli same sex couples can legally adopt children, gay people serve openly in the military and government and an online poll listed Tel Aviv as the most gay-friendly city of 2011.
All of those victories have been hard-won, with brave people lobbying and working through the democratic process, but there are still so many miles to go before achieving full equality.
In any other culture, a discussion such as this would be one of celebration that the country is heading in the right direction. When the conversation centers on Israel, an accusation of pink-washing is hurled.
According to Professor Sara Schulman who was one of those who promoted the term, pink-washing is “a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.”
In other words, Israel is only nice to its gay citizens to hide the conflict in a vast conspiracy to hide the truth. That belief only makes sense if one believes the rather poisonous doctrine that Israel is consumed only by the conflict and every action should be interpreted as having a nefarious motive against Palestinians.
A simpler explanation might be that Israel is responding to the needs of its people through open debate and the legal process. Israel may be involved in a conflict, but also is a vibrant and growing culture that leads the world in education, invention and entertainment. The people may be forced to live with a war, but they are determined to live the best lives possible under such conditions. Given that the government is a representative one, Israel wants its citizens to live full and equal lives and Israeli LGBT are advocating for themselves for recognition.
Yes, there is more work to be done but Israel is at the forefront of that work and should be allowed to continue without such malicious accusations.
It is insulting for Israel to compare itself to the countries around them, but it is worth noting that the area around Israel is a horrific place to be LGBT.
- In the United Arab Emirates, Article 354 of the Federal Penal Code states, “Whoever commits rape on a female or sodomy with a male shall be punished by death.”
- The most popular Egyptian political group Freedom and Justice Party, created by the Muslim Brotherhood, is violently homophobic, on record saying “it is not permissible for Democracy to allow what’s forbidden (haram) or forbid what’s allowed (halal) even if the entire nation agreed to it.”
- LGBT rights just don’t exist in Saudi Arabia. They’re still working on women being allowed to leave the house without male permission.
- In Gaza and the West Bank, Islamic fundamentalists call for the death penalty of LGBT and many flee to Israel for safe haven.
The media is silent on those abuses, and no calls for pink-washing are sounded. A double standard exists when it comes to Israel, and it shows a callous indifference to human life.
Perhaps a new term needs to be coined – Israel-washing – ignoring human rights violations’ real source by blaming Israel. Instead of praising Israel for its contribution to a better world and calling for its neighbors to join the march for human rights, the media ignores the plight of LGBT minorities in favor of blaming the Jewish state.