Photo: Nettadi/Wikimedia Commons

2020-2021 Carleton University CAMERA Fellow Austin Pellizzer

The Pursuit of Human Rights and the Myth of Israeli Pinkwashing

By: Austin Pellizzer

On March 8, 2021, the so-called ‘human rights group’ Palestine Solidarity Collective (PSC) at York University in Toronto, Canada, launched an “Israeli Pinkwashing” campaign on its Facebook page targeting the Jewish State with slanderous and baseless claims regarding its treatment of its LGBTQ community.

Throughout the campaign, false accusations such as, “Israel ethnically cleanses, imprisons, and kills Palestinians, whether queer or non-queer,” are regularly employed to attempt to discredit the only truly free nation, and certainly the most tolerant, in the Middle East. To understand the nature of this campaign, one must first understand the concept of “pinkwashing.”

In its most basic terms, pinkwashing is, according to a 2011 opinion piece published in the New York Times, “a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.” Being gay and catholic myself, compassion and the pursuit of justice are important to me. That is why I took it upon myself to discern whether there is truth to such claims. Ultimately, I discovered that the accusation that Israel pursues a progressive agenda to cover up horrific atrocities is anything but genuine.

One of the most libelous accusations by the Palestinian Solidarity Collective at the York University in Toronto, ON is that the Jewish State “portrays itself as the ‘only democracy’ and ‘gay haven’ in the Middle East… while Palestinians suffer from Israeli state racism and terrorism…”. As a gay Russian, state persecution against minorities is something I have seen firsthand. However, the insinuation that Israel is not actually a haven for the LGBTQ community is unequivocally false and defamatory at best.

According to a recent Jerusalem Post poll, Israeli society seems split regarding the topic of homosexuality. A 2019 poll found that 47% of Israelis are accepting, while 45% are not. Despite this, Israel still leads the way concerning sexual minority rights within the region. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel has amended anti-discrimination laws to prohibit discrimination, defamation and slander of a person on the basis of their sexual orientation, protections common in western countries. Furthermore, Israeli courts recognize same-sex marriages, their consequent rights to adopt, and access social security and inheritances.

In 2020, the Tel Aviv Municipality became the first city to register same-sex partners. So, although Israel may be far from perfect regarding LGBTQ-related issues, its policies and societal tendencies are closer to those of Canada and the United States. When it comes to the Middle East, a region known for widespread religious and cultural conservatism, Israel is one of the progressive nations. In a 2020 poll, only 13% of the Lebanese population thinks homosexuality should be socially accepted. In a similar 2013 poll, only 4% of Palestinians believe homosexuality should be socially accepted. PSC’s insinuations that the state of Israel and Israeli society are exceptionally intolerant is false.

Along the same lines, the accusation of Israeli “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians is also untrue. Israel is an ethnically diverse and multicultural society that not only prides itself on these achievements, but continues to promote coexistence and human rights. Israel’s Arab-Israeli population makes up 21% of the country’s population. Many Israeli Arabs also hold positions in the nation’s most important roles, such as in the Knesset (Parliament) and the Israeli Supreme Court. If there were any merit to the accusation of “ethnic cleansing,” why would Israel give voices to, or offer positions of influence to people they seek to expel?

By contrast, many Palestinians and other Arab leaders spew (and have a long history of promulgating) Jew-hatred and genocidal bigotry. For example, long-time leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Yaser Arafat proclaimed in a 1972 speech that: “The end of Israel is the goal of our struggle, and it allows for neither compromise nor mediation… We don’t want peace. We want war, victory.” Along the same lines, former Egyptian President and terrorist-tied Muslim brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi exclaimed in a meeting in the European Union in 2013,  “Who is our enemy? The Zionists. Who occupies our land? The Zionists. Who hates us? The Zionists. Who destroys our lands? The Zionists”. Many more examples throughout the years abound. Given this, the sheer ignorance and silence in the face of such ethnic bigotry against the Jews in the Middle East is shocking, to say the least. The failure to call out violent hate speech by these so-called “human rights groups” is detrimental to both Israelis and Palestinians who yearn for peace.

It is essential to acknowledge that, like any free, democratic, and multiethnic nation, Israel could improve everyday life for its citizens, including the LGBTQ community. However, the idea that the only liberal democracy in the Middle East is among the world’s most egregious human rights violators is nonsense. Pulling back the veil of “pinkwashing” and other buzzwords that anti-Israel opponents employ, we can see that Israel is a shining example of not just coexistence and peace, but of how perseverance and determination can create a better society for all peoples.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the Palestinian Solidarity Collective at York University as Palestinian Solidarity Committee. Additionally, the content addressed in this article is now hyperlinked in the opening sentence.

Originally published in The Algemeiner.

Contributed by 2020-2021 Carleton University CAMERA Fellow Austin Pellizzer.

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