Is Israel 'Pinkwashing' With It's LGBTQ Friendliness?
If you think they are, there is a simple solution
Over and over, Israel has been accused of pinkwashing. What is pinkwashing? Glad you asked. Let's visit our good friend Wikipedia to see what they say about it:
Pinkwashing is a term used to describe the action of using gay-related issues in positive ways in order to distract attention from negative actions by an organization, country or government. In the context of LGBT rights, it is used to describe a variety of marketing and political strategies aimed at promoting products, countries, people or entities through an appeal to gay-friendliness, in order to be perceived as progressive, modern and tolerant.
Okay, fair enough. To say the least, Israel has come under fire for it's human rights record when it comes to it's treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza strip and the West Bank. Sometimes justifiably, sometimes not. It's a touchy subject.
A New York Times article from back in 2011, which brought the issue of pinkwashing when it comes to Israel to light, skewers the country for appealing to gay people to come and visit because it is LGBTQ friendly. In doing so, it is argued, Israel wishes for people to overlook the harm they are doing to Palestinians.
Now, Israel features one of the world's largest Pride parades in Tel Aviv every year. It is a place that gays from all over the world can go and feel welcome. It is a place where gay people from across the region can go and not be persecuted. There is no doubt about it, when it comes to LGBTQ rights, Israel is pretty darn progressive. This can't be ignored. This is a very good thing that deserves to be highlighted and celebrated.
In so many ways, Israel IS the most progressive country in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), not just in terms of LGBTQ rights. That said, it does need to be held accountable for the awful things it does, like settlement building or settler violence towards innocent Palestinians. And it's not as if the country is homophobia free. Of course there is homophobia, especially among conservative religious communities. Of course there are still problems that need to be addressed when it comes to LBGTQ issues. There has been religious based violence, most notably at a Pride parade in Jerusalem in 2015. Being a far more religious city, it is taking some who live there a bit more time to adjust to the idea that LGBTQ people deserve rights and safety. But, for the most part Israel is the most progressive nation you will find in that area.
What is the state of LGBTQ rights in the MENA? Well, not great, honestly. Although surprisingly not as horrible as some may think, it's still far from a an LGBTQ friendly part of the planet. Like, at all. This article (Everything you need to know about being gay in Muslim countries) by Brian Whitaker printed in The Guardian back in 2016 does a good job of explaining:
In Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Mauritania, sodomy is also punishable by death – though no executions have been reported for at least a decade. Among other Arab countries, the penalty in Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia and Syria is imprisonment – up to 10 years in the case of Bahrain. In those that have no specific law against homosexuality, gay people may still be prosecuted under other laws. In Egypt, for example, an old law against “debauchery” is often used.
The goal here isn't to demonize. Well, totally. I mean, any nation that puts gays to death or in jail is rather problematic and needs to be called out on that human rights violation, without a doubt. Mind you, it wasn't all that long ago that people in Western liberal countries were being punished for being gay, so, there is that. For that matter, Israel was most certainly not the haven for LGBTQ folks that it is now. But, times have changed, right?
So, what can be done here? Well, if you are upset and feel that Israel pinkwashes, I have the perfect solution. Don't let them get away with it. Show them what's what! Have all of the countries in the region, especially the ones where homosexuality is punishable by jail or death, adopt LGBTQ rights! Make it a competition. See who can out pinkwash each other. Lets see who can give LGBTQ people the most rights. Hey, if these countries want to really stick it to Israel, they should start holding the biggest, gayist Pride parades in the world! Wall-to-wall rainbows everywhere! Turn the whole MENA pink for Pride month! Show Israel that they can't get away with pinkwashing. I dare the region to do it. Everyone get on board.
This way, Israel can't hold the moral high ground on this issue. What a superb idea, right? It's a win-win for all! Heck, then, after that, we can move on to women's rights, minority religious rights, democracy and other human rights abuses! Who knows where this could lead the Middle East!