Saturday, March 17, 2012

City of Seattle snubs Israeli gays over "pinkwashing" charge

From Seattle Times:
Bowing to pressure from some gays outraged by Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, the city of Seattle commission that represents gays canceled a Friday reception at City Hall for a visiting delegation of Israeli gay leaders.

Commission members, some City Council members and local gay-community leaders had been invited.

The Seattle LGBT Commission had previously agreed to host the meeting, one of several the six-member Israeli delegation had scheduled on the West Coast — with stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles — to exchange ideas on advancing gay rights.

Only in Washington state, however, did the team encounter pushback from fellow gays.

At a heated commission meeting Thursday, a small, vocal group spoke out against the Jewish nation, saying Israel is masking what some call its poor treatment of Palestinians by promoting its positive record on gay rights — a phenomenon that has become known as "pinkwashing."

To be sure, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a complicated, decades-long political and religious struggle that can hardly be sorted out during a few hours of a commission meeting.

Still, members — who represent Seattle's gay population to city government — bowed to pressure and canceled the session, saying they were not prepared to facilitate an event surrounding "such complex topics."

Dean Spade
The first sign that the group would encounter trouble in Washington state began with a posting Monday on the Facebook page of Seattle University law professor Dean Spade, in which he called the delegation's visit "apartheid and occupation" wrapped in the rainbow flag.

The concept of "pinkwashing" has been advanced among some gay-rights social-justice activists who believe Israel is using its progressive stance on gay rights to cover up a record on the mistreatment of Palestinians.

Spade, a transgender activist, explained that his feelings toward Israel followed a January visit to the West Bank. And in a letter to commission members, he wrote that they may be unaware that "the event is part of a broad campaign launched in recent years by the state of Israel to respond to worldwide opposition to its outrageous harm and violence to Palestinian people."

Spade could not be reached for comment.

Some pro-Israel gay-rights organizations denounce the concept of pinkwashing. By saying that Israel has a positive record on gay rights does not deny anyone from criticizing its civil-rights record, say officials with the Wider Bridge, a California-based gay Jewish organization that helped to arrange the delegation's visit.

"The truth is that Israel is a good place to be LGBT, and it is so because there are countless people within Israel doing amazing, courageous work every day ... saving lives, including the lives of young LGBTQ Palestinians who often have nowhere else to turn," Wider Bridge officials said.

In other words, the commission caved in the face of a small number of loud Israel haters. They admit that they don't know a whole lot about the issues and were only hearing from one very biased side. Yet rather than err on the side of free speech and liberalism, they decided to err on the side of censorship and hate.

I could reiterate how the charge of "pinkwashing" is simply a psychological projection  that shows the manifestation of rabid, visceral hate towards the Jewish state which is nothing less than an expression of bigotry itself.

But it is better to see what mainstream gays think.

From Queerty:
Are anti-pinkwashers like Spade now saying that all gays from Israel should be silenced in the public arena, lest they accidentally encourage someone to visit their homeland?

Are we calling for the end of civil discourse and kicking Israel’s LGBT off the bus?

It’s a double standard: When Mariela Castro, the heterosexual daughter of Cuba’s president, Raoul Castro, boasts about how progressive her country is on gay issues—despite a proven track record of oppressing LGBTs and political dissidents—she’s embraced with open arms by gay activists.

According to A Wider Bridge, the admittedly pro-Israel group that brought AILO to America, some good work was done so far on its tour of the U.S.:

  • In Los Angeles, the delegation met with the leaders of the Trevor Project and shared ideas and practices for helping LGBT teens in crisis and working to reduce teen suicides.

  • The delegation met with the Regional Board of P-FLAG, and shared their own unique programs for helping parents deal with their LGBT children.

  • The delegation visited the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, where a multitude of strategies related to HIV testing, prevention and care were shared.
  • Today in San Francisco the delegation met with a diverse group of LGBT and Jewish leaders, including an LGBT Asian group and those working for LGBT inclusion in a variety of faith-based communities. Much of the conversation was focused on dealing with the special issues faced by LGBT people in minority communities, both in Israel and the U.S.
No, according to the haters, Israel has only one dimension, a single attribute that overrides everything else. And their narrowminded focus reveals far more about their own intolerance than it does about that of Israelis.

Dean Spade held a party to celebrate the victory of his intolerance. His friends ask all supporters of Israel hatred to go to the Seattle LGBT Commission Facebook page to thank them.

You may want to also visit that page and let them know what you think.

(h/t jzaik)