Coined by combining “pink” and “whitewashing”, the term "Pinkwashing" is used to describe a variety of marketing and political strategies aimed to promote a product or an entity through an appeal to gay-friendliness. Since 2010, this term has been adopted by anti-occupation activists in the context of Israeli/Palestinian conflict, to describe Israel’s audience-focused marketing strategy where the image of gay-friendliness is utilized to improve Israel's image in the international arena and, its critics asserts, to divert the international attention from its human rights violations in Palestine. In November 2011, Sarah Schulman introduced this term to international audience by publishing an article in the New York Times, defining “Pinkwashing” as "the co-opting of white gay people by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political forces in Western Europe and Israel." Various scholars also criticize “Pinkwashing” as a "a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.
Practices of "Brand Israel" and "Pinkwashing"
In her article “A documentary guide to ‘Brand Israel’ and the art of Pinkwashing”, Sarah Schuman indicates “Pinkwashing” is an indispensable part of “Brand Israel”. Aiming to erase the image of Israel as being “militaristic and religious”, “Brand Israel” is a state campaign to re-brand Israel in the minds of the world as a “modern democracy”, a “safe and secured place for investment” and a “tourist destination with the sun and the sand”. The “Brand Israel” campaign can be traced back as early as 2005.
Critique of “Pinkwashing” Practices
Scholars from various disciplines have criticized Israeli “Pinkwashing” propaganda and practices for its colonial nature. Jasbir Puar, an associate professor of Women's & Gender Studies at Rutgers University, pointed out, the nature of “Pinkwashing” is a process by which the Israeli state seeks to gloss over the ongoing settler colonialism of historic Palestine by redirecting international attention towards a comparison between the supposedly stellar record of gay rights in Israel and the supposedly dismal state of life for LGBTQ Palestinians in Occupied Palestine. Some specific practices of “Pinkwashing” are also considered the reproduction of classic Oriental trope, where Arab society, specifically Palestine, is portrayed as “backward and stagnant” due to its “barbaric, tribal, uncivilized and Islamic” nature. Joseph Massad, associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, contends the “Pinkwashing” practices are the continuation of colonial power in legitimatizing their occupation by blaming the natives for their moral lacking. And the reason for Israeli government and its propaganda organs to “insist on advertising and exaggerating its recent record on LGBT rights”, according to him, “is to fend off international condemnation of its violations of the rights of the Palestinian people.” In the meantime, some Israeli activists argue that the Israeli state is hypocritical in portraying itself as a gay-friendly society. In an interview with Haaretz, Palestinian Israeli activist Haneen Maikey indicated that the LGBT community does not have real rights behind the seemingly tolerant image portrayed upon international stage. Haaretz also published a poll backing up Maikey’s statement, showing that 46 percent of the surveyed population see homosexuality as a perversion. Sarah Schulman argued in her piece on New York Times that the dichotomy of homophobic and backward or gay-friendly and modern adopted by Israel throughout its “Pinkwashing” campaign overlooked two facts. First, there is a considerable number of people and movements in Arab/Muslim countries who are or sympathize with gays. Second, that such a dichotomy turns a blind eye on religious fundamentalists, especially those within the Catholic Church or in Orthodox Judaism, who show a considerable amount of intolerance against gay population.
Critique of the term “Pinkwashing”
Prof. Alan Dershowitz, a law professor in Harvard University and a frequent defender of Israel, has said that this term is used against Israel by "some radical gay activists" who are anti-semitic "bigots."As for the term, he commented, is “nothing more than anti-Semitism with a pink face.” In his opinion piece in the New York Post, he examined Israel’s record of recognizing and protecting the rights of its gay population in contrast with the treatment of LGBT community in West Bank and in Gaza, arguing that the state practice of promoting the gay-friendly image and social progressiveness is not “whitewashing.” In 2012, immediately after The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at City University of New York announced their plan on holding a conference on “Homonationalism and Pinkwashing”, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a trustee of Board of CUNY, called the event “disgusting”. He contended the anti-Israeli nature of the term and commented the act of adopting “Pinkwashing” to describe the state practices of Israel is “a continuation of idiocy by people, leftists, anti-Semites, and Islamists to demonize Israel.” Over in Israel, community leaders view the debate of “Pinkwashing” as a rhetoric war that would “ultimately serves homophobia far more than dialogue and peace.” (en.wikipedia.org)