The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at City University of New York plans to hold a conference on “Homonationalism and Pinkwashing” next year, which intends to accuse Israel of using their strong record on gay rights to detract from the “oppression of Palestinians”, while ignoring “the existence of Palestinian gay-rights organizations”, according to a release from CLAGS.
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, who sits on the Board of CUNY Trustees calls the conference “disgusting” and plans to bring the issue to the Chancellor’s office, which he believes may be unaware of the issue.
“It’s just amazing to me that one of the few free societies in the world like the state of Israel should be a target for people so stupid that they can’t recognize what their fate would be in any other nation in the Middle East,” Wiesenfeld told The Algemeiner.
The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at CUNY has yet to respond for comment.
Wiesenfeld, who was adamant in his opposition to the conference, said the issue of pinkwashing and Israel is a made up phenomenon that has “nothing to do with academia” and is “intellectually dishonest”.
“This whole definition of pinkwashing – it’s a made up term,” he said. “No one is pinkwashing or whitewashing. Israel doesn’t need to pinkwash or whitewash anything, because they’ve always lived with the gay community in harmony. They don’t need a program of tolerance, it’s a made up term to further an anti-Israel bias.”
In a release related to the conference, CLAGS writes that Israel’s “campaign not only manipulates the hard-won gains of Israel’s gay rights movement, but it also ignores the existence of Palestinian gay-rights organizations.”
Wiesenfeld, who was a key figure in the opposition to grant Tony Kushner an honorary CUNY degree due to his anti-Israel statements, believes this situation is even more unacceptable than the Kushner award, and he questioned why LGBT activists would single out Israel of all the countries in the middle east.
“Let them try their luck, any of them – the members who are going to attend this conference and the participants – let them try their luck with the Islamists, with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, with Assad in Syria, with Hezbollah in Lebanon, in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Sarah Schulman, a CUNY professor who is involved in putting the “Homonationalism and Pinkwashing” conference together, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times last year, accusing Israel and Western Europe of leveraging their support of gays to promote an anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim agenda.
“After generations of sacrifice and organization, gay people in parts of the world have won protection from discrimination and relationship recognition. But these changes have given rise to a nefarious phenomenon: the co-opting of white gay people by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political forces in Western Europe and Israel,” she wrote in Novemeber of 2011.
Noting the victims of Syria’s ongoing brutality, Wiesenfeld said the people involved in CLAGS’ conference would suffer a similar fate if they were to express their sexuality the way they do in the United States and Israel, in Syria.
“This is a continuation of idiocy by people, leftists, anti-Semites, and Islamists – not Muslims but political Islamists - to demonize Israel. For all the things they do freely in this country and Israel, they would end up like the victims of Bashar Assad if they were to do this in any other country in the middle east.”
At the time of publication, CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein and the CUNY Office of Public Affairs had not responded to The Algemeiner’s request for comment.