Exposing the ‘Pinkwashing’ Lie
On Wednesday, thousands of tourists from around the world arrived in Israel for the Nonstop Gay Festival, a joint venture of the Tourism Ministry and the Tel Aviv Municipality. From Dec. 24 to Jan. 7, members of the lesbian-bisexual-gay-transgender communities of North America, South America and Europe are being offered an array of activities and entertainment across Tel Aviv.
The ostensible draw of and impetus for this two-week celebration of LGBT life in the Holy Land is the relatively warm weather, which is why its logo is a snowman made out of sand, wearing a rainbow scarf and holding a flag with the temperature of 20°C (68°F) written on it.
And though it is true that tourists escaping freezing weather elsewhere are happy to bask in the sun along the shores of the Mediterranean, the real reason that this particular tourism campaign was a shoe-in for success has to do with Israel’s reputation as one of the most gay-friendly places in the world.
This is but one aspect of the Jewish state that illustrates its openness and pluralism, something that would be less striking if the tiny democracy were not surrounded by barbaric regimes. Naturally, it is the very freedom of Israeli society that most irks those regimes, which aim to destroy Western civilization as a whole and to wipe out Zionism in particular.
That they oppose all forms of human rights makes perfect sense. It is impossible to wield the kind of power required to subjugate the masses when individuals have a say in how they lead their lives.
What makes no sense at all, however, is the phenomenon of leftist apology for those regimes, and simultaneous bashing of Israel, in the name of human rights. Because it is now indisputable that Israel is LGBT-friendly, a convoluted tactic has been employed by the Left to attack the Jewish state on this score. This involves accusing Israel of “pinkwashing.” According to the accusers, Israel boasts about its LGBT-rights record in order to obfuscate its abuse of Palestinians, even gay and lesbian ones.
Canadian Member of Parliament and international human rights warrior Irwin Cotler, the architect of the 2005 law which legalized gay marriage in Canada, considers the spread of the “pinkwashing” lie to be both worrisome and worsening. Cotler was Canada’s justice minister and attorney-general at the time of the passing of the Civil Marriage Act, which was organized around two principles under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Quality Rights and Freedom of Religion. The first gave gays and lesbians the equal right to civil marriage. The second gave rabbis, priests and imams the right not to conduct or sanction a gay marriage, if doing so would violate their beliefs.
When asked on Thursday about Israel (where marital rights are still governed by the Orthodox Rabbinate, which means that any couples ineligible to wed under a strict interpretation of Jewish law are not able to marry in Israel, but are recognized by the state if they tie the knot abroad), Cotler was unequivocal.
“There’s only one country in the Middle East in which gay rights are protected, and that’s Israel,” he said.
This sentiment was echoed in a New York Times ad that ran this week. Sponsored by “America’s Rabbi” Shmuley Boteach, in conjunction with This World: The Values Network and Stand with Us, the ad shows a photo of a man, under the rhyming headline: “Hamas, ISIS [Islamic State] and Iran kill gays like me. In Israel I am free.”
The accompanying text, in smaller print, says it all:
“My name is Rennick Remley. I’m a gay American and I support Israel. If I lived in Gaza or Israel’s neighboring states, I would be thrown in jail, mutilated or killed.
“Though I am not Jewish, Israel is the only country in the Middle East where I can live without fear. I am free to adopt children, serve openly in the military, advocate for my community’s rights and be accepted as a human being.
“I visited Israel and marched with thousands of people from around the globe in Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade, and all were treated with dignity. The freedom I experienced made me feel at home.
“That’s why I’m appalled that so many in the Western world — including the media, Hollywood, and self-proclaimed human rights activists — fail to hold terrorist organizations like Hamas and autocratic governments like Iran accountable for their persecution of LGBT communities.
“Have you no decency? Hamas calls homosexuals subhuman, accusing us of engaging in a ‘filthy practice’ that is punishable by death. It’s not an empty threat. Gay Palestinians have been tortured and killed. That’s why many gay Palestinian men risk their lives to cross the border and seek refuge in Israel.
“If I lived in Iran, or Hamas’ ideological cousin ISIS, chances are you’d be seeing my picture. Not in this ad, but hanging from a crane in a public square. That’s a regular practice against gay men by the Iranian regime. The only way for gay men to avoid persecution in Iran is to undergo a forced sex-change operation.
“To those who scapegoat Israel while pretending to care about human rights yet remain silent about the oppression and violence Hamas, Iran and other Middle East countries inflict on the gay community: Shame on you. You are letting them murder us liberally. Your misguided actions ensure that LGBT people in the Middle East continue to live in hiding under constant threat of violent death.
“It’s time to hold oppressive dictators and religious fanatics accountable for their homophobia and violence against LGBT communities. As a nation that respects the rights and humanity of every citizen, Israel is a model for the rest of the region. Speak up for Israel. You don’t have to be Jewish to love the only democracy in the Middle East.”
Remley is right. One doesn’t have to be Jewish to love Israel. But one does have to espouse genuine liberal values in order to see the truth and fight for it. Any other attitude abets those who would happily slaughter all gays on the way to wiping Israel off the map.
Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.'” This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.