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November 20, 2016 10:29 am

Activists at Washington U Protest Guest Lecture by Israeli LGBTQ Rep; Call It ‘Pinkwashing’ of Jewish State’s ‘Oppression of Palestinians’

avatar by Lea Speyer

Members of Washington University's SJP chapter stand in protest of an event highlighting the Israeli LGBTQ community. Photo: WashU SJP/Facebook.

Members of Washington University’s SJP chapter stand in protest of an event highlighting the Israeli LGBTQ community. Photo: WashU SJP/Facebook.

Anti-Israel activists at Washington University protested a recent event highlighting the Jewish state’s status as a regional “haven” for the LGBTQ community, accusing it of “pinkwashing” the country’s oppression of Palestinians.

In an op-ed in the campus newspaper Student Life on Thursday, the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter said their staged walkout of a lecture last Monday by Israeli LGBTQ activist Etai Pinkas was a response to what they called the school’s “complicit[y] in the normalization of the violent israeli [sic] occupation of Palestine.”

SJP claimed that portraying Israel’s gay-friendly policies “normalize[s] and distract[s] from violations of international law: demolitions of Palestinian villages, illegal settlements in the West Bank, forced relocations and denial of the right of Palestinians to return to their homes, and an extended occupation under military rule.”

According to a separate report by Student Life, over 10 SJP members appeared to have timed their walkout of Pinkas’ speech to coincide with the question-and-answer period — when the protesters, wearing tape over their mouths, exited the premises, carrying signs reading, “No Pride in Apartheid.” 

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Despite the disruption, the report said, Pinkas was able to finish his remarks and field questions from the audience.

Monica Sass, a member of the school’s Hillel Leadership Council and president of Nice Jewish Queers, told the paper that as a Jewish and queer student, “I feel disappointed that student activists chose to walk out simply because [Pinkas] was talking about his experiences as an Israeli citizen, rather than listen to an important discussion of LGBTQIA rights in the Jewish state.”

In 2011, Israel was ranked as the world’s most LGBTQ-friendly country by GayCities.com and American Airlines. It holds gay pride parades across the country, including in Jerusalem, every year. In 2014, the Hague Center for Strategic Studies, through its LGBT Military Index, ranked the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as one of the top 10 most gay-friendly armies.

As homosexuality is viewed with severe intolerance in the Palestinian Authority — leading to physical abuse and family banishment — many gay Palestinians attempt to flee to Israel. Groups of Palestinians reside mainly in Tel Aviv — though in other cities, as well — preferring the risk of being apprehended by police for residing in Israel illegally to remaining in the PA, where their lives are at risk due to their sexual orientation.

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