‘Pinkwashing’? Seattle vs. Israel
In 2012, a long-planned visit approved by Seattle’s then-mayor and the city’s LGBTQ Commission of a LGBTQ delegation from Israel was cancelled a day before the Israelis were to arrive. The Seattle LGBTQ commissioners had concluded, no doubt after much abstruse research, that receiving their Israeli counterparts would be an act of “pinkwashing” the Jewish state.
They had been told by their leftist friends that Israel is as black as Gehenna and the pit of hell, and the fact that it is a “gay friendly” state was not a powerful enough detergent to remove the primeval stain. That nasty episode of Seattle’s history was retold in late May of this year by “Pinkwashing Exposed,” which the poverty of the English language compels one to call a documentary. Recounting the tale from both before and after the 2012 cancellation of the Israeli visit, it is in fact an attempt to depict Israel as the devil’s own laboratory, and add its two cents to the worldwide campaign to turn the pariah people into a pariah nation.
On May 24 of this year an event hosted at public expense by Seattle’s official LGBTQ Commission, in concert with its Commission for People with DisAbilities [sic] and presided over by City Council member Kshama Sawant, not only showed the film but followed it with a panel discussion in which, by miraculous coincidence, all agreed that support of LGBTQ rights and common decency towards Israel are incompatible. Sawant, a member of the Socialist Party, has long been known for what might delicately be called a lack of sympathy for Israel.
Such monolithic presentations are typical of contemporary liberalism. Liberalism was once defined by its great Catholic adversary John Henry Newman as “the anti-dogmatic principle.” Nobody is likely to say that of today’s “progressives,” whose dogmatism and dictatorial tendencies have ravaged the university campuses to the extent that “Free Speech Zones” must now be provided for students who dissent from their smelly little orthodoxies.
For these Seattle exposers of “pinkwashing,” the “dirty” Jewish state, the primal sin of Israel, trotted out at “progressive” campuses every spring, is that it is a racist and apartheid state. Yet everyone who has lived in or visited Israel knows that Jews and Arabs there travel on the same buses and trains, swim at the same beaches, get treated at the same clinics, play on the same soccer pitches, attend the same universities, and serve in the same parliament and cabinet. As for “racism,” Israel is the only country in recorded history to admit tens of thousands of impoverished black Africans to full citizenship and to do so entirely of its own volition.
But what do such things matter to Kshama Sawant and her acolytes, whose concern for “human rights violations” does not extend to the slavery of black Africans, which is still a flourishing industry in Muslim countries like Sudan and Mauritania? Can we perhaps expect an Arab Apartheid week next spring on “progressive” campuses, with the producers of “Pinkwashing Exposed” providing the films and lectures?
One more question arises: does Seattle’s openly gay mayor want her city to be known as the first in the country to declare war on Israel?
Edward Alexander is emeritus professor of English at the University of Washington in Seattle.