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May 31, 2021 12:59 pm
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The Pursuit of Human Rights and the Myth of Israeli ‘Pinkwashing’

avatar by Austin Pellizzer

Opinion

Revelers take part in Tel Aviv’s annual Pride Parade, June 14, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

On March 8 of this year, the so-called “human rights” group Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) at York University in Toronto, Canada, launched an Israeli “Pinkwashing” campaign targeting the Jewish State with slanderous and baseless claims regarding its treatment of gays and other minorities.

Throughout the campaign, false accusations, such as “Israel ethnically cleanses, imprisons, and kills Palestinians, whether queer or non-queer,” were regularly employed to attempt to discredit the only truly free and tolerant nation in the entire Middle East.

In its most basic terms, pinkwashing is defined as: “a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.”

Being gay and Catholic myself, compassion and the pursuit of justice are what I strive towards for everyone. That is why I took it upon myself to search out the truth behind such claims. In this research, I discovered that these accusations of genocide against Israel are totally false, and that unlike in the Palestinian territories, Israelis of all nationalities (including its Arab citizens) have true freedom.

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One of the most significant accusations touted by the PSC of York is the claim that Israel “portrays itself as the ‘only democracy’ and ‘gay haven’ in the Middle East … while Palestinians suffer from Israeli state racism and terrorism.”

As a gay Russian myself, state persecution against minorities is something I have seen firsthand. And while Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza abuse their citizens, deprive them of rights and elections, and persecute their gay minorities, Israel is indeed the only democracy in the region; and yes, it is a “gay haven.”

Israel was the first nation in Asia to recognize cohabitation in the mid-1990s. In more recent years, the Tel-Aviv municipality became the first city to register same-sex partners. Although some religious Jews oppose homosexuality, it is accepted by almost the entire country, and gay citizens are fully protected by the government.

It’s also worth considering Israel’s neighbors when looking at the same topic. In a 2020 poll, only 13% of the Lebanese population thought homosexuality should be accepted. In a similar 2013 poll, only 4% of Palestinians believed homosexuality should be socially accepted, while a whopping 93% were opposed. Don’t Palestinian human rights activists in America and abroad care about this?

Another notable example of how PSC’s accusations are blatantly false is the claim that Israel is a racist, ethnically cleansed nation that targets Palestinians on a daily basis. These allegations can be quickly challenged by simply looking at the demographics of how many Palestinians work in Israel — and how many Arabs are full citizens in Israel, serving in the Knesset, Supreme Court, and in every function of daily life.

A second point to highlight in this area is that Israel is a racially and ethnically diverse nation built on coexistence and human rights. More than half of Israeli Jews are not descendants of “white” Europeans, but come from ethnically diverse regions. Second, Israel’s Arab-Israeli population makes up 21% of the people as of 2019. As mentioned, many hold positions in the nation’s most important institutions such as the Supreme Court and the Knesset. And the Arab population in Israel is growing. It simply defies logic and truth to claim that Israeli is committing apartheid, or ethnically cleansing Palestinians.

While, like any free, democratic, multi-ethnic state, Israel could improve everyday life for its citizens in many ways, the idea that Israel is “pinkwashing” is absurd. The truth is that gay Israelis do have more rights — and so do Israel’s Arab citizens.

By pulling back the veil of “pinkwashing” and other buzzwords that anti-Israel opponents use, true advocates for human rights and minority rights can see that Israel is a shining example of peace, coexistence, and building a better future for all its people.

Austin Pellizzer is a senior at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He is majoring in European and Russian studies, has a long history of pro-Israel activism, and is a CAMERA Fellow.

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