July 9, 2015 at 5:31 pm EDT | by Christopher Scott McCannell
West Bank, Gaza no haven for LGBT Palestinians
Tel Aviv, Israel, gay news, Washington Blade, gay pride

Tel Aviv Pride. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The recent opinion editorial “Seattle mayor’s trip highlights dangers of pink washing” tried to make the point that the gay mayor of Seattle’s address in Israel at the 40th anniversary of Tel Aviv Pride was done to distract attention from Israel’s control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and its impact on Palestinians.

The author contends that the mayor’s visit to Israel and the West Bank was nothing more than “pink washing” a pejorative term for highlighting Israel’s pro-LGBT policies without recognizing the pain and suffering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has caused to both sides. This is nonsense.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray visited the only Democratic state in the Middle East and the only one that protects the rights of all minorities, including gay and lesbian citizens. His visit to Israel as well as time spent in the West Bank, where he experienced firsthand the challenges facing the Israeli and the Palestinian populations is one that is often taken by American elected officials to understand the daily security threats the Israeli people endure. As the Syrian war continues to rage on at Israel’s northern border and the threat of ISIS grows throughout the Middle East, Israel’s strong and vibrant democracy is needed more than ever.

While in Tel Aviv, Mayor Murray spoke at a conference marking the 40th anniversary of Tel Aviv Pride, which reflected the accomplishments and continuing work that Israel needs to do to achieve true equality. This conference was hosted by the U.S.-based NGO A Wider Bridge, which promotes LGBT support for Israel and the Agudah, Israel’s version of the Human Rights Campaign. Israel’s record on LGBT issues has been one of the strong hallmarks of a democratic and civil society and includes being one of the first countries to allow gays to serve openly in the military, allowing equality at workplaces and recognizing same sex marriages performed outside of Israel. Tel Aviv’s vibrant gay community is known for its 150,000 strong Pride march as well as a vibrant LGBT center supported by politicians of all stripes.

Finally the author talks about the treatment of the Palestinian people. While the majority of Israelis recognize the need for a two-state solution, the gay community has been some of the most vocal in their support. While pointing fingers at Israel though, and the Israeli people, the author seems to miss the fact that to be gay in the West Bank or Gaza is a very scary proposition for most Palestinians. Since the Oslo Peace Agreement, Israel has given the Palestinian Authority civil authority over the West Bank, and since 2005’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas has been the governing authority there. Neither the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas recognizes LGBT rights and has maintained a hostile environment for gay citizens forcing them to flee their homes. Many of these gay Palestinians have found refuge in Europe and North America.

Israel is not perfect, and Israel has much further to go to provide equality for all, but to say that Israel’s acceptance, recognition and freedom of LGBT citizens is somehow “pink washing” is trying to divert attention from the poor record for LGBT Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.


Christopher Scott McCannell is a member of the advisory board of A Wider Bridge, a group that promotes connections between LGBT Americans and Israelis. In addition he serves on the board of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

  • Yes, LGBT people in Tel Aviv have it better than they do in Nablus. But everyone person in Tel Aviv has it better than people in Nablus. Are we really going to accept the tiny token of better acceptance of LGBT people as license to overrun the remainder of Palestine? I’m pretty sure enacting a slow-motion genocide of the Palestinian people is how NOT to win the Middle East over the progressive thinking on social issues.

    • Pretty distorted way of presenting your concerns. You can accept that Israel has done a tremendous job at evolving lbgtq rights and cultures. It is not a tiny token. And…. Accepting that would not diminish your other concerns. Rather, you would sound more credible rather that simply “anti Israel.”

      • The thing is, I am pro-Israel. As in I want Israel to continue to exist. But Israel is doing everything in its power to alienate any allies, actual or potential, by its unchecked elimination of the remainder of Palestine. The West Bank settlements need to end and need to be dismantled, and the lands restored to the Palestinian people. Gaza needs to be freed. It is essentially an open air prison, into which Israel rains down destruction at will. How can I celebrate the “freedoms” of gays in Tel Aviv when Palestinian children are mowed down while playing soccer on the beach?

    • As a gay man living in Tel Aviv, I cherish the rights that I have that no gay man living in Nablus could dream about, like openly criticizing my government while holding my boyfriend’s hand at a pro-marriage equality rally.

  • I find it hypocritical that this author decries pink washing as nonsense, then engages in pink washing themselves. This article is a textbook example of the hypocrisy of pink washers. And the notion that the people of Israel face daily threats to their security is such a load of rubbish, I find it hard to think anyone takes it seriously.

    • Seems like you’re just hurling the term without questioning. The reality is that Israel is a relatively welcoming place for queers. The Arab world, anywhere, is unwelcoming and often dangerous. This is not “pinkwashing,” it’s the reality for lbgtq people in these very different cultures.

      • I don’t call it welcoming for Netanyahu to use our electronic eavesdropping to identify gay Palestinians and out them if they don’t become Israeli snitches.

        • Perhaps true, though I doubt it. More importantly, queers in Palestinian territories and Arab countries in general are hounded, harassed, threatened and sometimes killed by their own families, and thrown off buildings by extremists in the name of Islam. In Israel, sodomy laws were overturned even before in the U.S., there are anti discrimination laws in employment, right to serve openly in the military and the legislature. Yes, there’s a ways to go in this area and others. But painting a black and white picture and demonizing Israel is dishonest, distorts credibility and doesn’t help anyone.

          • First, I’m not sure why you think I need “educating” about any of that. I also know that there is no such thing as civil marriage because marriage has been handed to the ultra-orthodox to control, and they don’t permit same-sex marriages. I also know that gay Israelis thus have to scour the planet for another country that will allow them to marry if they wish to get married. I also know that a bill to allow civil marriage was just rejected in the Knesset.

            Second, I don’t know what it is that you supposedly doubt. The campaign to identify and out gay Palestinians was widely reported, including in the Guardian and New York Times.

            You and this article author are the one painting black and white picture. I notice you didn’t mention the ultra-orthodox throwing their own feces at Jerusalem pride either.

          • Right…. Worst country in the world. Probably best you don’t visit after all. Cheers.

          • “Worst country in the world”? LOL! Omg listen to yourself. “Watch me set up a straw man and play victim!” I posted one negative comment to provide a hint of balance to this ridiculous article, and you launch into a massive propaganda crusade. Please don’t kid yourself and imagine that you have any semblance of balance.

            P.S. I like how you couldn’t refute anything I said.

          • “Negative” is your operative word. Cheers! Bye.

          • “Propagandize” is yours. I didn’t re-elect the warmongering racist.

  • I’m soooooo over the sniveling sycophants for that racist warmonger Netanyahu demanding that American LGBTs hate Palestinians as much as they do and fawn over that Likud bigot. The Israelis re-elected the bigot. The only remaining alternative is divestment and boycotting.

    • This is not about demanding that we should hate Palestinians. It’s about recognizing that the situation there is not black and white. You can sympathize with both “sides”, recognize wrongs committed by both, and still recognize that Israel has a pretty wonderful queer scene that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else in the region.

      • I disagree. It is all about propagandizing the gays and goading us into praising Netanyahu. This clumsy campaign to exploit our sexual orientation has been going on for several years now. In its most toxic form, it smugly attacks us as bad gays and accuses us of not caring about gay rights. I find the entire marketing strategy crass and insulting.

        • I disagree. It’s really not “all about propagandizing”. It really is a different culture and different mindset around queer issues. Perhaps you’ll find yourself visiting there sometime. I think both “sides” would appreciate people visiting with an open mind.

          • Sorry, but I have no intention of visiting and subjecting myself to the barrage of intelligence-insulting propaganda that visitors are subjected to.

            And, yes, exploiting gay rights is a propaganda tactic that’s been around for several years. Netanyahu cares about gay rights only to the extent they can be used as a political wedge. Then he suddenly forgets about gay rights when interfering with the US presidential election in an effort to show an anti-gay bigot down our throats as president. Spare us the propagandizing.

          • It’s not about “propagandizing.” And yes, activists across the spectrum in both communities would love for people to visit and have expressed that.

            Interesting that you have “no intention of visiting” but are so sure of the “propaganda that visitors are subjected to.” Sounds like you have NO first hand knowledge. Perhaps you’ll find an opening in your heart some day.

          • “Perhaps you’ll find an opening in your heart some day.”

            LOL! Yeah, it’s so heartless of me to oppose the construction of illegal settlements and the endless warmongering, anti-Muslim bigotry, and anti-Arab racism of Netanyahu and the Israeli right.

            OMG, OMG, OMG, I posted non-flattering observations to give mild balance to a ridiculously one-side glorification of Israel. I must be stopped! That must be shut down! It’s undermining the aggressive propaganda mission!

            Save your condescension for someone who is vulnerable to your pathetic effort at manipulation.

  • As a gay man living in Tel Aviv, I can openly kiss my boyfriend in the streets while wearing a t shirt critical of my government and not get harassed by the police or the public. I would not be allowed to do that in any of my neighboring Arab countries or in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

    That’s not ‘pink-washing’. That’s just stating the obvious about the homophobic, anti-free speech region I live in.

    • The facts of your life in Tel Aviv are not pinkwashing. You have a good life and I’m happy for you.

      Pinkwashing is when governments and other entities take the facts of lives like yours and use those to try to propagandize the public and insure US complicity in whatever policies the Israeli government pursues, up to and including the elimination of the Palestinian territories. That doesn’t change the fact that the facts of your life are good. It just means that there has been the selective choosing of those facts, to the exclusion of other facts, for propagandizing purposes. That’s what pinkwashing is.

      • Pinkwashing is a term developed by critics of Israel who wanted to portray Israel in the worst way so they go after every positive element of Israeli society accusing it of ulterior motives.

        Pinkwashing denies the tens of thousands of Israelis who bravely came out to their parents and friends before ‘coming out’ was a socially-accepted form of expression.

        Pinkwashing was a term coined by a college professor at a university in NYC who had a history of anti-Israel rhetoric.

        You call it pinkwashing. I call it for what it is: Good old-fashioned anti-Semitism.

        • Criticizing Israel is not the same as anti-Semitism because Israel is not the same as the Jews. The Jews are an ethnic group who are found all over the world. Israel is a nation state in the Middle East which has a population consisting of Jews, Muslim and Christian Palestinians, etc. When people conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, they are not offering anything substantive to the argument. They just want to shut the whole discussion down. Well, guess what? You’ve succeeded. The discussion is shut down. It’s clear we cannot even agree to disagree.

          • That’s not entirely true. Sometimes, there is obsessive criticism of Israel to the point of demonizing or holding her to standards not applied to other countries. And sometimes, yes, criticism of Israel does indeed serve to mask anti-Semitism. When there are more resolutions at the UNHRC against Israel than all other countries combined (China, Syria, North Korea, Saudi Arabia included) something is askew. When there are calls to boycott Israel, while ignoring abuses elsewhere, it indeed smacks of more than meets the eye.

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