November 13, 2015 at 10:30 am EST | by guest columnist
Pinkwashing at Town Danceboutique?
Town Danceboutique, gay news, Washington Blade, LGBT nightlife, bar guide

Town Danceboutique (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

By Dorgham Abusalim

On Saturday, Nov. 7, Town Danceboutique, D.C.’s destination gay dance club, featured an event called Tel Aviv Vibe with Israeli DJ Erez Ben Ishay and drag performer Osher Sebbag.

When I first heard about the event through Facbeook, I was excited at the prospect of going to celebrate global equality and human rights. It isn’t often that D.C.’s gay nightlife features international faces.

Besides good tunes and the lively atmosphere Town has to offer, I noticed something unusual. Step-up posters and a table of giveaways that promoted EL AL, Israel’s airline, bearing the words: “It’s not just an airline, it’s Israel.” As the night went on, I began to wonder, why EL AL? How is it related to the event?

After some digging, I learned that two officials of the Israeli embassy in Washington were present and promoted the event on social media: Sophie Felder, director of regional affairs, and colleague Zafrir Nesher-Kazaz.

It wasn’t surprising then that a question kept nagging at me: Did I partake in pinkwashing?

Pinkwashing: a portmanteau compound word of the words pink and whitewashing. In the context of LGBT rights, it is used to describe a variety of marketing and political strategies aimed at promoting a product or an entity through an appeal to queer-friendliness, primarily by political or social activists.

In the context of Israeli-Palestinian affairs, pinkwashing highlights Israel’s branding efforts abroad at a time human rights violations it commits against Palestinians are increasingly visible. The Tel Aviv Vibe campaign dates back to 2010, when Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, the Tel Aviv Tourism Board, and Agudah, an Israeli LGBT organization, set out to brand the city as the world’s gay capital.

Controversy surrounding LGBT issues in this context persist. For instance, as Philip Weiss, founder and co-editor of Mondoweiss, highlights in a 2014 article, Israel has repeatedly used knowledge of sexual orientation of Palestinians, among other private information, to blackmail them into becoming informants — that is to forcefully make them to take part in a violent conflict contrary to their well-being and beliefs.

The issue here is not only the use of sexual orientation as a tool of extortion, but also the assumption that one can paint Palestinian society with a single brush as unfriendly and homophobic, standing in stark contrast to Israel’s promoted tolerance. As with every society around the world, including Israel’s own outside the confines of the Tel Aviv bubble, human sexuality is always a hot-button issue, spanning a wide range of complex and diverse opinions. Such was the case in Palestine when the SCOTUS marriage equality decision was delivered according to Khaled Jarrar, a Palestinian artist whose “Through the Spectrum” rainbow mural on Israel’s illegally built wall in Palestine raised eyebrows.

Events like the Tel Aviv Vibe at Town suggest a lack of a much needed understanding of these dynamics, Palestinian LGBT issues and the role of Israeli branding efforts that maintain a false and misguided image of Palestinian society, especially at a time civil rights alliances are growing between Americans and Palestinians. Indeed, while Palestine is not free of homophobia, any effort to advance human rights and LGBT protections must begin with the recognition of Israel’s abuse of the difficult reality LGBT Palestinians face — being stuck between a rock (the occupation) and a hard place (a society that de-prioritizes sexual matters).

Dorgham Abusalim recently graduated with a master’s in International Affairs from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. He is originally from Palestine and writes frequently on Israeli-Palestinian affairs in English and Arabic.

  • Pinkwashing? Sure. Because who’s a bigger supporter of LGBT human rights than the Palestinian Authority and Hamas?

    And they never fail to denounce the lethal ‘pink washing’ of the ‘Islamic State’…

  • When do Palestinians let alone any Islamic state recognize the rights of GLBT people? You can call it what you want but when a nation actively goes out of their way to be welcoming at a gay venue we should be grateful and embrace the few allies we may have in the world. Instead, you want to slap the hand extended in friendship!

    They aren’t executing, imprisoning or denying pride parades in Israel are they? They certainly are pretty everywhere else in the Middle East, one way or the other!

    Get off your damn high horse! When the Palestinians fight for our rights and welcome us then you can make an argument. Now you’re only blow wind out your rear!

    Why don’t you go into the Palestinian Territories and declare yourself gay and proud waving a rainbow flag, bring your boyfriend, hold hands and kiss on the mouth and see what happens!

  • “Dorgham Abusalim recently graduated with a master’s in International Affairs from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. He is originally from Palestine and writes frequently on Israeli-Palestinian affairs in English and Arabic.”

    Yeah this author is totally not biased, with his Mondoweiss quotes and complete underselling of LGBT issues “while Palestine is not free of homophobia…” Sorry, we are not buying what you are selling. You went to this party with an agenda, and it is obvious.

  • The Jihadist attacks in Paris were against dancing and drinking…don’t get me started on what Jihadists will do to gay dance clubs.

    • Point taken.

      But it’s also imperative to remind ourselves that LGBTQs and straights, Christians, Jews, Muslims — plus believers and non-believers of all stripes were slaughtered in Paris.

      And terrorism can return to DC, too.

      At a time when more easy-to-accomplish mass killings by terrorists in Paris, London, DC and other world capitals is a distinct possibility, DC’s corrupt mayors and successive Council’s have failed to increase DC’s police strength by 500 cops to match DC’s 14% population increase over the past 10 years.

      And much of that DC population explosion was among mainly 20-to-30-somethings– usually out and about on weekend nights. Then consider all those new eateries and retail businesses in DC… plus in-town ball games and concerts.

      In comparison to the risk for public safety in Paris, does any of this ring a bell for DC’s leaders responsible for public safety of residents, visitors and businesses– i.e., Bowser, Mendelson and McDuffie?

      For years, mayors and Councils have claimed DC can’t afford more cops. But 500 more cops would cost us $75 million– a pittance out of a DC budget of **$13 BILLION**.

      So why are they lying to us? And why are they being so reckless with DC’s public safety?

      An explosive murder rate, armed robberies and assaults are the result of such DC government negligence.

      But if something like the terrorist slaughter and fear Paris is enduring this weekend comes *AGAIN* to DC, we’ll know who, *in part*, to blame.

  • Promotion of Rainbow Gender Dysfunction is a tactic suggested in the Protocols.

    “Solzhenitsyn said it exhibits “great strength of thought and insight…Its design…
    (increasing freedom and liberalism, which is terminated in social cataclysm)…is
    well above the abilities of an ordinary mind…It is more complicated than a nuclear bomb.”

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