November 17, 2016 at 2:59 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay Tel Aviv councilman criticizes Israeli policy towards Palestinians

Mickey Gitzin, gay news, Washington Blade

Mickey Gitzin, a gay member of the Tel Aviv Municipal Council, speaks to a group of Americans in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Nov. 16, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

TEL AVIV, Israel — A gay member of the Tel Aviv Municipal Council on Wednesday said the Israeli government promotes LGBT rights in an attempt to divert attention away from its controversial policies towards the Palestinians.

“The answer is yes,” said Mickey Gitzin in response to a Washington Blade question about “pinkwashing” while at a Tel Aviv restaurant. “It’s definitely used sometimes.”

Gitzin made the comment after he ate dinner with more than two dozen people from the U.S. who traveled to Israel and the West Bank with A Wider Bridge, which describes itself as an “LGBTQ advocacy group building connections between the Israeli and North American LGBTQ communities.”

Gitzin spoke with the group nearly a year after more than 200 people opposed to “pinkwashing” protested A Wider Bridge reception at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change Conference in Chicago that was to have featured two staffers from Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, an Israeli LGBT advocacy group.

The protesters demanded the National LGBTQ Task Force publicly endorse a campaign in support of a boycott, economic divestment and sanctions against Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians and their right to return to property in the country, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that their families lost in the 1948 war that led to the creation of the Jewish state.

National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey noted the debate about the aforementioned issues during a post-Creating Change interview with the Blade at her D.C. office. She nevertheless stressed her organization “does not have a policy stance on the Israeli Palestinian conflict.”

Gitzin, who is a member of left-wing secular Meretz Party, which supports a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, acknowledged to the Blade that his country’s LGBT community has “gained a lot” of rights in recent years. He was also quick to criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party.

“We are a strong community, but there’s a lot of rights we still need,” he said. “I’m not sure that our government has the right to speak on our behalf. I don’t think that our government has the right to invest so much money in LGBT tourism while other LGBT issues are not funded enough and not supported enough.”

“The fact that we as LGBT people live in a safe way in Tel Aviv and other places does not give us the right to occupy other people,” added Gitzin.

Pinkwashing, gay news, Washington Blade

A sign against “pinkwashing” in a park in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Gitzin told the Blade that Israel’s LGBT rights record and the government’s policies towards the Palestinians are “not interconnected” issues.

“Those are two different things,” he said.

Gitzin told the Blade that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank “is wrong” and “a lot of the things going on in the Palestinian territories is (sic.) completely wrong.” He also criticized those who he feel have portrayed him and other Israeli LGBT rights advocates “only as an occupier.”

“I am more than that,” said Gitzin. “What I have done against occupation is more than what any European or American activist has ever done against it.”

“I deserve the right to live as Mickey Gitzin, an Israeli that fights for civil rights and human rights and other things,” he added. “I need to be respected as such.”

Gitzin received a round of applause after he finished answering the Blade’s question.

Editor’s note: Michael K. Lavers is currently in Israel with A Wider Bridge. He will be reporting from the country through Nov. 22.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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