Brandon Davis writes: In the last eight years, the Israeli government has sought to rebrand Israel as a “liberal haven” for gay rights in an otherwise-homophobic Middle East as a means of increasing tourism and international goodwill. Critics refer to the campaign as “pinkwashing,” an attempt to whitewash the Israeli occupation by focusing on gay and lesbian issues. Many of these critics are queer people themselves, and their movement against Israeli policies is building within the LGBT community. But recent pro-Israel initiatives hope to change that; rather than simply promoting Israeli gay images in the international sphere, these Israel advocates are actually attempting to sanitize LGBTQ spaces of pro-Palestinian activism entirely.
The most recent battleground is Toronto, where Councilman James Pasternak has proposed offering extra money to the Pride parade if the organizers prevent pro-Palestinian group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) from marching this June. Pasternak had previously attempted to withdraw funding from Pride altogether, claiming QuAIA’s use of the phrase “Israeli Apartheid” constituted hate speech; when that failed, he proposed granting what he calls a “diversity bonus” if Pride keeps QuAIA off the roster. Pasternak’s idea is simple: we straight people will only support you if you exclude any dissenting voices.
Unfortunately, this thinking isn’t limited to straight people, and many in the gay community — especially gay Jews — are also attempting to keep LGBT spaces clear of any pro-Palestinian sentiment. Two years ago, a small group of gay Jews successfully campaigned the New York Gay and Lesbian Center from allowing Siege Busters, another pro-Palestinian group, to hold an event, claiming the group’s politics made them feel “unsafe.” As they see it, Israel is a natural “ally” to the gay community — so what does that make pro-Palestinian gays? [Continue reading…]