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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sarah Schulman, "Israel and 'Pinkwashing'": She Knows a Helluva Lot About Lesbianism but Little About Israel

Sarah Schulman, a professor of humanities at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York, who has written numerous novels and works of non-fiction concerning the gay communities in the US, has written a New York Times contributor op-ed entitled "Israel and 'Pinkwashing'" ( The theme of Schulman's opinion piece as described by the Times:

"Israel is promoting its gay rights advances internationally to make it seem modern, veiling its violations of Palestinians’ human rights."

Sculman tells us of "a nefarious phenomenon: the co-opting of white gay people by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political forces in Western Europe and Israel." A "nefarious phenomenon"? Given the title of Schulman's op-ed, I would have expected more details in her op-ed concerning Israel's violation of Palestinians' human rights, but try as I might, I could barely find them.

Schulman complains of Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank, but fails to observe that during Netanyahu's current term as prime minister, their number has been reduced over the past three years from 41 to 15, through which traffic flows freely.

Schulman speaks of "The growing global gay movement against the Israeli occupation," but nowhere mentions that Gaza was entirely evacuated by Israel, leading to more than 10,000 missiles, rockets and mortar shells being fired from Gaza at civilian targets in southern Israel. Needless to say, no mention of this "nefarious phenomenon" by Schulman.

Also, on the subject of "occupation," Schulman makes no mention of the offers by Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert to evacuate the West Bank with land swaps, and, in the instance of Olmert, with sharing of the holy sites in Jerusalem, which were refused by Arafat and later by Abbas.

Schulman writes:

"Pinkwashing not only manipulates the hard-won gains of Israel’s gay community, but it also ignores the existence of Palestinian gay-rights organizations. Homosexuality has been decriminalized in the West Bank since the 1950s, when anti-sodomy laws imposed under British colonial influence were removed from the Jordanian penal code, which Palestinians follow."

Fascinating. However, Schulman apparently does not understand that although homosexuality may have been decriminalized under the Jordanian penal code, this does not mean that gays are safe in either the West Bank or Gaza. As stated by Kathleen Peratis in an article entitled "For Gay Palestinians, Tel Aviv Is Mecca" (, which is still highly relevant:

"Arab human rights organizations sometimes advocate for gay rights, but they do so sotto voce. In fact, the only country in the Middle East in which gay people may safely leave the closet is Israel. Which is why, for gay Palestinians, Tel Aviv is Mecca.

Gay Palestinian men flee to Israel because they are not safe in the West Bank and Gaza. They also have no place else to go.

'Israel is close and far at the same time,' says Haneen Maikey, a gay rights activist with Jerusalem Open House, one of the principal gay rights organizations in Israel. If the sexuality of a gay man in Palestine is exposed, his family might torture or kill him and the police will turn a blind eye."

Stranger still, Schulman entirely avoids the issue of "honor killings" directed against Palestinian women (see:

Moreover, Schulman doesn't even attempt to distinguish among the situations existing for gay Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel.

My advice to Schulman, who I'm certain is an expert concerning matters pertaining to the gay communities in the US, but obviously has limited information concerning Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, is that she should stick to writing about things that she knows. Quite honestly, I'm a bit surprised that even Andy Rosenthal and friends would publish Schulman's highly politicized twaddle, but I suppose it's just another sign of the Times.


  1. Yeah, I am glad that I came to my senses and stopped paying for the subscription after two months.
    I am also glad that the Nation (another charming place) didn't get a penny from me.
    Listening to Katrina's bubbling about "them," "1%" and "the establishment" (she is not - sure) was more that my delicate and sensitive stomach could tolerate.

  2. Shulman's point is that it would advance the Palestinians cause if Israel discriminated against gays. Geez.

  3. Wow, those scheming "nefarious" Zionists, willing to be nice to gays, so they can be nasty to Palestinians! This is even more insidious than "The Protocols of Zion"! Thanks, Sarah, for awakening us to this latest Jewish plot!

  4. Ridiculous. For one thing, you've quoted the Forward article by Peratis out of context. Yes, she calls Israel a "gay Mecca" though at the same time she discusses the fact that Israel specifically does NOT grant asylum to gay Palestinians. Further, the quote from Haneen Maikey says "If the sexuality of a gay man in Palestine is exposed, his family might torture or kill him and the police will turn a blind eye," but what you fail to acknowledge is that it is sometimes Israel's police forces itself that exposes someone's sexuality as a way of coercing them into becoming collaborators with the occupation forces. (The fact that the general population becomes aware of this of course only exacerbates the situation for gay acceptance among Palestinians).

    Most importantly, who should we listen to when it comes these questions? Should we trust that Israel's PR forces has the best interests of LGBT Palestinians at heart? Or should we actually listen to LGBT Palestinians themselves?

    The fact that you quote Maikey here is an example of how ludicrous Israel's PR on this issue has become. You include Maikey as an expert on the question (because she is a gay Palestinian woman) but you conveniently ignore the fact that she is friends with Sarah Schulman, she has stated publicly over and over again that Israel's pinkwashing is real and it is bogus and it complicates the struggle for gay rights in Palestine.

    How hypocritical!

  5. Toronto Girl, you're spouting rubbish. One of the major talking points of Schulman's opinion piece is that gay rights in the Palestinian Authority are protected by law. You are acknowledging that this is indeed not the case.

    Why would Israel need to provide asylum to gay Palestinian men if they enjoyed freedom and equality in the Palestinian Authority, as Schulman would have us believe?

    Moreover, when did Israel's so-called "PR forces" ever say that it "has the best interests of LGBT Palestinians at heart"? What is your source for this nonsense? Suddenly Israel is also responsible for the LGBT community in Gaza and the West Bank, which, according to Schulman, is protected by Palestinian law?

    You say "Israel's pinkwashing is real and it is bogus"? Sorry, is it "real" or is it "bogus"?

    I guess you would have us believe that the rights enjoyed by the gay community in Israel are all just part of another Israeli plot . . .

  6. See: David Harris in The Jerusalem Post, "“Israel and ‘Pinkwashing’”: What was the New York Times thinking?" (

  7. See also:

    James Kirchick writes:

    "Introducing the term “pinkwashing” into the mainstream debate about the Arab-Israeli conflict is edifying in at least one respect: It lays bare the delusion, paranoia, and cynicism of the Jewish state’s most earnest detractors. In their minds, any positive statement made about the country is necessarily part of a propaganda campaign in the service of a far-right agenda. For an increasingly large swath of the international left, there really is no good Israel can do, short of disappear."