Gays Debate 'Pinkwashing' as N.Y. Center Reverses Ban on Israel-Related Events

Pro-Israel Advocates Slam Theory as Critics Push Conference

Green Light: Sarah Schulman hopes she can now go forward with a talk about her book, which is critical of Israel, at the LGBT Center.
WIKICOMMONS/DAVID SHANKBONE/
Green Light: Sarah Schulman hopes she can now go forward with a talk about her book, which is critical of Israel, at the LGBT Center.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published February 20, 2013, issue of March 01, 2013.
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Yet some activists see increasing criticism of Israel in the gay community — and are cheering it on.

“I think that the fact that the LGBT community center in Manhattan reversed its position on this issue… and lifted the moratorium on discussions of Israel/Palestine will be seen in the coming years as a signal event,” said Pauline Park, a co-founder of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, the group that put in to host the Schulman event at the center.

At the center of these controversies is Schulman, who is a professor of English at CUNY’s College of Staten Island and a novelist. In November 2011, Schulman, who is Jewish, published a highly controversial op-ed in The New York Times that popularized the term pinkwashing.

“The Israeli government is cynically manipulating the hard-won gains of the LGBT movement in Israel to use them to whitewash or ‘pinkwash’ the occupation,” Schulman told the website Buzzfeed in the days before the center reversed its decision. “Queer people have not fought for so long to be used by a racist government to justify human rights violations.”

Schulman, through her writing and her new book, titled “Israel/Palestine and the Queer International,” aims to spread the pinkwashing argument. She planned to discuss her new book at the on-again, off-again reading at the center, a major New York City gay institution that is located in Manhattan’s West Village.

The center’s whiplash reversal came after two years in which the center had declared a moratorium on renting any space to groups addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The center announced the lifting of the moratorium at 4:50 p.m. on February 15, the Friday leading into a three-day weekend. The group had come under mounting pressure following a February 13 report in Gay City News that the center had declined to allow Schulman to discuss her new book.

In an emailed statement, the center announced that “the moratorium is no longer in effect.” A representative declined to offer comment beyond the statement, and did not respond to a request for comment made on February 19.


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