Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Back to Opinion

Is ‘Pinkwashing’ Possible After Gay Pride Stabbings?

Can a country that has seen such visible and brutal attacks on its LGBTQ population truly market itself as a “safe” and “exciting” destination for queer co-ethnics and tourists alike? This question is rolling around in my mind after recent events in Israel.

Like many, I reacted with a mix of horror, terror, and sadness to the stabbings at the Jerusalem Pride Parade and the subsequent death of the teenager Shira Banki two days later. Horror, at the loss of a young life and threat to my fellow queer brethren. Terror, because it was a reminder that we as LGBTQ people are still not physically safe in the age of “Born This Way” and gay sex on TV. And sadness, at the situation in its entirety, and the that have propelled an event like this to take place in Israel.

Shira Banki Image by Facebook

Which brings me back to the original question. Given this event — and other “facts on the ground” — can Israel really call itself LGBTQ-friendly? Or is “pinkwashing” now impossible? “Pinkwashing,” recall, is critics’ term for Israel’s alleged use of its LGBTQ rights record or cultural scene to whitewash other less impressive things — normally the occupation, but here I use it in the context of “homophobia in Israel in 2015.”

The straightforward answer would be “no.” How can a country that released Yishai Schlissel, who attacked the Pride Parade in 2005, three weeks before this year’s event be fully protective of its LGBTQ citizens? A country in which a branch of the media, in covering the attack, called the parade the “abomination parade”? A country in which homophobia is regularly present even in the “liberal,” “tolerant,” “enlightened” sections of society? A country in which the sight of two men holding hands draws slurs shortly after the stabbing attack, as Ynet’s recent hidden camera video shows?

Homophobia in Jerusalem

WATCH: What happens when a gay couple walks down a Jerusalem street?http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4689016,00.html

Posted by Ynetnews on Sunday, August 9, 2015

I find, however, that the straightforward answer does not reveal enough: “Pinkwashing” was already masking a lot. Hasbara often compares Israel favorably to neighboring Arab states, but in terms of rights and the actual well-being and position of LGBTQ citizens, Israel lags far behind other Western countries. As I wrote in the Forward last month, many Diaspora Jews now see far more progress and protection in a still-imperfect United States than they do in Israel. What’s more, this is not the first major public murder at a queer event in Israel: remember the 2009 attack at Tel Aviv’s Barnoar LGBT center? If this recent tragedy in Jerusalem were to be dismissed with pictures of Tel Aviv’s raucous gay scene, it would fall into a larger pattern of pinkwashing over Israeli homophobia.

Image by Getty Images

Israel would not be the only country to paper over anti-queer violence. Let us not forget the continued murders of trans* women of color in the United States, even as President Obama goes to African countries to advocate for gay rights. Let us not forget that even the “queer-friendly” (and pinkwashed) Netherlands has seen an increase in anti-queer violence, for which Muslim immigrants are often simplistically blamed. Just as no number of videos can undo remaining homophobia in the Netherlands, Israel cannot unwrite homophobia with clever marketing alone. If anything, it would be especially galling to do so after last week’s attacks.

“Pinkwashing” will certainly be more difficult going forward, and many LGBTQ Jews in the Diaspora will join the others who do not see Israel as a place that is fully accepting of its queer citizens. I, however, do not think that those who busy themselves with unnuanced hasbara will cease in their efforts to do so through a rainbow lens. But the question of whether such an effort succeeds must be answered in a fundamentally different way after last week’s tragedy.

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.