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Tel Aviv University
Radical Hypocrisy of the Radical Left: TAU Aeyal Gross's Pinkwashing

TAU Prof. Aeyal Gross
Email: agross@post.tau.ac.il
Editorial Note:

Professor Aeyal Gross (TAU,Law), who is considered the intellectual father of "pinkwashing," has returned to the subject in the context of the Israeli election. He charges that Israel's liberal policy toward gays is a ploy to hide its "sins" of occupation.  The broad array of civil and political rights that gays enjoy in Israel - which Gross himself lists, as well as the robust condemnations by assorted politicians of anti-gay sentiments - are all an elaborate plot to mask the violations of human rights against the Palestinians and others.  In other words, the welcome that gays receive is not part of Israeli and Jewish values; it is a cynical political maneuver and a hollow gesture unless the rights of the Palestinians and asylum seekers are not recognized.
 
For those who have difficulties in understating the convoluted thinking behind "pinkwashing," a short history lesson is in order.  Michel Foucault, the founding father of critical theory and the most revered name in its pantheon, was a homosexual with a taste for S&M sex, which he praised in his writings; he also visited gay baths in San Francisco where he contracted AIDS.  

Foucault was a great admirer of Ali Shariati, the Iranian philosopher and activist whose ideas inspired the Iranian revolution.  When Ruhallah Khomeini emerged as the face of the revolution, he wrote glowing tributes to the Ayatollah and the new political order in Iran.  Foucault was so keen to witness this "new spiritual awaking" that he visited Iran as a journalist where, much to his horror, he discovered that the new regime punished homosexuals by public hangings, a practice that continues to this day. 
 
Still, Foucault did not mention the Islamist treatment of homosexuals and other egregious violations of human rights in Iran, not to concede that Western societies, which he had vilified, may be more liberal and humane than his idealized "spiritual awaking" in Iran.
 
Foucault died of AIDS in 1984 but many of his disciples such as the critical philosopher Judith Butler, a lesbian activist and a harsh critic of Israel, perpetuates Foucault's unprecedented intellectual hypocrisy.  They defend gross violations of human rights and suppression of women in Muslim countries on the grounds that these are cultural artifacts which Westerners have no right to criticize.  When faced with a problem such as Israel's progressive treatment of gays, they resort to accusations of bad faith, hence "pinkwashing."  
 
Aeyal Gross has actually taken such intellectual hypocrisy a step further; in a 2011 exchange on an IAM posting he denied support for the "pinkwashing" theory (see below).  Such a stand, however, is hard to maintain in the Internet era as the following Haaretz article makes clear.




---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Aeyal Gross <agross@post.tau.ac.il>
Date: 2011/12/7
Subject: Re: [Social Science- IL]: בן דרור ימיני על ה"שתיקה הרועמת
To: social science <socsci-il@listserver.cc.huji.ac.il>


חחחחח מוניטור האקדמיה הישראלית לא משקר ולא מסלף עובדות? נו באמת. אני חושב שכולנו צריכים להביע בוז עמוק לארגון שמסלף ומעוות ועסוק בלהכריז ו"לחשוף" כל מעשה אקדמי ביקורתי ולהכריז עליו כ"אנטי ישראלי". ברשימה שהתפרסמה לאחרונה הם קבעו שאני "אביו" של מושג מסויים. הם צרפו רשימה שלי על המושג, תוך שהם מדגישים את הגדרתו, אך לא מדגישים את המשפט אחרי זה בו אני מסתייג כלל מהמושג. ויש עוד דוגמאות רבות. אני בעד שיח ענייני ומוכן לדון לגוף העניין על כל נושא ועמדה עם כל אחד/ת (כפי שיודעים קוראי הבלוג שלי או חברי בפייסבוק). אך לגופים מהסוג הזה צריך פשוט לבוז. מקרתיזים מהסוג הגרוע ביותר. אבל  יש גופים מסוכנים מהם, כאלו שיודעים לערוך טקסטים בצורה יותר טובה ולכתוב באנגלית יותר יפה ולעשות אתרים יותר יפים ואז לוקחים אותם כביכול יותר ברצינות, אך הם גרועים, ומקרתיסטים  באותה מידה.

אני משתדל להמנע מכל הדיון הזה ואין לי שום שיח ושיג עם נציגי הארגונים האלו, אחרי שבפעמים המעטות שניסיתי להעמיד אותם על תיקונם רק קיבלתי עוד עיוותים. 

אייל

===================


Haaretz


After a global tour, pinkwashing comes home
While LGBT rights have entered the Israeli mainstream, local LGBT activists should be wary of associating themselves with politicians who support the oppression of other groups.

By Aeyal Gross | Jan.11, 2013 | 2:07 PM |  


For the first time in an Israeli election, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues have become significant topics of discussion. When Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu candidate and former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's son Yair Shamir stirred up a storm with disparaging comments about same-sex marriage, other political parties used it to attack Shamir's own party. At the same time, Likud Minister Limor Livnat criticized the religious nationalist Habayit Hayehudi party for the homophobia of some of its Knesset candidates.

But all the while, the gay rights bills proposed by Meretz leader and MK Zahava Gal-On were bogged down by the opposition of the governing coalition. As MK Nino Abesadze (Kadima) said, "Just like the Foreign Ministry uses the gay community in order to promote Israel's image around the world but doesn't raise a finger to help it, so too the Likud uses its gay wing as a fig leaf, in an attempt to disguise the fact that it's a racist party."

Abesadze's comments must be taken in the context of the recent flowering of gay groups in Israeli political parties. Alongside the long-established gay groups in the left-wing Meretz and Hadash parties, gay groups have now been founded in the Labor Party, Kadima and Likud. The gay group Pride in the Likud has spoken about the warm reception it received, and the support given it by many Knesset members, even while the Likud's electoral list has a place for Moshe Feiglin, a man proud of his homophobia.

At first glance this appears like an LGBT victory. The LGBT community has joined the mainstream and LBGT issues are no longer considered the exclusive province of the left. Both right-wing and left-wing parties are competing for gay votes, and homophobic outbursts are considered cause to attack competing parties, even if your own party has  avowed homophobes. The positive consequences from this development may include   broader support for LGBT rights and significant progress in the struggle for equal rights.

But if this is a victory, it's a Pyrrhic one. What we are witnessing is the flip side of the mainstreaming of the LGBT community: appropriation. LGBT rights are being appropriate by right-wing parties in order to further their own image as being enlightened, just like they have been appropriated by the Foreign Ministry in order to promote Israel's image as being an enlightened country.

From this phenomenon we get the term "pinkwashing": Using gay rights as a fig leaf to hide the naked violation of human rights and the occupation. And pinkwashing doesn’t just occur in the arena of Israel's foreign relations. It's also present in domestic politics,    where it is used as a tool by illiberal politicians. With such a tool in hand, they feel enlighted, and can promote such an image abroad.

The turning point in this process was the August 2009 murder at a gay youth center in Tel Aviv. Until the murder, right-wing politicians hardly ever came out in support of the LGBT community. But the universal condemnation of the murder gave right-wing an opening to come out of the closet as LGBT supporters while continuing to support policies that infringe on other human rights. The result is a type of Israeli Fortuynism – a line of political thinking named for the gay Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, who was assassinated in 2002 and was both pro-LGBT rights and anti-immigrant, particularly against Muslim immigrants.

Thus, Pride in the Likud's recent meeting with MK Miri Regev and their excitement over her support of the gay community begs the question: What does the support of someone who calls African asylum-seekers a "cancer," someone who believes in the continued rejection of Palestinian basic rights, actually signify?

When Regev meets with gay community activists, she doesn't just legitimize them – they also legitimize her. Gay activists who play a part in this exchange need to ask themselves how they would feel if political activists openly embraced someone like MK Nissim Zeev (Shas), who said that homosexuals should be treated like avian flu. There is no real difference between Zeev and Regev's comments.
LGBT activism that supports the discrimination and oppression of other groups, rather than showing solidarity with them, contradicts the LGBT community's demand for solidarity from others. It's true that not all members of the LGBT community are cut from the same cloth, but there is a contradiction between liberal talk about LGBT rights and an illiberal and anti-democratic policy that denies rights to others.

Putting LGBT activism in a political framework that denies the rights of Palestinians, asylum seekers and others makes it hollow. It can only be accepted if one believes that LGBT rights take precedence over other human rights. Unlike the case with parties that fight for LGBT rights as part of a comprehensive philosophy of social equality, for parties that have just recently discovered the LGBT issue, these are empty promises. Even if these parties follow through on some of their promises, it will be in a "homo-nationalist" context that appropriates LGBT rights in order to continue trampling upon the rights of others.









 


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