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A Documentary Guide to Pinkwashing

A Documentary Guide to Pinkwashing
Sarah Schulman

On Wednesday, November 23, 2011 I published an op-ed in the NY Times,(Israel and ‘Pinkwashing’). This 900 word piece attempted to contextualize Pinkwashing. Here is a more detailed documentary history of Brand Israel, Israel’s campaign to re-brand itself in the minds of the world, as well as the development of pinkwashing as a funded, explicit and deliberate marketing project within Brand Israel.


According to the Jewish Daily Forward, in 2005 The Israeli Foreign Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry concluded three years of consultation with American marketing executives and launched “Brand Israel,” a campaign to “re-brand” the country’s image to appear “relevant and modern” instead of militaristic and religious.

“Americans don’t see Israel as being like the US,” explained David Sable, CEA and vice president of Wunderman, a division of Young and Rubicam that conducted extensive and costly branding research for Israel at no charge. His conclusion was that while Israel, as a brand, is strong in America, it is “better known than liked, and constrained by lack of relevance.” Sable elaborated, Americans “find Israel to be totally irrelevant to their lives and they are tuning out…particularly 18-34 year old males, the most significant target.” Brand Israel intended to change this by selecting aspects of Israeli society to highlight and bringing Americans directly to them. They started off with a free trip for architectural writers, and then another for food and wine writers. The goal of these “and numerous other efforts” was to convey an image of Israel “as a productive, vibrant and cutting-edge culture.”

In July 2005, The Brand Israel Group (BIG) presented their findings to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.


In 2006, they conducted a study of Israelis’ own perceptions.


In 2007, The Foreign Ministry organized a Brand Israel Conference in Tel Aviv, which marked the official adaptation of the campaign. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, appointed Ido Aharoni to head Israel’s first brand management office and awarded him a 4 million dollar budget, in addition to the already established 3 million in annual spending on Hasbara ( Hebrew for “explanation” or propaganda) and 11 million for the Israeli Tourism Ministry in North America.

In 2007 Israel began its wooing of young males by first niche marketing to heterosexual men.  David Saranga, of the Consulate General of Israel initiated a project with Maxim Magazine, a photo shoot entitled “Women of the Israeli Defense Forces” which shows model-like Israeli women who had served in the army, in swimsuits. Saranga said,

“Approaching Maxim allowed us to gear our message to the younger generation, especially males, and towards a demographic that did not see Israel as relevant or identify particularly with Israel.”

Follow up study revealed that Maxim’s readers’ perceptions of Israel had improved as a result of the piece. Saranga was pleased but knew he had a lot of work ahead of him.

“Rebranding a country can take 20 years or more. It involves more than just generating more positive stories about Israel. The process has to be internalized and integrated, too. Israelis must share in and believe in what we promote.”

In 2007, The Electronic Intifada reported that Saatchi and Saatchi was also working for Israel, free of charge. David Saranga told PR Week that the two groups Israel was targeting were “liberals,” and people aged 16 to 30. Gideon Meir of Israel’s Foreign Ministry told Haaretz that he would “rather have a Style section item on Israel than a front page story.”


In 2008 Aharoni’s office hired TNS, a market research firm, to test new brand concepts for Israel in 13 different countries.  They also funded a pilot program called “Israel: Innovation for Life” in Toronto. Aharoni predicted

“The execution of a program that will support the brand identity. This might include initiating press missions to Israel, or missions of community influentials; it could include organizing film festivals, or food and wine festivals featuring Israel-made products.”

This of course resulted in the “Spotlight Tel Aviv” program at the Toronto International Film Festival that caught the attention of John Greyson and Naomi Klein.

In 2008, PACBI published a sample contract that Israeli artists signed with their government when the artist was “invited” to an international event, the kind of “invitation” that every Israeli artists craves and must have in order to establish a broad reputation.

The contract text reveals, interestingly, that this is not an “invitation” at all, but rather that it is the Israeli government that is inviting itself to international events. The artist is paid with a plane ticket, shipping fees, hotel and expenses by his/her own government. The contract does not assume any funding from the “host” country.  In return, the template states

“The service provider is aware that the purpose of ordering services from him is to promote the policy interests of the state of Israel via culture and art including contributing to creating a positive image for Israel.”


“The service provider will not present himself as an agent, emissary and/or representative of the Ministry.”


The challenge facing Brand Israel was huge. In the 2009 EastWest Global Nation Brand Perception Index, Israel was 192 out of 200, behind North Korea, Cuba and Yemen and just before Sudan.

That year the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association announced an October Conference in Tel Aviv with the goal of promoting Israel as a “world gay destination.”  Helem, a Lebanese LGBTQ organization, responded with a call for a Boycott.

“For some time now, Israeli officials and organizations such as the Aguda, who are cooperating closely with IGLTA, have been promoting LGBT tourism to Israel through false representations of visiting Tel Aviv as not taking sides, or as being on the “LGBT” side, as if LGBT lives were the only ones that mattered. It is implied that it’s okay to visit Israel as long as you “believe in peace,” as if what is taking place in Palestine/Israel is merely a conflict between equals, rather than an oppressive power relationship. Consistent with globalization’s tendency to distance the “final product” from the moral implications of the manufacturing process, LGBT tourists are encouraged to forget about politics and just have fun in a so-called gay-friendly city…

Even more importantly, Tel-Aviv’s flashy coffee shops and shopping malls, in contrast with the nearby deprived Palestinian villages and towns, serve as evidence that the Israeli society, just as the Israeli state itself, has built walls, blockades and systems of racist segregations to hide from the Palestinians it oppresses. The intersection of physical and societal separations and barriers have justly earned the term apartheid, referring to an historically parallel racist regime in South Africa against the indigenous Black population of that country. Leisure tourism to apartheid Israel supports this regime. It is not neutral, and it certainly is not a step toward real peace, which can only be based on justice.”

The four-hour symposium took place despite opposition. In their newsletter the Travel Association acknowledged and dismissed the protest. Using Palestinians, from the beginning to whitewash Israeli violations of their rights.

“It has been fascinating to us that Tel Aviv has an Arab community living in peace here with the Jewish community,” said IGLTA President/CEO John Tanzella, who spoke about the 1,400-member association. “We are meeting gay business professionals from all religions and backgrounds within the Middle East.”

Protests at the event focused on Israeli occupation of Gaza. “They were using our gathering as a means to make their concerns public with all the radio and TV that came to meet us,” Tanzella said. “We certainly welcome freedom of speech, but it should be noted that our focus is to support LGBT businesses around the world, wherever they might be located.

That same year, the Zionist organization Stand With Us told The Jerusalem Post, that they were undertaking a campaign “to improve Israel’s image through the gay community in Israel.”

The Foreign Ministry told Ynet that they would be sponsoring a Gay Olympics delegation “to help show to the world Israel’s liberal and diverse face.”


The January Conference of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, The Lauder School of Government Diplomacy and Strategy and the Institute for Policy and Strategy brought together representatives of the Foreign Affairs Minstry, Haifa University,  The Prime Minister’s Office, Reut Institute,  and private communications companies to discuss : WINNING THE BATTLE OF THE NARRATIVE, reaffirming the need for re-branding.

The Conference had some very interesting findings:

– That many criticisms of will stop when policy towards Palestinians is changed.

– Israel correlates with the terms “daring and independent” but not “fun and creative.

– 50% of people in western countries are disengaged and do not have an opinion on Israel, and can therefore be won over by marketing.

– “Narratives of victimhood and survival adapted by Israel over the years are no longer relevant for its diplomatic efforts and dialogue with the West. Nowadays Israel’s opponents capitalize on using the same narratives to achieve and mobilize support.”

– “People respond well when addressed in a familiar language that uses well-known terms and are susceptible to simple, repetitive, consistent messages.”

– “In order to succeed online, one has to detach one’s self from strictly official messages and to develop an online personality.”

By 2010, the Israeli Globe reported that The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had allocated 100 million Shekel (over $26,260,000) to branding.

“The Globe found that the activity will focus on the internet, especially on social networks.  This is following research performed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which it found that surfers will show sympathy and identity with content that interests them, regardless of the identity of the political affiliation of the publisher.”

Also in 2010, Scott Piro, a gay Jewish Public Relations/Social Media professional, announced in a press release on his letterhead that Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, The Tel Aviv Tourism Board and Israel’s largest LGBT organization, The Agudah, were joining together to launch TEL AVIV GAY VIBE, an online tourism campaign to promote Tel Aviv as a travel destination for European LGBTS.

“Campaign Branding Tel Aviv Gay Destination Underway”
July 21, 2010
By Danny Sadeh

With an investment of NIS 340 million (about $88.1 million), an International marketing campaign is being launched to brand Tel Aviv as an international gay vacation destination. The campaign will be run in England and Germany, two locations with considerable gay and lesbian Communities.

The campaign will include ads on gay community websites and magazines and will display everything the city has to offer by way of gay tourism.

Designated Facebook and Twitter pages will be created to support the effort and promote Tel Aviv as a new gay capital.

A new website has also been built, Gay Tel Aviv. It starts off like with with a sentence encapsulating the very essence of the campaign: “Rising from the golden shores of the Mediterranean, stands one of the most intriguing and exciting  new gay capitals of the world.”

The decision to brand Tel Aviv as an international gay destination was supported by an international study conducted by Outnow, a leading company for Consulting, branding and marketing to the gay community. The company was responsible for branding Berlin as the gay capital of Europe, a move that significantly increased tourism to the city.

Etti Gargir, director of the VisitTLV organization, said that the Tourism Ministry and Tel Aviv Municipality invested NIS 170 million (about $44 million) each in the project.

“The increased discount flight capacity from England and Germany increases the capability of Tel Aviv to compete with other cities in Europe. This is in addition to the Outnow study that found Tel Aviv to be an attractive city to those who like culture, restaurants, nightlife and shopping.

“The study also showed that the city is good for any budget. In other words, there is a range of entertainment and accommodation options at prices that anyone can afford,” said Gargir.

About a month ago, Tel Aviv Municipality submitted an official application to host the International Gay Pride Parade in 2012.

The Tourism Ministry reported that it supports targeted marketing campaigns likely to increase tourism to Israel.

The article was appended with the following comments from readers (verbatim):

  1. Surely nothing to be proud of. Shameful
  2. Haredim!!!!
  3. Gay avek also cute slogan  (Yiddish for go away)
  4. Thanks for warning now I know not
  5. Yes by all means bring hordes of aids
  6. Inviting destruction full speed


By 2010, “Pinkwashing” was already in general use by Queer anti-Occupation activists. The phrase was coined in 1985 by Breast Cancer Action to identify companies that claimed to support women with breast cancer while actually profiting from their illness.  In April, 2010 QUIT  (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism) in the Bay Area, used the phrase “Pinkwashing” as a twist on “Greenwashing” where companies claim to be eco-friendly in order to make profit.  Dunya Alwan attributes the term to Ali Abunimah, editor of Electronic Intifada at a meeting in 2010 saying “We won’t put up with Israel Whitewashing, Greenwashing or Pinkwashing.”

In April 2010, Brand Israel launched Israeli Pride Month in San Francisco. Not a grassroots expression by Israeli queers living in San Francisco, but an event instigated, funded and administered by the Israeli government.  QUIT – an actual queer organization- used “Pinkwashing” in their campaign to counter the cynical use by the Israeli government, through its “Brand Israel” re-marketing project to use the presence of LGBT society in Israel as “proof” of its commitment to human rights.


By March 2011, Ynet reported that for the first time, The Israeli stand at the International Tourism Fair in Berlin, encourages gay tourists to visit Tel Aviv.  According to Tel Aviv Council Member Yaniv Weizman, $94 million of Israeli government money was invested in 2010 in promoting gay tourism to Tel Aviv. The money came from the Tel Aviv Municipality and Tourism Ministry. According to Weizman,

“The gay tourist likes urban vacations, he forms attachments with the community in the cities he visits, enjoys partying and usually returns to places he had a good time in. This is established tourism which draws in young tourism and sets trends which other sectors of the population adopt.”

The Tel Aviv Tourist Association filed a formal request with the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association to host World Pride in 2012.

In July, The Anti-Defamation League hosted StandWithUS’s Yossi Herzog  speaking on gay rights in Israel and gay presence in the Israeli Defense Force.

In August, the Jerusalem Post reported that :

The Foreign Ministry is promoting Gay Israel as part of its campaigns to break apart negative stereotypes many liberal Americans and Europeans have of Israel. The initiative flies in the face of the swelling protests set against Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade set for November 10. But even as its organizers are receiving anonymous threats of holy war against them, gay activist Michael Hamel is traveling in Europe and North America working on publicizing Gay Israel. A portion of his work, he told the Jerusalem Post by phone as he sat drinking coffee in a California airport, has the support of the Foreign Ministry. “We are working very closely with them,” said Hamel, who heads the AGUDAH, Israel’s LGBT organization…

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Foreign Ministry official told the Jerusalem Post this week that efforts to let European and American liberals know about the gay community in Israel were an important part of its work to highlight this country’s support of human rights and to underscore its diversity in a population that tends to judge Israel harshly, solely on its treatment of Palestinians. Still, it is a topic that is so touchy he did not want his name used. But David Saranga, who works in the New York consulate, was more open about the need to promote Gay Israel as part of showing liberal America that Israel is more than the place where Jesus once walked. The gay culture is an entryway to the liberal culture, he said, because in New York it is that culture that is creating “a buzz.” Israel needs to show this community that it is relevant to them by promoting gay tourism, gay artists and films. Showing young, liberal Americans that Israel also has a gay culture goes a long (way) towards informing them that Israel is a place that respects human rights, as well, said Saranga.

In Sum

Pinkwashing is the cynical use of queer people’s hard-won gains by the Israeli government in an attempt to re-brand themselves as progressive, while continuing to violate international law and the human rights of Palestinians.

1. Is Israel pro-Gay? LGBT people are included in obligatory military service in Israel. To the American eye, this could look “progressive.”  The state supports events like the Tel Aviv LGBT Film Festival. There are enclaves of Tel Aviv where being out in your complete and daily life is possible, and some people are able to do this.  However, overall, Israel is a profoundly homophobic society. The dominance of religious fundamentalists, the sexism and the proximity to family and family oppression makes like very difficult for most people on the LGBT spectrum in Israel.

According to Aeyal Gross, Professor of Law at Tel-Aviv University, “Gay rights have essentially become a public-relations tool” while “conservative and especially religious politicians remain fiercely homophobic.”

2. How Homophobic is Palestine? The Occupied Palestinian Territories are  homophobic, sexist arenas. The goal of Pinkwashing is to justify Israel’s policies of Occupation and Separation by promoting the image of a lone oasis of progress surrounded by violent, homophobic Arabs- thereby denying the existence of a Queer Palestinian movements, or of secular, feminist, intellectual and queer Palestinians. By ignoring the multi-dimensionality of Palestinian society, The Israeli government is trying to claim racial supremacy that in their minds justifies the Occupation.  Yet, nothing justifies the occupation.   “While Palestinians in Israel, Jerusalem, and the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza constitute one community,” says Haneen Maikay, director of alQaws: For Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society.  “Our different legal statuses and the different realities of each of these locations – including, for example, restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza – severely constrain our ability to meet as a community.”

Why Queers Are Susceptible to Pink Washing

What makes LGBT people and their allies so susceptible to Homonationalism and Pinkwashing is the emotional legacy of homophobia. The vast majority of Queers have had profound oppression experiences, often in the searing realm of Family, reflected by the lack of legal rights, and reinforced by distorted representations in Arts and Entertainment. The relative civil equality of white gays in The Netherlands and Germany has only been achieved within a generation, and still does not erase the pain of familial and cultural exclusion. As a consequence, many people have come to mistakenly assess how advanced a country is by how it responds to homosexuality. Yet, in a selective democracy like Israel, the inclusion of LGBT Jews in the military, or the relative openness of Tel Aviv are not accurate measures of broad human rights. By deliberately Pinkwashing, the Israeli government ends up exploiting both the Israeli and Palestinian LGBT communities to cynically claim broad personal freedom that the on-going Occupation insistently belies.


  1. Salt

    How dare those Israelis show their support for gay rights to make us think they support gay rights. Well we’re not fooled!

    • JJ

      It looks like you are fooled.

  2. Chris

    ‘Pinkwashing’ Deconstructed

    Get Pinkwashed! “Palestinian Queer Parties” are held in – Tel Aviv!

    • JJ

      Sounds like a fun party.

  3. Queers may be susceptible to pinkwashing for the reasons stated, but it’s important to see the weaknesses to. Christian Zionist support for Israel is also completely aligned with politics that are traditionally very hostile to queer, trans and female people. Just review the list of people mentioned in the linked post:

    Porter Brings Religious Right Leaders, Dominionists And Prophets Together For Israel (May 18, 2011)

    So if we’re talking about what’s good for queers, we should consider how support for Israel empowers and legitimizes anti-queer and other harmful agendas in the United States.

    Of course, not all support for Israel in the United States comes from these sources.

  4. Moed

    This is totally off. It’s like saying Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed to legitimize the wars abroad- one has nothing to do with the other! I find this article both insulting to Gays & Israelis. Its simple: Israel is a modern and, yes imperfect country. period. Of note-homosexuality is unfortunately completely against the law in Gaza. I wish that would change as much as I wish that Israel would reach a peaceful place with the Palestinians. Again, the two are SEPARATE issues

    • Nine

      Did you miss the bit* about branding and propaganda? That’s why they’re not separate issues.

      * By ‘bit’, I mean the main focus of the article.

  5. Disgusted w/Outlandish Allegations

    Israel is a sanctuary to the LGBT community + Israel’s laws guarantee equal rights for gay and lesbians. Israelis have: LGBT organizations + community centers; gay pride parades; gay members of parliament; gay soldiers who serve openly in the military are protected by the law; and TV programs with LGBT themes. Many gay + lesbian Palestinians seek – and often find – refuge in Israel after suffering beatings, imprisonment, and almost certain death at the hands of their families and the Palestinian Authority Police. In Israel, gay rights aren’t just a dream they’re the law + Israel has a proven track record of supporting more gay rights than most other countries, including the U.S. For the other side of these outlandish allegations, also read:

  6. Kifah al Mithli

    It is a funny thing: only a Zionist seems to “know” what Palestinians are, what they want, etc. I am Palestinian and these are some points for those that are wondering where that voice is in this non-debate.

    1) Pinkwashing is not about showing that Zionists can be “pro gay rights”; it is about making it possible for gay people to be Zionists – that is to feel comfortable in the presence of with a kind of vulgar racial/ethnic/religious chauvinism that is anachronistic and fundamentally anti-queer.

    2) Tel Aviv, built on Yaffa, is a part of Palestine. Having parties there is no contradiction because guess what? Palestinians don’t acknowledge “Israel” anymore than Native people whose behold a country club created on top of a burial mound acknowledge that golf course.

    3) There has not been ONE successful case of a Palestinian getting asylum in Israel. NOT ONE. The existence of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, small concession made to the folks that stuck it out & stayed, in spite of the massacres taking place around them, and fought for this for quite some time, is a testament to Israel’s intransigence regarding this basic tenet of international law. It is small because full citizenship (opening bank accounts, being eligible for all jobs, the right to marry in the state) are only guaranteed through army service; most Palestinians do not feel comfortable dropping bombs on distant relatives. Not that this matters much to Israel, which periodically subjects Palestinians with Israeli citizenship to unlawful detention, Shabak interrogation, and also kills them (see Land Day, April 30) for participating in peaceful protests. If that is citizenship, can you see why asylum for a Palestinian would be impossible? Palestinians are also the only people in the world not fully covered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (neither full “citizens,” nor “refugees” nor officially “indigenous”); it is quite an irony given that this – along with Israel’s Jewish chauvinist ethnocratic legal system – came in the aftermath of the Holocaust. This is one of the reasons UNWRA, and not the United Nations High Commission of Refugees, was created to address the refugee crisis that began in 1939 with initial intrusions into Palestinian lands, theft of water resources, etc.

    4) Pinkwashing is homophobic and is premised on this notion that gay people, in spite of the oppression they have faced, are ultimately as one issue as straight white men and are happy to toss away decades of struggle for a trip to the beach with Islamophobic porn stars. Some, naturally, do. Every community has its sell-outs. But it took several hundred million dollars to convince more than this tiny minority to even consider coming to Israel. Something to think about, indeed.

    • JJ

      1. There is NOTHINH inherently racist or chavunistic about Zionism – the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their homeland. It is not to say that there are not racist or chavunistic Jews.

      2. Tel Aviv was built NEXT to Yafo..and Yafo is still there. Both Tel Aviv and Jaffa are part of Israel and Palestine. The word ‘Palestine’ only was assigned to Arabs who live in Palestine after Israel received independance. “Palestinian” was often a term ascribed to Jews including those who immigrated. Take a look at publications from the 1920s and 1930s and you will see. Arab residents were often referred to as “Arabs” as well as “Palestinians.”

      3. There have been cases of gay Palestinians who were granted residency in Israel.

      4. Both Jews and Arabs who break the law, or are suspected of breaking the law, have been interogated by the Shabak.

      5. While some “Land Day” protests are peaceful, others are VIOLENT.

      6. $100M has not been spent to promote LGBT tourism to Israel. Only a small percent of the tourism and public relations budget is aimed to the LGBT community. A few advertisements, publications, flyers and some people power does not cost millions. The UK spends a lot of money on LGBT tourism, and I would believe probably more (since I tend gto see a lot more UK LGBT publicity, then publicity from Israel. LGBT persons are not paid to go to Israel. They pay for their holdiays as does any other tourist.

      4. Army service has nothing to do with having a bank account. If that were the case, there would be no banks in Nazarath or Bnai Brak (a town with a large ultra-orthodox community, whose members also do not serve in the Army).

      5. Some Palestinians do serve in the Israeli army – the Druze, some Bedoins and others. Israeli Palestinians are not bared from either Army service or National Service (an alternative for religous Jews who can’t serve in the Army).

      So, get your facts right (I would say get your facts straight, but I do not want to imply the pun).

      Best regards

    • JJ

      1. There is NOTHINH inherently racist or chavunistic about Zionism – the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their homeland. It is not to say that there are not racist or chavunistic Jews.

      2. Tel Aviv was built NEXT to Yafo..and Yafo is still there. Both Tel Aviv and Jaffa are part of Israel and Palestine. The word ‘Palestine’ only was assigned to Arabs who live in Palestine after Israel received independance. “Palestinian” was often a term ascribed to Jews including those who immigrated. Take a look at publications from the 1920s and 1930s and you will see. Arab residents were often referred to as “Arabs” as well as “Palestinians.”

      3. There have been cases of gay Palestinians who were granted residency in Israel.

      4. Both Jews and Arabs who break the law, or are suspected of breaking the law, have been interogated by the Shabak.

      5. While some “Land Day” protests are peaceful, others are VIOLENT.

      6. $100M has not been spent to promote LGBT tourism to Israel. Only a small percent of the tourism and public relations budget is aimed to the LGBT community. A few advertisements, publications, flyers and some people power does not cost millions. The UK spends a lot of money on LGBT tourism, and I would believe probably more (since I tend gto see a lot more UK LGBT publicity, then publicity from Israel. LGBT persons are not paid to go to Israel. They pay for their holdiays as does any other tourist.

      4. Army service has nothing to do with having a bank account. If that were the case, there would be no banks in Nazarath or Bnai Brak (a town with a large ultra-orthodox community, whose members also do not serve in the Army).

      5. Some Palestinians do serve in the Israeli army – the Druze, some Bedoins and others. Israeli Palestinians are not barred from either Army service or National Service (an alternative for religous Jews who can’t serve in the Army).

      So, get your facts right (I would say get your facts straight, but I do not want to imply the pun).

      Best regards

      • andrew r

        “1. There is NOTHINH inherently racist or chavunistic about Zionism – the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their homeland. It is not to say that there are not racist or chavunistic Jews.”

        The “Jewish people” itself is a racist construct. It accepts fundamentally the alien status of Jews in gentile countries that is pushed by classical anti-semitism. That’s no coincidence: the secular ideologues of Zionism, Herzl, Ruppin, Weizmann, et. al constructed a variety of racist theories about Jews and hung out with anti-semites (Herzl: Russian interior minister and Kaiser Wilhelm, Ruppin: Nazi scientist Hans Gunther; Weizmann: Lord Balfour).

        • JJ

          The construct of the Jewish people – or “Am Yisrael” – far predates any of the persons cited in Andrew R’s comment. This concept goes back to to the biblical era, the Talmudic and rabbanic periods, until today. One is a Jew based on whether the mother is Jewish (regardless of belief) or if they convert (an analogue of citizenship by naturalization). I recommend that you read the Wikipedia summary on

        • Dmitriy

          Funny how for gentiles and lox and bagel Jews Jewish identity and exclusion is just a philosophical talking point that excludes the fact that Jews geniunly suffered. That’s why some 3 million came to the US in the late 19th and 20 centuries, because they were literally being massacred by their wonderful gentile neighbors who were also massacring them during WWII and collaborating with the Nazis. How about that wonderful treatment in the former Soviet Union, like the massacres committed against hundreds of thousands after the Tzar fell from power(did you forget the Jews got the collective blame for that?). Not to mention the fact that Jews had no religious of political freedom and were shipped off to labor camps, and were disproportionately targeted for political crimes.

          Oh and lastly you seem to be forgetting that nearly arab nation expelled its Jewish population or made it so that they could no longer live under discriminatory policies and outright hostility. That’s why some 850,000 left the arab world after 1948. That’s why there were refugee camps in Israel called Ma’abarot. But you see unlike your Arab pals who obsess over 1% of the worlds arab population and who supposedly them-but continue to systematically deny citizenship to palestinians born on their countries’ soil:
          , Israel had no more refugee camps by the late 60s.

  7. Ali

    Isn’t it a paradox?
    You are Israeli, You care for gay rights and you are free to criticize Israel’s attempts to clean its image. Doesn’t this prove the opposite of what you aim for? doesn’t it mean that Israel is in fact pluralistic and LGBT friendly?

    In addition, You claim here that your friends, people who work and volunteer for the LGBT community because they care, are part of a demonic plan that serves Israel’s goal to look humane?

  8. Lillian Faderman

    Sarah Schulman suggests that Israel, in its diabolically cunning way (now where have we heard that before about the Jews?), started a cynical campaign in 2005 to improve its image, and that campaign included an appeal to progressives who support LGBT rights. Yet the fact is that LGBT rights in Israel go back LONG BEFORE 2005. Since the 1980s and 1990s, Israeli LGBT people have enjoyed rights that predated or exceeded those rights given to LGBT people in America–and almost anywhere else in the Western world. And the struggle for them in Israel has been nowhere near as prolonged or difficult as it has been in America and most of Europe.
    I’ll limit myself to just a few examples of those rights enjoyed by ALL LGBT citizens of Israel, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim:
    –In 1988, all sodomy laws were abolished in Israel.
    –In 1992, Israel passed a law protecting any LGBT citizen (Jewish, Christian or Muslim) from employment discrimination.
    –In 1994, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on favor of spousal benefits for same-sex couples— regardless of whether they were Jewish, Christian, or Muslim .
    –In 2004, Israeli lesbian or gay couples (Jewish, Christian or Muslim) were given the right to qualify for common-law marriage status.
    –In 2005, the same year that Schulman says Israel began its suspicious attempts to show that LGBT people were welcomed there, Israeli legislation recognized all same-sex marriages performed abroad.
    The only place in the Middle East that Arab LGBT people can organize OPENLY is Israel. Al Qaws holds its “Palestinian Queer Parties” in a gay bar in Tel Aviv. Aswat, the Palestinian lesbian organization, held its conference at Tel Hai College in Northern Israel. Jerulaselem Open House hosts meetings of Arab Israeli LGBT people and organizations.
    Since 2002, the Refugee Rights Clinic at Tel Aviv University has been fighting for asylum for LGBT Palestinians who fear for their lives in the territories. A 2008 academic report NOWHERE TO RUN, on gay Palestinians who seek asylum in Israel, records experiences of, for example, a gay man living in the West Bank who was set on fire as punishment for his sins; another who was immersed for days in filthy water up to his neck; another who was sodomized with a coke bottle by West Bank police who taunted him, asking whether it was as good as a cock up his ass.
    Regardless of how much Sarah Schulman and her ilk disapprove of Israel, what else but insane, irrational, obsessive hatred would cause them to see diabolic cunning in social decency? What else but insane, irrational, obsessive hatred would keep them from acknowledging that Israel is an oasis for LGBT people in a region of absolute horror?

    • Your response is shallow, disingenuous and full of denial of the facts. Nobody denies that Israel offers these LGBT rights to its citizens, and Sarah has documented how these rights are used as a propaganda tool.

      But let’s talk about these LGBT rights.

      If a Palestinian woman from Nazareth travels to Canada and marries a woman from Nablus, they can’t return and live together. Spouses of Palestinian citizens of Israel who live in the occupied territories are specifically prohibited from acquiring Israeli residency or citizenship. The LGBT rights of Israelis cannot be disentangled from the unjust privileges Israel grants to people it recognizes as Jews.

      The same report you quote about how Palestinians are treated in the West Bank also describes their life inside Israel. Many men live homeless and work as prostitutes. They fear being expelled if they’re discovered. They’re exploited (blackmailed) as informants for military and police. Is this pro-LGBT too? Is this a good example of human rights in practice? Flee persecution so you can be a prostitute for Israeli reservists or a object of their charity?

      Palestinians do not receive asylum in Israel for a few reasons: First of all Palestinians not foreign in Israel. They’re victims of ongoing ethnic cleansing. It’s just silly to imagine that Palestinians who are brutalized by Israel in Gaza are accepted as asylum seeking refugees by the same state. How can Israel offer asylum to Palestinians when it’s still demolishing Palestinian villages in the Naqab? Jewish settlers seize Palestinian homes in Eastern occupied Jerusalem not because Palestinians are supposedly homophobic but because they’re not Jewish.

      Who cares where Al Qaws and Aswat holds its events? It’s their country. They’re citizens. They should hold their events wherever they choose.

  9. Tom Jackson

    Sarah Schulman’s hatred for Israel consumes her. She can’t stand the fact that Israel is the most progressive nation in the Middle East when it comes to gay rights. Nowhere does she point out that the penalty for homosexuality in Arab countries and Iran is imprisonment or hanging. I salute Israel for their enlightened gay rights policies and commend them for promoting it.

  10. Poison Girl

    Thank you for this great article. I’ve always admired your work Ms. Shulman.

  11. Last year my company sent me to a course on Internet marketing, co-sponsored by our then-SEO firm and the Israel Export Institute. One chapter of the course was presented by David Saranga, an official in the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (his current posting is Head of European Parliament Liaison Department – Israel Mission to the EU). His previous posting was at the Israeli Consulate in New York as Consul for Media & Public Affairs.

    What was the topic of his presentation? A case study on how he diverted attention from anti-LGBT happenings in Israel (such as the cancellation of the Jerusalem pride parade) by distributing Israeli flags at the NY pride parade, filming it, and posting it to YouTube.

    Remember this was a marketing course… His thesis was about how perception is reality, and how seeing Israeli flags in conjunction with a major pride event (and consulate workers who were sent to the parade) make Israel look good, and hides what’s really going on (and makes Israel look bad). This was touted as a legitimate tactic, and guess what we call that? PINKWASHING.

  12. Golly Holightly

    I’m noting with much amusement that the sputtering, blue-and-white-hankie-clutcjomg responses to Sarah Schulman’s work documenting the pinkwashing phenomenon are mostly about how “Israel actually does support gay rights!” Talk about a straw man, talk about missing the point by a mile (or attempting to move the goalposts a mile). The point, for those too dense to extract it from Schulman’s findings and analysis, is that Zionist propaganda has been cynically manipulating the (obviously worthwhile) cause of gay rights in the Mideast to legitimize Zionism as a cause that can be supported by gays, by anyone who cares about gay rights, by a broad spectrum of left-wingers. What makes it all the more cynical is that this PR effort isn’t limited to the left-wing, since we know similar efforts are constantly underway on other fronts to garner the support of the Christian right.

    Kanye West famously said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” No shit. Netanyahu doesn’t give a flying fuck about gays either. Even if individual Zionists do (yay for you, golf clap), the illegitimate state of Israel and the racist notion of Zionism has zero to do with gay rights. Quite the opposite, in fact, since with an understanding of and struggle against one’s own oppression should come solidarity with the struggles of other oppressed people, and a willingness to get off the sidelines wherever power is abused. Many thanks to Schulman and all the other Jews out there who keep reminding all of us that being a Jew — or even being an Israeli — will never mean mandatory support for Israel or the unjust occupation of Palestine.

  13. Hannah Rossiter

    Politicians everywhere don’t care about the LGBT community. The only time they do is when they want to appear cool and hip.

    While is Israel does have problems and is often seen as the aggressor in the middle east. That they have an open LGBT community and have all the things associated with a community. That LGBT people have been killed in Israel. That Israel markets itself to the LGBT community makes Israel no different from any other country or corporation, especially now that we are in a global recession.

    Pinkwashing maybe upsetting, but it provides an opportunity to challenge Israel on its behaviour and position towards Palestinians and LGBT people both in Israel and Palestine.

    Shouldn’t we willing to go see the people who are so concerned about

  14. My all-trans, all-Jewish band was recently the object of some pretty absurd pinkwashing in an Israeli daily newspaper. Check this out:

    • Yediot is one of the worst offenders when it comes to writing about trans people. This interview is probably the least offensive thing I’ve ever seen them publish, and actually seems like they made an effort to be “correct” — as in using masculine pronouns, usually they don’t. I’d be interested in seeing the original Hebrew, because some of the translation notes don’t seem quite right to me (no offense intended to the person who translated, it is clearly not an exact science, and many things can be argued more than one way, I do that all the time when translating). The gendered pronouns and verbs in Hebrew are incredibly difficult to deal with, not to speak of in general the language used for gender and gender politics, and even in our local trans community we don’t have complete agreement on it — I would not expect a person unfamiliar with the topic to get it right without help. I have trouble attributing that to transphobia, just to ignorance. And of course, the writer had to translate stuff you guys told her in English into Hebrew, and things like “I discovered America” are just really really common idioms here, maybe you used a different idiom and that was her interpretation (I get why you don’t like it being attributed to you, but seriously — translating from English into Hebrew and back to English, and presenting it outside of Israel to an English-speaking audience… I’d be amazed if no issues arose).

      I agree there are some seemingly bizarre interpretations of what she was told, and I cannot know what she made up so I’ll take your word for it. Like I said — not surprised.

      But beyond all that — because I can write a thesis on the horribleness of Yedioth toward trans people and another on translation — I failed to see the pinkwashing here. In what way is the article presenting Israel as liberal through it’s treatment of gays to cover up mistreatment of Palestinians, women, or other minorities?

      • The author invented our “big dream to perform in Israel” and fabricated the quotation at the end: “you want to know what Schmekel’s biggest dream is?” His three friends respond in unison: “to perform in Tel-Aviv, the proudest [as in, gay pride] city in the world!” In fact, nobody in the band said that. Two members of the band are Israeli and are pretty critical of the government.

        The original Hebrew is available on the “press” page at, if you’d like to take a look.

      • P.S. Do you happen to have links to some transphobic articles on Yedioth (in Hebrew is fine)? The band would find this very useful.

        • Thanks, I’ll take a look at it!

          I’ll look for some of those articles. Usually it’s in the form of news reports mocking trans people, blaming them for violence against them, and of course — always using the wrong pronouns.

          • Thanks! If we have examples of transphobic articles from Yedioth to add to our site, I think it would provide useful context.

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