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COMMENTARY: "Pinkwashing" is a whitewashing of the facts regarding Israel

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 in 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. Jerusalem 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 "c*ck up his a**." 

With all the disasters going on in the world — e.g., the near-genocide of non-Arabs in Sudan, the murder and starvation of hundreds of thousands there, the ongoing conflicts there, such as Northern Sudan’s attempts on Nov. 10 to bomb a refugee camp in Southern Sudan (where’s your outrage about that?) — what else but insane, irrational, obsessive hatred of Israel would cause people who believe they care about the world to focus on Israel’s best policies and to find diabolic intent behind them?

What else but insane, irrational, obsessive hatred would keep you from acknowledging that Israel is an oasis for LGBT people in a region of absolute horror?

Lillian Faderman is an internationally known scholar of lesbian history and literature, as well as ethnic history and literature. Her work has been translated into numerous languages, including German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Turkish, Czech and Slovenian. Among her many honors are six Lambda Literary Awards, two American Library Association Awards, and several lifetime achievement awards for scholarship, including Yale University's James Brudner Award, the Monette/Horwitz Award, the Publishing Triangle Award, the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives Culture Hero Award, and the American Association of University Women's Distinguished Senior Scholar Award. The New York Times named two of her books, "Surpassing the Love of Men" and "Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers," on its Notable Books of the Year list. You can learn more about Faderman at her website.