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Why it’s time to wake up to Israel pinkwashing its problems

Why it’s time to wake up to Israel pinkwashing its problems

Is Israel's gay-friendly reputation a mirage?

Recent horrific events have shown a different side of Israel from that in the travel brochures. Shira

Banki, attacked on the Jerusalem Pride march, died of her wounds three days later. How can you explain the climate of hatred that leads to such violence?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned the attack. But he heads a governing coalition including vile, homophobic parties. The current agriculture minister, a member of the Jewish Home party, stated three years ago that homosexuals should be kept out of the Israeli army. Betzalel Smotrich is another Jewish Home member of parliament. In the past he has organized an anti-gay parade called the ‘March of the Beasts’. The day after the attack on Jerusalem Pride, he referred to the parade on Facebook as the ‘abomination march.’

Gay Star News published a horrifying video last Sunday, showing two gay men walking hand in hand through Jerusalem – and facing a constant stream of abuse. This should come as no surprise. Dana International, the trans woman who won Eurovision for Israel in 1998, was clear about attitudes in Jerusalem when she was interviewed by the BBC two years ago. If you go to a religious neighborhood, she stated, ‘you’re going to get a bottle in your face.’

But the Israeli government doesn’t talk about homophobia and transphobia – it portrays Israel and its government as firmly LGBTI-friendly.

The first out gay member of the Israeli parliament was scathing about those claims. Nitan Horowitz told the Israeli press in 2013 that Netanyahu made pro-LGBT statements abroad, but never in Israel. ‘This government does not support the community,’ Horowitz stated. Only days after that interview, Israel’s parliament voted down marriage equality.

So why does Israel promote itself as LGBTI-friendly? According to various reports, the Tel Aviv tourist board has spent over $90 million (€81m, £ 57m) marketing the city as a gay destination in the past.

The truth is that Israel is increasingly unpopular worldwide because of its 48 year old occupation of Palestine, stealing land and denying the Palestinians civil rights. Many people were horrified by Israeli attacks on Gaza last summer. Over 2,000 Palestinians, more than 500 of them children, were killed – while 72 Israelis died, 67 of them soldiers. Despite Israeli opposition, the House of Commons had voted to recognize Palestine the previous year. Netanyahu has even soured relations with the US, Israel’s closest ally.

Israel is desperate for friends, and hopes that claiming a good record on LGBTI issues will divert attention from its human rights abuses against the Palestinians. This strategy, known as ‘pinkwashing’, tries to take cynical advantage of LGBTI people. Three years ago, for example, a photo of two soldiers holding hands appeared on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)’s Facebook page, claiming that Israel ‘treats all of its soldiers equally.’ The Israeli press soon revealed that they both worked for Israeli army PR – they weren’t a couple and one was straight.

LGBTI people shouldn’t let ourselves be conned. The Israeli government is interested in its own agenda, not supporting us.

For more information on No to Pinkwashing, click here.