The ‘pinkwashing’ dilemma: Why can’t the media face up to Palestinian homophobia?

While ignoring rampant homophobia in Palestinian society, anti-Israel activists struggle to prove their central hypothesis that gay rights in Israel are a “facade.”

By Rachel O’Donoghue, Honest Reporting

We’ve heard them all before. From Greenwashing and artwashing to veganwashing and funwashing — in the minds of Israel’s most ardent critics, there is nothing the Jewish state won’t do to distract the world’s attention from the Palestinians.

The most frequent bit of “washing” that Israel is accused of relates to its progressive stance on LGBT+ issues in a region where sexual minorities face widespread persecution — an imagined diversionary tactic that anti-Israel campaigners have dubbed “pinkwashing.”

As noted previously, the pinkwashing claim evokes historical antisemitic libels, specifically that anything Jews do that is good or beneficial must be a part of some nefarious ulterior motive.

However, the pinkwashing charge is now being used as more than just a cudgel to attack Israel. Today, the accusation simultaneously serves as a shield to deflect criticism from the widespread homophobia that is prevalent in Palestinian and Arab society.

The latest example of this was in an article in left-wing Canadian outlet Rabble, which published a so-called “analysis” that authoritatively announced: “Israeli pinkwashing: ‘It’s a facade’.”

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In the piece, Rabble writer Yara Jamal and the founder of “Free Palestine Halifax,” Katerina Nikas, argue that pinkwashing “paints Palestinians as backward, racist and barbaric in order to justify the oppression and unequal treatment of Palestinians both straight and queer.”

Aside from the segue into a series of unconnected statements intended to demonstrate Israel’s profiting off pinkwashing, such as how the Jerusalem pride parade is supposedly held on land from which Palestinians were displaced, the writers struggle to prove their central hypothesis that gay rights in Israel are a “facade.”

The article continues:

“Israel promotes its capital, Tel Aviv, as a gay friendly destination in the Middle East, while at the same time failing to mention that the city is built on top of several villages where Palestinians were expelled from their homes and are banned from entering the capital.

“Palestinian queers are also denied asylum in Israel while trying to escape discrimination in their own communities.

“In October 2022, a 25-year-old Palestinian gay man, Ahmad Abu Murkhiyeh, was killed in the West Bank after unsuccessfully seeking asylum in Israel two years prior to his murder.”

First, Tel Aviv is not the capital of Israel — Jerusalem is and always has been.

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Second, the assertion that Tel Aviv was built atop several Palestinian villages (and how this even relates to pinkwashing) is risible. The city was originally founded on April 11, 1909, and was known as Ahuzat Bayit before its name was changed (a picture of the 60 families standing in the desert land that became the neighborhood can be seen here).

Third, it is manifestly untrue that Palestinians are denied asylum in Israel. Last year, the government announced plans to issue temporary work permits to LGBT+ Palestinians who were claiming asylum.

Fourth, the suggestion that Israel is somehow responsible for the death of Ahmad Abu Murkhiyeh is a disturbing distortion of what occurred. Murkhiyeh had been living as an asylum seeker in Israel for two years before — for unknown reasons — he traveled to Hebron, where he was attacked and beheaded by a Palestinian.

Finally — and most importantly — why do Jamal and Nikas and indeed so many Western journalists have such trouble facing up to the simple truth that homophobic attitudes run rampant in Palestinian society and that this is not Israel’s fault?