Is it possible that the Israeli government is bolstering their country’s pro-gay image purely to attract LGBT tourists and paint their Palestinian neighbors as evil? Sarah Schulman, humanities professor at the City University of New York’s College of Staten Island thinks so… and her point may change the way you look at LGBT politics and advertising.
In her New York Times opinion piece “Israel and ‘Pinkwashing’,” Schulman writes:
In 2005, with help from American marketing executives, the Israeli government began a marketing campaign, “Brand Israel,” aimed at men ages 18 to 34… to depict Israel as “relevant and modern.” The government later expanded the marketing plan by harnessing the gay community to reposition its global image.
… the Tel Aviv tourism board had begun a campaign of around $90 million to brand the city as “an international gay vacation destination.” The promotion, which received support from the Tourism Ministry and Israel’s overseas consulates, includes depictions of young same-sex couples and financing for pro-Israeli movie screenings at lesbian and gay film festivals in the United States…
The growing global gay movement against the Israeli occupation has named these tactics “pinkwashing”: a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life. Aeyal Gross, a professor of law at Tel Aviv University, argues that “gay rights have essentially become a public-relations tool,” even though “conservative and especially religious politicians remain fiercely homophobic.”
Pinkwashing not only manipulates the hard-won gains of Israel’s gay community, but it also ignores the existence of Palestinian gay-rights organizations.
That would certainly explain why Islamophobe Michael Lucas was allowed to film his pro-Semitic porn epic Men of Israel within Isreal’s borders and why an employee of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office circulated a patently false video accusing anti-gay Palestinian protestors of working as covert terrorist operatives.
But it also makes you think twice about how some politicians make “It Gets Better” videos just to rake their opponents over the coals for not making one and about businesses that tout pro-LGBT policies and marketing partnerships while working donating to anti-gay politicians.
Although we need all the allies we can get, it pays to at least question what people stand to gain when they decide to publicly espouse pro-LGBT rhetoric.