How Pinkwashing Makes You Dumb

It continues to be an open question whether stupid people gravitate towards joining the BDS “movement” vs. participating in BDS itself lowering one’s iQ.

One of the things that makes this a tough call is that participating in BDS and associated propaganda activity requires you to believe so many demonstrably false things (Jenin, Jenin, anyone), and to push any facts and arguments that contradict a narrow set of beliefs out of your own head before shouting those who speak such truths off the stage.

With the emergence of the “pinkwashing” issue, however, I think we might have adequate evidence to support the self-stupification thesis.

For those unfamiliar with the term, “pinkwashing” is a fake phenomenon baked up by BDS propagandists to help them deal with the fact that Israel is the most enlightened state on earth with regard to gay rights while Palestinian society, like the rest of the Arab world, represents the place on the planet where murderous homophobia is sanctioned by both religion and law.

As one commentator described it, this fact is so true the boycotters can’t stand it.  And so they have concocted a fantasy that Israel’s gay freedoms, or more specifically any attempt to portray the truth about those freedoms, is part of a nefarious plot to obscure Zionist wickedness.

Any normal critic of Israel would simply make the reasonable claim that, yes, Israel is an enlightened society with regard to gay rights (as well as women’s rights, religious freedom, etc.), but that this does not excuse them from criticism on other matters (such as treatment of Palestinians and approach to the peace process).  But, as all of us know, BDS is not in the “normal” business.  So rather than make any claim that acknowledges Israel as something other than absolute evil, the boycotters instead add that enlightenment to their bill of indictment.

This came to a head a couple of weeks back when pro-Palestinian activists tried to get their Israeli counterparts ejected from a gay unity event and, failing to do so, stormed their opponents’ event howling accusations of “pinkwashing” alongside the usual genocidal chant “from the river to the sea.”

One response to that attack came from Jay Michaelson, writing for The Forward.  A few years back, I dedicated a two-parter to Jay Michaelson’s Journey, looking at (I hope with empathy) how this gay, left-leaning writer and political activist was dealing with being stuck between anti-Israel propagandists who insisted that he must do what they say or be a traitor to all he believes and “right wingers” he instinctively loathes.  This corundum is what made his 2012 piece “When the Right is Right About the Left” shocking to some, and interesting for those of us who refuse to be badgered into one end of the political spectrum vs. another.

But with his recent piece on “pinkwashing,” Jay seems to have gone off the deep end.  More specifically, his construct of “even handedness” (which boils down to “Watch me while I ding both Left and Right again!”) has forced an intelligent and sensitive person to say remarkably stupid and ridiculous things.

Most notably is his claim that those who criticize gay pro-Palestinian activists by saying (usually on Internet comment sections) that they should try holding a Gay Pride parade in Gaza are actually saying they want to see those activists murdered.

Where to begin?

First, even the Internet contains intelligent and thoughtful commentary on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict in general, and “pinkwashing” in particular (one particularly remarkable piece I’ll get to shortly).  Which makes characterizing opponents based on anonymous comments on Web postings highly uncharitable, if not an outright attempt to avoid genuine debate.

Second, does Michaelson really think that someone who says “Let them hold a Gay Pride parade in Gaza/The West Bank/Tehran” (or something along those lines) is speaking literally vs. making a hypothetical – if hyperbolic – statement in order to point out what they perceive to be a form of hypocrisy?

If so, then we’re back to that dumbification thesis that started this piece, or at least a demonstration of how the atrophying of genuine argumentation about Middle East issues has impacted even intelligent people like Michaelson.  If not, then claiming your critics are calling for your murder is simply another way to avoid a genuine argument, much like the term “pinkwashing” was concocted to put opponents with a stronger case on the defensive.

Finally, look how Michaelson’s argument acknowledges critics’ main thesis: that Gaza et al are places where the murder of homosexuals is guaranteed.  And even if you make the further case (as Michaelson does) that suffering people one fights for do not need to be saints, he still needs to acknowledge that victory for the “river to the sea” brigade would mean an expansion of the territory where gay murder is sanctioned and explain why this is a price worth paying for a “Free Palestine.”

In trying to find a better explanation of what makes so many smart people say dumbass things like this, I stumbled on this remarkably intelligent piece that looks at the “pinkwashing” furor through the intellectual lens of nationalism (really supra-nationalism), that is, someone whose primary allegiance is to an entity or movement other than the one into which he or she was born.

That article is so spot on that I am going to shut up now and let you read it in its entirety.  And once the snow blows over, I’ll be back to discuss the broader implications of the author’s thesis.



2 thoughts on “How Pinkwashing Makes You Dumb”

  1. You may not have seen this piece earlier this week in Haaretz by Arthur Slepian, director of A Wider Bridge (the group that had its event brownshirted in Chicago). It’s reposted here:

    “What the BDS movement truly fears is that people will meet Israelis that they care about, people whose struggles they identify with, and whose successes they want to celebrate. Then, in this moment of empathy, they will perhaps see how inhumane and counter-productive the calls to isolate Israel really are.”

  2. How about

    votewashing: the fact that Israel grants voting right to all its citizens?
    jailwashing: the fact that Israel jails criminals who in most countries would be sentenced to death?
    educationwashing: the fact that Mr. Bargouthi is still a student at Tel-Aviv U.?

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