Pinkwashing and the Mind

Sometimes, a writer publishes a piece that manages to cut through the immense amount of clutter that passes for discussion and debate on the Middle East, providing insights that lead to instant (and deserved) virality.

Matti Friedman’s 2014 story that provided an insider’s explanation for so much journalistic malpractice when it comes to coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict is one such story, as is the piece I mentioned last time, Pinkwashing and Traitors to the Human Mind by writer and film maker Jamie Palmer.

Anyone who knows anything already understands that term as an attempt to turn an Israeli virtue (its open-mindedness with regard to homosexual rights) into a vice by declaring that any mention of Israel’s open society should be treated with suspicion, if not outright hostility.

This transparent attempt to use invented language to put opponents on the defensive demonstrates – yet again – the sheer cynicism and hypocrisy of those who demand their anti-Israel agenda become synonymous with progressive thought.  But Palmer’s piece looks beyond these obvious points to analyze what those who scream “Pinkwasher!” are doing to their own minds.

The issue I raised last time of whether BDSers are naturally or artificially stupid is really not that much of an open question.  After all, the embrace of the academic boycotts by a not-insignificant number of PhDs seems to indicate that within academia the “movement” is being embraced by people with at least enough brains to reach the top of the academic food chain.

So it is not natural stupidity that causes such people to ignore and shout down mention of something as obvious as the gap between Israel and her enemies with regard to gay rights.  Rather, it is self-imposed ignorance that derives from identifying with a nation not your own.

In this case, Palmer is using “nation” as Orwell did in his 1945 essay Notes on Nationalism which talks about people whose primary self-identity is extra-national vs. tied to the concrete nation or community into which they were born.

Historically, these national (really supra-national) identities were religious.  Until modern times, for example, people living in different European countries saw themselves as all members of Christendom, just as many Muslims see the Muslim community or Umma as an identity that transcends all others. During the bloody 20th century, those religious identities were replaced by political ones, such as Fascism and Communism which became homes to millions regardless of other ties they might have to particular countries, communities or faiths.

Now not all trans-nationalities need to be violent or committed to world domination.  Passivism, for example, is an ideology that crosses borders without asking those borders to be broken down and placed under the imperial rule of the Pacifist.  But, more often than not, an embrace of a cross-cutting ideology (even an innocuous one such as Passivism) requires turning a blind eye to substantial amounts of blinding reality.

While apologists for Fascism seem to have shut their mouths after the Holocaust and crushing defeat of Nazi Germany, those who sing the praises of Marxism to this day cannot bring themselves to see (much less accept) that monstrous crimes committed in the name of that ideology.  At best, they will relegate the millions of deaths attributable to Communist regimes and movements to perversions committed by faux-Communists, with “real” Communism still being something that’s “never been tried.”

While this level of moral blindness is truly horrific, at least in the case of ideological trans-nationalism willful ignorance is being put to use towards a perceived productive end: the creation of a new world based on the preferred ideology.  But in the case of the Palestine uber alles brigade, the subject of veneration is not a belief system but a people.

After all, the charge of “pinkwashing” was not concocted in order to pursue a political agenda that would lead to the creation of a new and perfect society (even one based solely on fantasy).  Rather, it was created to place discussion of the dark side of one set of people (Palestinians) beyond discussion.  Their role as perfect victims much be maintained at all cost.  And if gay rights (like women’s rights and human rights in general) must be thrown overboard in order to maintain this fiction, that’s a price the BDSers are ready to make the world pay.

I could go on about the assault on one’s own reasoning faculties required to hold in your head all the contradictions inherent in the championing of the “pinkwashing” accusation but, like last time, I’m going to leave it to you to read Palmer’s original piece to appreciate the power of the author’s insights.

But as you read it, consider for a moment how a people who have embraced a particularist identity (Zionism) have managed to avoid the self-imposed ignorance, moral blindness and sheer wickedness unleashed by on the planet by those who believe they have transcended such particularism to become “citizens of the world.”

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