Dear Friends -
The Equality Forum, an annual LGBTQ conference held in Philadelphia, has announced that Israel is their featured nation for 2012, and they have invited the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, to deliver the keynote speech.
Ambassador Oren, who personally has an atrocious record of supporting Israel’s war crimes and was the object of a demonstration by students in 2010 at UC Irvine (the Irvine 11), has no business delivering the keynote speech at a conference dedicated to social justice and equality. This year’s Equality Forum conference, which is partnered with the Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, is a flagrant form of Pinkwashing.
What is Pinkwashing?
Pinkwashing is the appropriation of queer voices from Israel and Palestine and the gay rights struggle to distract from and normalize the numerous human rights and international law violations and the colonial and apartheid policies that the Israeli State has established on the ground.
Pinkwashing is meant to cover up these violations with a facade of progressiveness and equality. In short, Israeli Pinkwashing aims to change the standard of a progressive, civilized nation from one that respects and protects human rights to on that respects and protects gay rights, while deliberately ignoring basic rights to a repressed and occupied population (rights to water, movement, speech, education). From Pinkwatchingisrael.com
Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, or PQBDS, a coalition of Palestinian LGBTQ groups, has released a statement in which they call for a boycott of the Equality Forum 2012.
Please write to the Executive Director of the Equality Forum, Malcolm Lazin (firstname.lastname@example.org), and the Chair of the Board, Professor Debra Blair (email@example.com), to tell them not to allow the Equality Forum to pinkwash Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.
Feel free to use the letter below – or to write your own!
Dear Malcolm Lazin and Debra Blair:
I am writing to express my grave concern that the Equality Forum has chosen Israel as its “featured country” for the 2012 Summit in May, and will feature Michael Oren, the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., as the Keynote speaker at the International Equality Dinner. By partnering with the Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, the Equality Forum has become part of a well-funded rebranding campaign undertaken by the Israeli government to improve its international reputation after being severely criticized by a wide range of entities, including the United Nations and the International Court of Justice, for serious human rights violations in its treatment of Palestinians. Their aim is to market their gay-friendliess so that they can “change the subject,” from the negative condemnation of Israel’s occupation of Palestine to a positive discussion of how pro-gay Israel state policy is. This campaign, called “Brand Israel,” aimed to respond to the growing movement against apartheid in Israel by portraying Israel as “relevant and modern.” Queer and trans activists around the world who oppose occupation and apartheid have called this strategy “pinkwashing” because it is a direct effort to conceal the extreme violence and harm that Israel inflicts on Palestinians, including queer and trans Palestinians, by promoting Israel as “gay friendly.”
Michael Oren as the choice to keynote the Summit dinner is particularly offensive, not only for the way in which his selection furthers Israel’s pinkwashing campaign, but also in light of his public statements justifying the disproportionate use of force and violence against Palestinians. For this reason he has received severe criticism by, among others, the Atlantic magazine, http://bit.ly/GCaCsL. In light of these problems with his record, I am offended that a heterosexual man with no history of gay rights work was selected to keynote such an important event.
As someone who supports the social justice aims of the Equality Forum, it is important to me to share my concerns with you and share resources that may help you to build greater awareness about pinkwashing so that the Equality Forum and its 2012 Summit is not used to forward an agenda that seeks to mislead people concerned about homophobia and transphobia into supporting the horrifying violence of apartheid Israel. I strongly urge you to reconsider your selection of Israel as the Summit’s “featured nation” and Michael Oren as the keynote speaker at the Summit’s International Equality Dinner. Please know that you would not be the first human rights or gay rights organization in the U.S. to back away from involvement in a pinkwashing event, for instance the Seattle LGBT Commission recently canceled an event it had scheduled with Israeli LGBT leaders which was sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. The Equality Forum’s domestic and international reputation is tarnished by its willingness to be used as a part of a foreign nation’s public relations campaign to distract attention from its well-documented human rights abuses.
This is the Open Letter members of the first LGBTQI delegation to Palestine wrote after they returned from their trip in January 2012 - please sign on to the letter.
This is an op-ed about pinkwashing that Sarah Schulman published in the New York Times.
This is a recent article by Jasbir Puar about pinkwashing.
This is a recent article by Katherine Franke responding to a pinkwashing event that PFLAG hosted.
This is where you can find information about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctionsmovement and the many people and organizations who have joined its work.
Here are links to Palestinian queer/trans organizations working against homophobia, transphobia, occupation and apartheid:
This post was originally published here.