This graffiti (from Foreign Policy blog by Reza Akhlaghi ) neatly sums up “pinkwashing” as it relates to the Arab world. The term is used by academics and activists to describe what is seen as Israel’s self-promotion as an island of tolerance for homosexual men and women in a sea of Arab homophobia. In draping itself in a rainbow flag, critics of Israel argue that not only is it trying to undermine Palestinians’ claims to statehood by portraying them as sexually intolerant, undemocratic and therefore unworthy of such political recognition, but also seeks to detract from its own human rights violations against Palestinians and other marginalised populations. Moreover, proponents of “pinkwashing” note that Israel—beyond pockets of urban tolerance—has communities just as intolerant of same-sex relations as anywhere else in the region; witness the gunning down of several people at a Tel Aviv branch of an Israeli LGBT support association in 2009.
There is a growing academic and activist interest in “pinkwashing”, especially in the US, reflected in a growing number of publications and conferences. For a glimpse of this debate, from a pro-Palestinian perspective, see Queer Politics and the Question of Palestine/Israel, a special issue of GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies, and Sarah Schulman’s Israel/Palestine and the Queer International. A riposte is offered by Jonathan Miller in The Liberal Case for Israel.