Pinkwashing and the New York Post

Many New Yorkers previously unfamiliar with the term “pinkwashing” are getting some lessons from their local media.

Pinkwashing occurs when a political or corporate entity is the promoting itself as LGBT-friendly in order to downplay an otherwise negative agenda, not


unlike the way “whitewashing” glosses over or covers something up.

Preparations for an upcoming conference in New York City entitled “Homonationalism and Pinkwashing” recently got the attention of Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who gained fame years ago by representing such celebrities as Mike Tyson , Patty Hearst, and Jim Bakker. Today’s Daily Best carries a story about Dershowitz’s tirade (and misrepresentation of the pinkwashing concept) as well as comments by conference organizer Sarah Schulman in reponse:

“Alan Dershowitz’s recent New York Post op-ed, which attacks the Homonationalism and Pinkwashing Conference scheduled for April at the City University of New York, does an excellent job of making clear the need for just such a conference. Dershowitz opposes the event on the grounds that it’s a “hate fest” that promotes “classic anti-Semitic bigotry in the name of gay rights.” But the way he arrives at this conclusion shows just how poorly understood the substance of the pinkwashing argument actually is. And what better way to clarify it than by holding a major conference? –

“Sarah Schulman, who organized the conference, first popularized the claim that Israel is guilty of pinkwashing—that is, of deliberately highlighting its stance on gay rights to mask its mistreatment of Palestinians—in a 2011 New York Times op-ed. Based on that op-ed, Dershowitz claims that Schulman “accuses Israel of feigning concern over the rights of gay people in order to whitewash—‘pinkwash’—its lack of concern for Palestinian people.” In a phone call Thursday, he explained that Schulman’s was “a very unclear article” but that he believes this is “the clear implication” of her words.

“Unfortunately, it’s actually a flat-out misrepresentation of Schulman’s argument. Her belief, which emerges clearly from her other easily accessible writings, is not that Israel pretends to care about gay rights. It’s that those hard-won rights, once they’ve been recognized commendably and in good faith, then get used to portray Israel as progressive and modern, despite the occupation it continues to enforce. “Israel is trying to say that gay rights are emblems of modernity, and when you have them, it means that the whole society is advanced,” Schulman explained by phone. “And that therefore the violations of international law that the occupation represents don’t matter.”


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