by Wendy Kenin @greendoula
This week, the non-profit organization A Wider Bridge posted a response to pro-Palestinian human rights activists who were pressuring local Seattle LGBT groups and community organizations to cancel their meetings with representatives from Alliance of Israeli LGBT Organizations. A Wider Bridge, a Jewish social innovation emerging organization that is currently part of accelerator UpStart Bay Area in San Francisco, had set up the tour in advancing their mission, “to inspire LGBTQ Jews to deepen their Jewish identity through connection with Israel and to strengthen LGBTQ Jewish and Israeli communities through international collaboration.”
Thanks to the Israel boycotters for raising the issue, so now we can look at it. “It is not pinkwashing to tell the truth,” A Wider Bridge Executive Director Arthur Slepian said.
Those charging pinkwashing are attributing motives to the visitors, and now the four Israeli guests are explaining that they “came to the U.S. representing their own organizations, not the Israeli government.” Rather than trying to make Israel look progressive while the state violently oppresses Palestinian people, they are visiting on a trip to share stories with their American LGBT counterparts on issues such as working with LGBT youth in crisis, HIV, families, and discrimination.
The anti-pinkwashing movement is in effect an extension of the cultural and academic boycott facet of the international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which generally manifests itself as political or racial bigotry serving to exclude Jewish and Israeli people from the world community. In 2009, Spain excluded an entry from Israeli academics in a global solar homes design contest. Performing artists like Jello Biafra, John Lydon, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Ziggy Marley and Moby have been bullied to cancel shows in Israel, while others have willingly joined the boycott.
Judaism and Israel are not defined by politics or systems of oppression. The Jewish people and tradition preexist not only BDS, the Israeli state and Palestine, but also the inventions of Christianity and Islam. LGBT members of Israeli society have every right to be who they are, to enhance their social networks, and to participate in political movements for justice if they choose. It’s the anti-pinkwashing activists this week that enforced repressive tactics to exclude Israeli people coming to advance self-determination and social justice through dialogue and collaboration.
Anti-pinkwashers in Seattle are fooling themselves if they believe they have advanced a campaign for justice for Palestinians. What they succeeded in is disrupting the peace in their local community, disrupting LGBT dialogue and collaborations that had the promise of hope, and in further isolating Jewish people – justifying Jewish people’s fears of antisemitism.
The pitiful statement issued by the Seattle LGBT Commission cancelling today’s meeting with Israeli representatives was too timid to even identify the name or content of the event being cancelled. Instead, they stated, “The LGBT Commission does not feel thoroughly prepared to facilitate and event surrounding such complex topics at this time.”
A Wider Bridge’s media advisory today called it out right: We are deeply disturbed by the single-minded and dehumanizing tactics of those who would seek to shut down these important opportunities for engagement, dialogue, learning and collaboration.
This article also appeared at AJC-ACCESS blog of the American Jewish Committee.