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Media Analyses





Pride and (Anti-Israel) Prejudice in New York Times Op-Ed on Gay Rights


It seems that no piece of anti-Israel propaganda is too convoluted or extreme for the gatekeepers of the New York Times opinion pages.

An Op-Ed published today, superficially about gay rights, looks toward the Middle East, where in Arab and Muslim societies homosexuals are persecuted, prosecuted or even executed, and identifies a grave problem: Israel and its supporters.

The fact that Israel is by far the most progressive country in the Middle East, and by extension the most welcoming to homosexuals, poses quite a problem for radical activists hoping to entrench anti-Israelism as a liberal cause. In the Jewish state, thousands attend annual gay pride parades. Gay rights are well-protected. And, amazingly, scores of homosexual Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank have infiltrated into Israel, preferring to illegally reside in a country long cast as enemy territory than to endure the extreme hostility they would face in their own societies.

It's a good thing for the anti-Israel activists, then, that New York Times opinion editors provide such a welcoming platform for them to denigrate the Jewish state and, in this case, try to lure liberals away from natural feelings of support or pride for Israel's example of tolerance. According to the Nov. 23 Op-Ed, "Israel and 'Pinkwashing'" by CUNY professor Sarah Schulman, Israeli tolerance, or those who laud it, are part of a "deliberate strategy" to make Israel seem less-than-evil. She calls this supposedly wicked phenomenon "pinkwashing."

What's good for anti-Israel activists, though, is dangerous for homosexuals in the Middle East. Schulman, a supporter of the fringe BDS movement, which advocates boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, turns her back on gay Arabs and Muslims by whitewashing the persecution they endure in Arab and Muslim countries at the hands of regimes the author apparently doesn't believe should be boycotted.

She writes that

depictions of immigrants — usually Muslims of Arab, South Asian, Turkish or African origin — as “homophobic fanatics” opportunistically ignore the existence of Muslim gays and their allies within their communities. They also render invisible the role that fundamentalist Christians, the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Jews play in perpetuating fear and even hatred of gays.
 
Pinkwashing ... also ignores the existence of Palestinian gay-rights organizations. Homosexuality has been decriminalized in the West Bank since the 1950s, when anti-sodomy laws imposed under British colonial influence were removed from the Jordanian penal code, which Palestinians follow. More important is the emerging Palestinian gay movement with three major organizations: Aswat, Al Qaws and Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. These groups are clear that the oppression of Palestinians crosses the boundary of sexuality; as Haneen Maikay, the director of Al Qaws, has said, "When you go through a checkpoint it does not matter what the sexuality of the soldier is."
In other words, not only does she insist Israel shouldn't be praised for its tolerance, she also suggests Muslims or Palestinians shouldn't be criticized for mistreating gays. And those reading the piece would be forgiven for concluding that the such mistreatment is not really an issue, and that the worst that can happen to a homosexual in the Middle East is being temporarily held up at an Israeli security checkpoint.
 
That the New York Times promotes such a message is bad news for gay Iranians, who if caught face execution. It is bad news for gays in Saudi Arabia, where if arrested they face, at best, flogging or imprisonment. And it is bad news for gays in Gaza, where homosexual acts are illegal and punishable by up to ten years in prison. Homesexuals throughout the Arab world live in fear and in hiding, but awareness of their plight is sacrificed on the altar of obsessive anti-Israelism.
 
Such an Op-Ed could only make sense coming from someone who believes the unethical singling out of Israel for boycott, divestment and sanctions is more important than exposing the mistreatment of homosexuals elsewhere. It would be much harder to convince people to boycott Israel if they understood that it broadly shares Western liberal values, never mind that it it will be much harder to eradicate the persecution of gays if that persecution is concealed from concerned readers of the New York Times Op-Ed pages.
 
Many gays and lesbians are understandably outraged by Schulman's Op-Ed. Those opposed to hateful attempts to strike from the record any favorable news about Israel should feel the same.

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