Pseudo-scholarly CUNY Conference on ‘Pinkwashing’

Pseudo-scholarly CUNY Conference on ‘Pinkwashing’

In April there was a conference at the City University of New York convened by its Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies and run by Prof. Sarah Schulman — a faculty member who popularized the term “pinkwashing” in a 2011 NY Times op-ed.  A recent article in Tablet, “‘Pinkwashing’ Conference Head Claims Dissenters are ‘Israeli Operatives‘,” examines how the conference served an ideological rather than scholarly purpose. In particular, the writer looks at what we can glean from several papers that were rejected by the conference organizer, including one from a former Meretz MK: 

… Frederick Hertz, the leading American legal expert on gay divorce, is a former board member of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and the treasurer of an international organization that advocates on behalf of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. … Hertz … is hardly an uncritical supporter of the Jewish state, telling me that, “Israel is not as gay-friendly as it likes to pretend it is, especially with its religious community.” Acknowledging that Israel still does have a relatively positive record on gay rights, certainly in comparison to its neighbors, he says that much work remains to be done. “What I like to say to those who celebrate gay Israel is you’re right, but let’s now accept civil marriage, let’s treat Palestinians better, lets invoke the gay-friendliness of these societies to ask the harder question of, ‘Well what are you going to do next as opposed to saying we’re gay-friendly and therefore don’t ask us about anything else?’ For the CUNY conference, Hertz submitted a proposal on “positive homonationalism,” which he defines as “going to societies that claim to be good on gay rights and leverage their concern for gay rights with a challenge to be better for all human rights.” Schulman summarily rejected Hertz’s proposal, writing:

Our conference is a gathering of scholars and activists who are working on the increasingly pressing phenomena of nationalistic apparatus using the idea of “gay rights” to enforce racial supremacy, usually against Muslims.Your proposal does not speak to this, and therefore this is not the conference for you. …

Jonathan Miller, a former treasurer of the state of Kentucky and co-founder of the “No Labels” bipartisan political movement, sent a proposal partly conceding Schulman’s contention that Israel’s promotion of its gay-rights record is cynical. “Israel’s motives are obviously capitalistic—to encourage gays and lesbians all over the world to visit the Jewish State and bring their tourist dollars,” Miller told me. “Why otherwise would Israel choose to brag about its support of a cause that’s unfortunately highly controversial, and indeed deeply despised, in much of the world?” … Miller portrays “pinkwashing,” such as it is, as nothing more than a savvy marketing campaign, not a deceptive propaganda effort aimed at whitewashing the oppression of Palestinians.
Schulman emailed him the following response:

You submitted a proposal to the conference that is contrary to the content of the conference. We will be talking about how a nationalistic apparatus uses “gay rights” to enforce racial dominance, globally.Your proposal claims that this does not happen in Israel. Therefore this is not the right conference for you.

… Anat Maor, a former Knesset member from the far-left Meretz Party [we would call Meretz “left” rather than “far left”–Seliger], submitted a more straightforward proposal, outlining the basic history of the gay-rights movement in Israel, while also pointing out how the situation for LGBT citizens is far from perfect. “Orthodox, Arab, and other politicians ignore, oppose, and resist respecting LGBT needs and rights,” she wrote in her proposal. In addition, “Homophobic statements by ministers, MKs, and others continue unabated.” One would think that a presentation from an actual Israeli sympathetic to the situation of gay people in her country, deeply knowledgeable about the legal processes there, and who finds herself on the left-wing of the political spectrum vis-a-vis the Palestinian question, would be suitable—even highly desirable—for a conference concerned about the question of homosexuality in the Jewish state. But Schulman rejected Maor’s proposal—when I asked her for the email, she said she could not find it—repeating her mantra of it not fitting the conference objectives. …

Click here for the entire Tablet article.
By | 2013-06-19T13:50:00-04:00 June 19th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

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