Pinkwatching And Pinkwashing: Interpenetration and its Discontents

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Pinkwatching And Pinkwashing: Interpenetration and its Discontents

global circulations, pinkwashing would not make much sense at all, just as it would not make sense if international circulations of Islamophobia, Orientalism, and particular ideas about Arab culture had not become “normal.” Pinkwatching does not take into account this broader global context, and instead focuses on the state of Israel as the sole offender of this use of gay rights to demarcate civilizational aptitude. The fact that the United States actively pinkwashes its occupation of Iraq and pinkwashes its military desires on Iran (and that US gays are mobilized for this purpose) goes unremarked upon. In fact, the Israeli state's attempt to “pinkwash” its occupation of Palestine relies on the same discourses that allowed a giant blow up doll of President Ahmadinejad to be sodomized by a blow up nuke held by a white queer dungeon master at the 2011 San Francisco Pride Parade. Pinkwatching activism in the United States by and large ignores the ways that the use of gay rights discourses and bodies have been used to legitimize American colonial and military ambitions.

Ahmadinejad Is Raped by a Nuke at San Francisco Gay Pride, Image from Iran 180

Both the Israeli state and American pinkwatchers point to the successes of gay rights in Israel. Disconnecting the “stellar” status of gay rights in Israel from its historical occupation of Palestine and invasions and occupations of other Arab countries is precisely the mode of analysis through which homonationalism operates. Pinkwatchers in the region unsurprisingly do not recognize the right to serve in a colonial army that occupies Palestine and has invaded and occupied other Arab states for decades as a commendable gay right. Pinkwatchers in the United States, perhaps in deference to LGBTQ organizing around the repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” cite the fact that gays can openly serve in the Israeli military as an example of Israel's gay rights record. In addition, a focus on supposed “marriage equality” in Israel reproduces the right to marry as a marker of queer equality and the measure to which international queer activism should reach. The fact that the Israeli state does not allow Israeli citizens to marry Palestinians is further normalized every time people celebrate or cite marriage equality in Israel. In the United States, we used to call these state-enforced race policies “miscegenation laws:” laws that were integral to the Jim Crow system of segregation and apartheid.

4. Least Common Denominator (LCD) Solidarity

Pinkwashers, in order to reach broad political consensus, do not talk about the contentious—or what the “peace talks” call “final status”—issues. Similarly, pinkwatchers in the US ignore “divisive” questions, such as the right to militarily resist illegal occupation and settlement, the millions of lifetime Palestinian refugees, the illegal occupation and annexation of Jerusalem by Israel, and fact that the “two state solution” is actually shorthand for the normalization and acceptance of the crimes of settler colonialism. In the name of political expediency and coalition building, many pinkwatchers engage in what Maya Mikdashi calls “lowest common denominator politics.” (see Maya Mikdashi, diss). They thus focus their conversations on responding almost explicitly to the claims of pinkwashing, rather than showing how the very questions are only made possible by racism, colonialism, and homonationalism. For example, rather than respond to the perennial question of whether or not Palestinians are homophobic, (as if Israel, the United States, and the rest of the so-called civilized world have eradicated homophobia), one should query the accusation of homophobia as a political whip. Palestinian Queers for BDS members point out that it is irrelevant whether Palestinian society is homophobic or not. The question of homophobia within Palestinian society has nothing to do with the fact that Israeli occupation must end. For pinkwatching to be effective, as it claims to speak in the name of regional activism (“just listen to what Palestinian queers say about their own lives”), it must respect its histories and regional specificities.

Taken together, we believe that these four points demonstrate that both pinkwashing and pinkwatching speak the language of homonationalism. One does so in the name of Israel, the other does so in the name of Palestine. In addition, both are strategies directed and redirected through the same power centers and towards the same intended audience: Euro-American gays. We would like to end by drawing attention to the fact that Israel/Palestine are not the only arenas where pinkwashing occurs. A deeper critique of pinkwashing and of homonationalism more broadly must take into account the ways that it is used in settler colonies such as the United States and Israel in addition to the ways that homonationalism is intimately connected to practices of power and empire on the international stage.