LGBT Zionists are pinkwashing Apartheid Israel’s genocide in Gaza
by Pauline Park
US mainstream media are more than usually awash in Zionist propaganda these days attempting to rationalize and even justify Apartheid Israel’s pursuit of genocide in Gaza which has already killed more than 12,000 innocent and defenseless civilians as of Nov. 10 and it is impossible even to read all of the propaganda pieces circulating in the media let alone reply to them; however, I feel compelled to respond to David Kilmnick’s op-ed in the November 5 edition of the New York Daily News both because it was written by a prominent member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and because it presents a false account of an important episode in the history of the LGBT community’s engagement with Israel/Palestine that must be corrected.
In “LGBTQ people must support Israel,” the founder and president of the LGBT Network writes, “Israel is a beacon of hope and freedom for LGBTQ people in the Middle East,” but nothing could be further from the truth. Israel does not recognize the right of return for Palestinians — LGBT or heteronormative — and does not offer political asylum to Palestinians whether queer or not; in fact, the Israeli authorities blackmail queer Palestinians in the illegally occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem into becoming agents for the illegal occupation — which puts their lives in far greater danger than they would be if others found out that they were queer. Kilmnick’s reference to ‘pinkwashing’ shows that he either doesn’t understand the concept or is deliberately mischaracterizing it (for a simple definition of ‘pinkwashing,’ see “Israeli occupation, Palestine & the LGBT community: pinkwashing 101“).
And anyone who has been following the news for the last few months will know that Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed ‘judicial reform’ has provoked the largest protests in the history of the country; the ‘judicial coup’ — which would end the independence of the Israeli judiciary — has been denounced by more prominent Israeli Jews than one can even count and former prime minister Ehud Barak says that Israel now shows ‘the signs of fascism,’ accusing Netanyahu of conspiring with ‘racist messianics’ in an attemp to end democracy entirely in Israel (“Ehud Barak: Gov’t. shows ‘signs of fascism’; mass ‘non-violent revolt’ may be needed,” Times of Israel, 30 December 2022). And on Nov. 8, the Israeli Knesset enacted a law essentially criminalizing protest by Israeli citizens of the war in Gaza (Yumna Patel, “‘Thought Police’: Israel passes law criminalizing ‘consumption of terrorist materials’,” Mondoweiss, 9 November 2023).
Kilmnick’s mischaracterization of Israel as a vibrant democracy will be obvious to even the most casual observer as is his slanderous and false assertion that the slogan ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ is anti-Semitic (Dave Zirin, “The Left Is Not ‘Anti-Jewish’,” the Nation, 6 November 2023). But of all the knowing falsehoods in Kilmnick’s screed, the most pernicious is his assertion that the demonstration against Zionist organizing at the January 2016 Creating Change conference in Chicago was some sort of pogrom — a demonstrably false claim that I thoroughly debunked in a blog post I wrote in response after that event (Pauline Park, “Creating Change or pinkwashing Israeli apartheid? A Wider Bridge to Zionist propagandizing“). While I did not attend that conference, I was on the organizing committee — which included Jewish members; and a large number of those who protested in the action were Jewish Americans — a fact that Kilmnick must have known but failed to acknowledge. Like most Zionists, Kilmnick conflates Zionism and Judaism to suggest that any criticism of Israeli government policy is inherently anti-Semitic; if he were connected with progressive Jewish activists, he would know that a large number of anti-Zionist activists are Jewish and the work of Jewish Voice for Peace, Adalah-New York and many other Jewish-led US-based and European organizations demonstrate that anti-Zionism is not only anti-Semitic but deeply rooted in the Jewish ethical tradition of tikkun olam — the obligation to ‘repair the world.’
If Kilmnick really wanted to help queer Palestinians, he could support al-Qaws — the LGBT organization based in Ramallah — or Aswat, which is based in Haifa (in Israel); and/or Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (PQBDS); because in fact what queer Palestinians want from LGBT people in the United States & around the world is not Zionist pinkwashing — which not only does not help them but actually hinders their work trying to make Palestinian society more accepting — but rather support Palestinian civil society’s call for BDS against Apartheid Israel (note: not against ‘Jews’ or Israelis as individuals, but rather directed against the illegal occupation); like all Palestinians, what queer Palestinians want is liberation from the illegal and genocidal occupation that has kept them imprisoned since 1967 — and in the case of Gaza, the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip that Israel has maintained since 2007 with US support that has turned it into the world’s largest open-air prison. But of course, Kilmnick does not actually care about Palestinians whether LGBT or not.
Not only is Kilmnick not doing anything to repair the world, he is doing quite the opposite: the LGBT Network that he heads is organizing an event on Nov. 16 that declares that the LGBT community ‘stands with Israel’ as it commits ethnic cleansing and genocide and opposes ‘anti-Semitism’ which is what Zionists calling opposition to Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide; in using the discredited International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, Kilmnick and the LGBT Network are not only trivializing real anti-Semitism, they are in fact encouraging it. Addressing real anti-Semitism effectively requires decoupling legitimate criticism of Zionist ideology and Israeli apartheid from actual hatred of Jews — which are two entirely different things; the fact that Kilmnick either does not know this or is deliberately attempting to manipulate public opinion to generate public and especially LGBT community support for the ethnic cleansing of illegally occupied Palestine and genocide in Gaza makes him complicit in that genocide.
Pauline Park, Ph.D. (paulinepark.com) is a co-founding member of New York City Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (NYC QAIA) and participated in the first US LGBTQ delegation tour of Palestine in January 2012; she also led the campaign for the transgender rights law enacted by the New York City Council in April 2002 and became the first openly transgendered grand marshal of the New York City LGBT Pride March in June 2002.