Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Two lesbian scholars on "pinkwashing": Lillian Faderman vs. Sarah Schulman

I thought that it would be useful to my readers to learn about these notions of "homonationalism" and "pinkwashing" from Sarah Schulman, one of the academic initiators of these concepts. On November 22, 2011, she published an op-ed in the New York Times - "Israel and Pinkwashing," and on November 29, 2011, she published a longer version of the op-ed as "A Documentary Guide to Pinkwashing," in The comment thread beneath the Pretty Queer article is quite interesting, with a fierce back and forth between those defending the concepts and those defending Israel against charges of pinkwashing.

One of those who defended Israel is Lillian Faderman, who is a noted scholar of lesbian history and literature. This is her comment:
Sarah Schulman suggests that Israel, in its diabolically cunning way (now where have we heard that before about the Jews?), started a cynical campaign in 2005 to improve its image, and that campaign included an appeal to progressives who support LGBT rights. Yet the fact is that LGBT rights in Israel go back LONG BEFORE 2005. Since the 1980s and 1990s, Israeli LGBT people have enjoyed rights that predated or exceeded those rights given to LGBT people in America–and almost anywhere else in the Western world. And the struggle for them in Israel has been nowhere near as prolonged or difficult as it has been in America and most of Europe. 
I’ll limit myself to just a few examples of those rights enjoyed by ALL LGBT citizens of Israel, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim: 
–In 1988, all sodomy laws were abolished in Israel. 
–In 1992, Israel passed a law protecting any LGBT citizen (Jewish, Christian or Muslim) from employment discrimination. 
–In 1994, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on favor of spousal benefits for same-sex couples— regardless of whether they were Jewish, Christian, or Muslim . 
–In 2004, Israeli lesbian or gay couples (Jewish, Christian or Muslim) were given the right to qualify for common-law marriage status. 
–In 2005, the same year that Schulman says Israel began its suspicious attempts to show that LGBT people were welcomed there, Israeli legislation recognized all same-sex marriages performed abroad. 
The only place in the Middle East that Arab LGBT people can organize OPENLY is Israel. Al Qaws holds its “Palestinian Queer Parties” in a gay bar in Tel Aviv. Aswat, the Palestinian lesbian organization, held its conference at Tel Hai College in Northern Israel. Jerulaselem Open House hosts meetings of Arab Israeli LGBT people and organizations. 
Since 2002, the Refugee Rights Clinic at Tel Aviv University has been fighting for asylum for LGBT Palestinians who fear for their lives in the territories. A 2008 academic report NOWHERE TO RUN, on gay Palestinians who seek asylum in Israel, records experiences of, for example, a gay man living in the West Bank who was set on fire as punishment for his sins; another who was immersed for days in filthy water up to his neck; another who was sodomized with a coke bottle by West Bank police who taunted him, asking whether it was as good as a cock up his ass. 
Regardless of how much Sarah Schulman and her ilk disapprove of Israel, what else but insane, irrational, obsessive hatred would cause them to see diabolic cunning in social decency? What else but insane, irrational, obsessive hatred would keep them from acknowledging that Israel is an oasis for LGBT people in a region of absolute horror?
Faderman also wrote an opinion piece for the Advocate several months before Schulman's article (August 4, 2011), making the same argument: "If You Take Down Israel, What Else Goes With It?"

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