Saturday, January 23, 2016

Protesters Storm Jewish Event at LGBT Conference

A briefly canceled, then reinstated event featuring the Jewish LGBT group A Wider Bridge and the Israeli LGBT group Jerusalem Open House was shut down part way through as nearly two hundred protesters stormed the event and commandeered the stage. It represents an unfortunate end to an unfortunate saga, and another entry in the growing effort to exclude all but the most rabidly anti-Zionist Jewish voices from global deliberative discourse.

Part of the blame for the chaotic reception is due to fumbles by the host organization, the National LGBTQ Task Force, whose initial cancellation decision greatly elevated the controversy over the event and turned what might have been an isolated group of protesters into a full-blown calamity. But we ignore the toxic conditions that have allowed such illiberal tendencies to fester in progressive organizations. As I wrote in my last post:
To be most generous to the conference organizers, one suspects that they knew that various anti-Israel radicals would try to disrupt the event, knew that they would not be able to stop them, and knew that this occurrence would distract from the "community-building, social atmosphere" image the conference wanted to display. But let's be clear: that rationale is a tacit acknowledgement of just how deep that prejudice runs. It is a capitulation; an admission that they don't have the resources to tackle it and so certain LGBT persons are outside its protective purview.
And that's what we're seeing here. Even if there were some evidence that the Israeli government is actively seeking to leverage its relatively strong LGBT record to "cover" for the occupation (and I continue to think that's oversold), it's become abundantly clear that the "pinkwashing" label has taken a decidedly conspiratorial edge. Any LGBT organization in Israel, or any Jewish LGBT organization anywhere, that is not avowedly anti-Zionist (which is to say, any of substantial size) will simply be asserted to be part of a grand Zionist pinkwashing plot. At that stage, the "pinkwashing" charge has become anti-Semitic root to branch.

A Wider Bridge and Jerusalem Open House are not opposed because they are mouthpieces for the Israeli government. They're opposed because certain purportedly progressive groups want to have a conversation about Israel that does not include Israelis. For the most part, they want to have a conversation about Jews that does not include Jews save those token few who sign on to the exclusionary project. The spurious "pinkwashing" label is there to legitimize this campaign.

It seems that every couple of years Jews get reminded once again that -- when push comes to shove -- nobody (left, right, or center) has our backs. We can't count on LGBT groups to protect our LGBT members. We can't count on anti-racism groups to protect our non-White members. We can't depend on general civil rights groups to protect any of our members. Each time, the message is not "you're one of us" but rather "you're here at our sufferance." I'd love, just once, to be proven wrong on this. But it hasn't happened yet.


Unknown said...

I cannot accept this. I can't accept that the same left that is so good at weeding out racism against other groups is this regressive when it comes to Jews. The hypocrisy is seriously maddening.

Anonymous said...

You know how I know 'pinkwashing' isn't a real thing and just a propaganda term made up to defame Israel? Because if Israel was ever touting its pro-LGBT record as a way to insulate itself from accusations of human rights violations, activists have a super easy to understand response they can use: "Doing good in one area does not preclude doing bad in another." That they choose instead to use the conspiratorial, nasty, and anti-LGBT 'pinkwashing' instead should tell you what really motivates them. They aren't motivated by helping the Palestinians (in which case the other answer would be perfectly fine). They are motivated to depict Israel in any circumstance as evil and duplicitous. That's why they're hateful bigots.

David Schraub said...

Exactly. I've yet to hear a conversation where one person says "I'm really proud of America's tradition of free speech and freedom of the press," and someone else replies "It's outrageous how you're 'press-washing' our shameful legacy regarding the homeless." Nobody ever thinks this way, because in literally every other context but Israel it is assumed that people can walk and chew gum at the same time.