Israeli journalist Calev Ben-David says that Israel simply cannot afford to have its substantial LGBT population regulated to living closeted lives of quiet desperation, or voting with their feet by leaving the country.
The past month has been a tough one for Israel’s “pinkwashing” critics, who accuse it of exaggerating the country’s degree of LGBT tolerance to supposedly deflect attention away from its policies toward the Palestinians.
In May the first ever “Miss Trans Israel” contest was won by an Israeli Arab who declared, “If I had been in Palestine or any other Arab country, I might have been in prison or murdered.’’ On June 3 Tel Aviv hosted its biggest ever gay pride parade, attracting over 200,000 participants and spectators, initiating a weeklong celebration of LGBT events.
The guests of honor were two top LGBT foreign celebrities, actors Alan Cumming and Lea DeLaria, who defied attacks by boycott activists to attend.
All these doings predictably generated no shortage of media and online chatter over the pinkwashing debate, even though there is little actual connection between them and whatever decisions Israel has made when it comes to dealing with the Palestinian issue.
But much less has been written when it comes to explaining just exactly why this country has emerged as a relatively progressive haven for LGBT acceptance – and this is an especially relevant point when it comes to examining Israel in a larger geopolitical context.
It’s not enough to simply credit the fact of Israel being a democracy in a sea of Arab autocracies, as many of its defenders do when making a case against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions critics. LGBT acceptance varies greatly among different democratic societies, in both laws and mores, and on the face of it one might expect Israel to lean toward the less tolerant model.