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The Dangerous Myth of Israeli ‘Pinkwashing’ Must End

A Wider Bridge’s Executive Director, Arthur Slepian, calls out activists of Jewish Voice for Peace for misinterpreting the work of our organization, and comparing their activists to legacy protests like Stonewall and Selma

Brave queer youth marching in the Celebrate Israel parade.

I want to speak about courage and honesty, two concepts missing from much of the discussion about the events at the Celebrate Israel parade in New York City. At the parade, a group of activists from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) chose to create disruption by specifically targeting the LGBTQ contingent in the parade, a contingent that included a large number of LGBTQ Orthodox youth newly claiming their place in Jewish life.

In a recent post in the Forward, Rabbi Alissa Wise of JVP said that the contingent was not targeted specifically for the Orthodox queer youth but because the contingent also included groups such as our organization, A Wider Bridge, which she writes is “notorious for engaging in pinkwashing: using LGBTQ Jewish Israelis to hide and even justify Israeli oppression of Palestinian people, including LGBTQ Palestinians.” Furthermore, Rabbi Wise has the chutzpah and hubris to wrap this action of JVP in the legacy of protests such as those at Stonewall, Selma, Soweto and Standing Rock. I’ll address this second point first: How demeaning and disrespectful to those courageous pioneers she cites. Let’s be clear: the members of the LGBTQ contingent in the Celebrate Israel parade were not armed, they were not the aggressors and the protestors were never in any real danger. The legacy of historic protests such as Stonewall and Selma is better exemplified by those LGBTQ people who march in the streets of Jerusalem every August to promote tolerance and pluralism in a march that has a history of being disrupted by homophobic slurs and acts of violence — and in 2015, murder. And let us not forget that when the leaders of Jerusalem Open House came to the Creating Change Conference in 2016, in the aftermath of this trauma, JVP was among the principal organizations leading a protest that kept these courageous leaders from speaking. Courage might look more like standing in solidarity with the gay people of Chechnya, who are being systematically killed and tortured while the world does nothing to stop it. The queer youth marching in the Celebrate Israel parade were the ones demonstrating courage, not the JVP protesters.

What seems to be clear is that JVP leaders harbor a special grievance against members of the LGBTQ community who don’t share their simplistic, ahistorical, biased, and one sided views about history and the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Which brings me to Rabbi Wise’s accusation of pinkwashing, an intellectually vapid concept that bears no relation to the actual work of A Wider Bridge. Continue reading in The Forward