Just when it seems that every conceivable strategy for demonizing Israel has been exploited, along comes a new vehicle that’s every bit as toxic as what’s already out there, perhaps even more so.
Wrapped in an intentionally complex and confusing vernacular that’s impossible for anyone but its staunchest adherents to fully understand, this new-fangled language of incitement and vilification appears to be rooted in two separate, though sometimes intersecting, terms: “homonationalism” and “pinkwashing.”
Though both of these constructs began to creep into the English language after 9/11, with particular linkage to dynamics within gay political culture in the United States, their more recent application has been directed, with much greater venom, toward Israel.
It’s difficult to find any definition of these words that is not cloaked in the most absurd of jargon. One of the simpler descriptions is contained in promotional material for an upcoming conference sponsored by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York (CUNY). Homonationalism, according to this source, “occurs when sub-sectors of specific gay communities achieve legal parity with heterosexuals and then embrace racial and religious supremacy ideologies.” Pinkwashing is “using rights protections for one group (in this case gay and lesbian people) to conceal rights abuses against another group.”
In relation to Israel, the insinuation is that the state’s protection of gay rights, and its marketing of particularly Tel Aviv as a gay-friendly destination, is nothing more than a callous ploy to conceal persistent violations of human rights for Palestinians and divert attention from the “occupation” of Palestinian lands.
Two of the major proponents of this latest verbiage to malign Israel are CUNY professor Sarah Schulman and Jasbir Puar, associate professor of gender studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Puar was at McMaster University recently delivering a lecture titled “Ecologies of Sensation, Sensational Ecologies: Sex and Disability in the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.” First, as expected, she accosted her audience with an array of unsubstantiated allegations against Israel and its people. Then, using pinkwashing as her fulcrum, she waded into an even more warped and appalling diatribe, accusing Israelis of systematized pronatalism (the policy of encouraging higher birthrates to ensure population growth), the promotion of eugenics and selective abortion, and sanctioned neglect of physically and mentally disabled children.
What was alarming, though plain to see, is that under the guise of purported “scholarship,” and by craftily applying layers of unnecessary complexity to what essentially boils down to the base language of hateful propaganda, Puar has helped to open an as yet under-explored, but nonetheless deeply troubling, vista. If unchecked, it will no doubt expand in scope as it strives to discredit not only Israel’s enviable record of protecting and promoting gay rights, but also its more widespread contributions in so many other areas as well, both domestically and globally.
It’s clear that in Puar’s perspective, there is little that Israel does that is not designed merely as a distraction from its alleged – though in her opinion deliberate and brutal – oppression of Palestinians. Her linguistic manipulations, which speak to a perfidy and an inversion of reality that have no place in honest discourse, need to be robustly challenged.