One of the differences between Israel and its Arab foes is the contrast between the way minorities are treated by the two societies. Israel is not utopia, but it is a liberal democracy in the best sense of the word. And one of the measures of the open nature of Israeli society is its treatment of women and gays. In marked contrast to the way homosexuals are oppressed in Arab societies, and in particular the gruesome treatment meted out to gays by the Islamists of Hamas in Gaza and even by the secular nationalists of Fatah in the West Bank, gays have full and equal rights protection in Israel, including the right to serve openly—and proudly—in the Israel Defense Forces.
But for some gay leftists, it is somehow wrong for friends of the Jewish state to speak of its exemplary record on this issue. That’s the conceit of David Kaufman’s bizarre and confused article in Time magazine that focuses on “pink washing”—the term used by leftists to describe the discussion of Israel’s stance on gay rights. As far as they are concerned, it’s all just a cover to stop people from denouncing Israel for its alleged abuse of the Palestinians. Any reluctance on the part of Jewish gays to join in the “progressive” smears of Israel as an apartheid state would be wrong since gays and Palestinians are fellow victims. In that view, Jews who identify themselves with the LGBT community must put aside the question of gay rights to promote the more important issue of isolating Israel.
The cognitive dissonance displayed by Kaufman and others who speak of “pink washing” is so intense that after reading this piece you feel like the proper response is not so much rebuttal but to send him an aspirin. The reason why Israel’s gay rights record is relevant to the broader discussion about the conflict in the Middle East is not a matter of mere public relations. The point here is one of understanding the difference between an open society and a culture rooted in fundamentalist Islam and irredentist nationalism, which sees all minorities as objects of hate. The drive to isolate and eradicate the one non-Muslim majority country in the Middle East is rooted in the intolerance that is at the core of the culture of Israel’s foes. The equal rights enjoyed by gays in Israel and the oppression and violence they face in Palestinian society as well as in much of the Arab world is a perfect example of the difference between liberal democracy and intolerant Islam.
Confronting that reality is difficult for some on the left who have been trained to wrongly view Israel as a vestige of evil Western imperialism. The notion that those who view gay rights as the most important issue here in the West would, at the same time, support gay-bashing Palestinian Islamists in their campaign to eradicate gay friendly Israel is a caricature of the psychosis of the left.