‘Pinkwashing’–More Anti-Israel Agitprop at CUNY

You’d think that after the recent debacle at Brooklyn College, anti-Israel
fanatics would give CUNY a break.

Guess again.

The CUNY Graduate Center has scheduled
for this spring a conference on “pinkwashing.” For
the uninitiated, “pinkwashing” is the almost comical claim that that the
Israeli government highlights its record on gay rights to detract attention
from its allegedly horrific treatment of the Palestinians.

There’s one major difference between
the Brooklyn BDS event and the Graduate Center. While the Brooklyn event lacked
even the pretense of academic content–and thus was, on its face, agitprop–the
Grad Center event disguises its agitprop agenda as an academic conference. (The
disguise isn’t too deep, given that one of the two Brooklyn BDS speakers,
Judith Butler, serves as an invited keynote speaker.) Nonetheless, the
features panels and such only-in-academia paper
topics as “Homosociality and Homonationalism: Untangling Iranian Female-Female Desires
from the US War Machine”; “Entangled Narratives: ‘Queer Rescue’ and Neoliberal
Appropriations in an Era of Global Uprisings”; and “From Mestizale to
Multiculturalism: The Production of Non-Normative Sexualities in Mexican
Nationalisms.” The conference also has several seemingly straightforward panels
on international gay rights, topics unrelated to organizer Sarah Schulman’s
anti-Israel zealotry.

But the conference’s thrust is on demonizing Israel.
At least 17 of the conference’s papers are in some way devoted to Israel–a
country whose record on gay rights is superior to that of the United States.
Gays and lesbians have openly served in the IDF for two decades, Israel has a
national non-discrimination law based on sexual orientation, and the Israeli
government, unlike the U.S. government, recognizes same-sex civil marriages
performed in other jurisdictions. (Israel itself has no civil marriage.) This
record, alas, seems likely to be “pinkwashed” by the conference organizers;
none of the papers appear intended to analyze the Israeli record on gay rights
in a positive or even a neutral fashion–except to focus on activities of gay
Israeli Jews who agree with the pinkwashers’ opposition to Israeli national
security policies. Perhaps the most (unintentionally) hilarious paper title is
“Aiding Israel: How The Iranian Media Bolsters Israeli Pinkwashing.” If only
the Iranians didn’t publicize their policy of hanging gays, the perfidious
Zionists wouldn’t look so good by comparison.

In the end, the “pinkwashing” conference offers no
insight about public policy but speaks volumes about the state of the academy.
An astute observer of academic affairs once told me that while defenders of the
academic status quo swear fealty to the race/class/gender agenda, gender always
trumps class, and race always trumps both of them. The “pinkwashers” show that
whatever the state of the academy’s support for gay rights, among one activist
quarter, anti-Israel fanaticism trumps concerns for gay and lesbian equality.
CUNY “pinkwashers,” it seems, have their priorities straight.


  • KC Johnson

    KC Johnson is a history professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author, along with Stuart Taylor, of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities.

    View all posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *