Jessica Hoffmann

Prominent U.S.-Based Women of Color and Indigenous Feminists Deplore Pinkwashing, Endorse BDS

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | July 14, 2011 8:00 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Angela Y. Davis, Barbara Hammer, BDS, boycott, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Israel, Palestine, pinkwashing, sanctions

boycott_israel.jpgReturning from a trip to Palestine, a group of prominent U.S.-based feminists including Angela Y. Davis and Chandra Talpade Mohanty has issued a statement deploring pinkwashing and endorsing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against Israel.

"Each and every one of us," they write, "including those ... who grew up in the Jim Crow South, in apartheid South Africa, and on Indian reservations in the US - was shocked by what we saw....As feminists, we deplore the Israeli practice of 'pink-washing,' the state's use of ostensible support for gender and sexual equality to dress-up its occupation. In Palestine, we consistently found evidence and analyses of a more substantive approach to an indivisible justice."

Read their statement here.

Last week, lesbian feminist filmmaker Barbara Hammer declined an artistic fellowship in Jerusalem. Although Hammer, unlike the delegation of women of color and indigenous feminists, has not endorsed the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, she writes,

"I accept and exercise my social responsibility as an artist not to lend legitimacy to the State of Israel as long as it continues the occupation. My conscience will not allow me either to participate in programs funded by the current Israeli government at this point in time, or to show my films at venues that receive funding from that government."

This, of course, includes many LGBT film festivals around the world that receive the support as part of Israel's pinkwashing campaign.

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By any measure, the human rights situation is far better in Israel than in nearly every other middle eastern country. Why aren't these groups calling for divestment and sanction of Saudi Arabia, which has a complete apartheid system segregating men and women and does not allow Christians and Jews to worship freely and found churches and synagogues. These anti-Israel statements are completely invalid unless they also criticize any country that does not allow freedom of religion or treat men and women equally.

So what you are saying is that no one is allowed to criticize Israel unless they include criticism of every other human rights abuser in the same statement? So no one may legitimately write criticism of China unless they include a criticism of Iran in the same piece? Or North Korea? Or the United States?

And interesting that you chose Saudi Arabia in this case. What exactly is their connection to the Palestine question in your mind? I realize that both are predominantly Muslim and that Saudi, at least rhetorically, supports the Palestinians. Does that mean the Palestinians (or those who speak up for them) must answer for every wrong committed by Saudi Arabia (or every Muslim nation even?) in the same breath that they question Israel's occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands?

As a final point, I think it's interesting to keep in mind that Saudi's relationship to the Israel/Palestine situation is often one thing on paper, and something completely different behind-the-scenes, so to speak. The Wikileaks cables for example revealed that diplomatically Israel and Saudi were on the same page lobbying very intensely for a U.S. strike on Iran. Both Israel and Saudi have actively opposed the democratic movements sweeping the world as part of the 'Arab Spring,' and strongly encouraged (with success) that the U.S. take a similar approach (e.g., the Saudi invasion of Bahrain). And most people in the Middle East know that Saudi's rhetorical support for the Palestinians is just that, rhetoric.

No, you are missing the point. Why is this anti-Israel organization singling out Israel instead of much more egregious nearby human rights abusers such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen? The reason is clear - anti-Jewish prejudice. While Israel is not perfect, it is far better than any other Middle Eastern country. If this anti-Israel organization really cared about human rights, then they would be urging divestment from every other Middle Eastern country (except perhaps Turkey, Armenia, and Cyprus). If anything, we should increase our aid to Israel because of its strong stands in support of the rights of women, gay people, Muslims, and other minorities.

"Upon returning to the US, the heroic group of prominent US-based women of color and indigenous feminists once again courageously ignored the country's Native Americans, whose stolen land they continue to occupy and whose trampled dignity and desperate socio-economic plight are not nearly as compelling or as fashionable to them as that of the Gazans', and to whom rendering solidarity would be far less likely to land one's mug or name in the progressive press."