The New York Times features a remarkable Op-Ed by an author named Sarah Schulman. Schulman, an outspokenly anti-Israel gay activist, is known for her claim that the famous Broadway production “Rent” plagiarized her material. She never sued, probably because ideas and stock characters — such as bohemians with AIDS struggling to pay their rent — cannot be successfully copyrighted. Instead, she has complained for years.

Anyway, Schulman is now vehemently denouncing gay supporters of Israel. While it is not surprising that an anti-Israel activist would denounce supporters of Israel, she goes a lot further than that, and I am fascinated by her reasoning process, which I think typifies much of the activist mindset.

After generations of sacrifice and organization, gay people in parts of the world have won protection from discrimination and relationship recognition. But these changes have given rise to a nefarious phenomenon: the co-opting of white gay people by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political forces in Western Europe and Israel.

In the Netherlands, some Dutch gay people have been drawn to the messages of Geert Wilders, who inherited many followers of the assassinated anti-immigration gay leader Pim Fortuyn, and whose Party for Freedom is now the country’s third largest political party. In Norway, Anders Behring Breivik, the extremist who massacred 77 people in July, cited Bruce Bawer, a gay American writer critical of Muslim immigration, as an influence. The Guardian reported last year that the racist English Defense League had 115 members in its gay wing. The German Lesbian and Gay Federation has issued statements citing Muslim immigrants as enemies of gay people.

Although I think it is dangerously naive to support people who believe you should be killed, I don’t want to focus on the merits of her anti-Israel stance so much as the way she discounts independent thinkers like Bruce Bawer as having been “co-opted”  by “anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political forces in Western Europe and Israel.”

Such complete, total disrespect for the legitimacy of the opinions of other people is Orwellian. Schulman is saying that because Bawer’s opinions are not his own, they are unworthy of debate. Bawer thus becomes less than legitimate. And as his opinions are now deemed the product of others, he is subject to a newly-coined insult — that he has been “pinkwashed.” The idea is that gays who support Israel or criticize Islamic anti-gay bigotry are in the grip of “homonationalism” which makes them judge countries according to how they deal with homosexuality:

What makes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies so susceptible to pinkwashing — and its corollary, the tendency among some white gay people to privilege their racial and religious identity, a phenomenon the theorist Jasbir K. Puar has called “homonationalism” — is the emotional legacy of homophobia. Most gay people have experienced oppression in profound ways — in the family; in distorted representations in popular culture; in systematic legal inequality that has only just begun to relent. Increasing gay rights have caused some people of good will to mistakenly judge how advanced a country is by how it responds to homosexuality.

Is it necessarily a mistake to judge how advanced a country is by how it responds to homosexuality? Obviously, that is not the only factor, but remember, this is an award-winning gay activist arguing that not only is it a mistake, but that gay rights are being cynically used as an excuse to mask oppression, and that gays who disagree with her are not thinking their own thoughts, but are suffering from the emotional legacy of homophobia. How arrogant can a person get?

(I’d love to hear her grapple with the logical extension of her thought: “Increasing gay rights have caused some people of good will to mistakenly judge how advanced an American political party is by how it responds to homosexuality.“)

Schulman’s focus on the gay rights issue in isolation implies that gay activists who support Israel are myopic single-issue thinkers who ignore the bigger picture of how “advanced” Israel’s neighboring countries are. Gay supporters of Israel are completely unaware of the plight of women’s rights in the Mideast. To say nothing of free speech and freedom of religion, or other rights we take for granted, such as looking at racy magazines, or even having a beer. Pro-Israel gays are so caught up in using gay rights as a measuring stick that they have no idea of how advanced these countries really are. Schulman of course gets the bigger picture, but they don’t.

And if you don’t think Israel’s neighbors are free and advanced, you’ve been pinkwashed too!

UPDATE: David Bernstein has an offer for Sarah Schulman:

Professor Schulman, if you happen to read this, I have an offer for you: I will pay for your ticket to Israel and accommodations, if you will agree to live among your “progressive” allies as an openly gay Jewish woman in Gaza for one month…

As Bernstein explains, if the offer is accepted, it might turn out to be considerably less expensive than it looks.

Via Glenn Reynolds.

And if you think pinkwashing is bad, those evil Israeli Jooos are now attempting to create artificial pancreases — in order to enlist children with diabetes in their tanish-pinkwashing perfidy!

Just think! As Ms. Schulman would put it,

Increasing concerns over human health have caused some people of good will to mistakenly judge how advanced a country is by how it responds to challenges in medical research.

UPDATE: While Ms. Schulman may call such reports “pinkwashing,” it is undeniable that being gay in Gaza is not a good idea:

The situation is even worse for gays in Gaza. Homosexuality is illegal and has been prosecuted. In April, a militant group in Gaza kidnapped and killed Italian civil rights activist Vittorio Arrigoni. Several press reports said that one reason for his death was that Arrigoni was openly gay and living with a partner in Gaza.

Mental health professionals in Gaza say there are no reliable statistics on homosexuals in Gaza as the social taboo is too strong and homosexuals are afraid of being arrested.

Meanwhile, gay Palestinians living illegally in Israel “live in fear of being found out and sent back to the West Bank or Gaza.”

Of course, if the Israelis allowed them refugee status in Israel to save their lives, that, too, would be called “pinkwashing.”
I find it hard to feel anything but contempt for people like Sarah Schulman.