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SPHR accused Israel of “pinkwashing”, falsely promoting itself as gay-friendly and welcoming

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SPHR puts Israel’s policies under a slanted scrutiny to draw attention away from the genuine human rights violations against LGBT people taking place within Gaza on a daily basis. (Photo: SPHR McMaster Facebook)

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Being a pro-Israel student on university campuses is never easy, and McMaster is no exception.McMaster University is located in Hamilton, Ontario, and it has a growing Jewish community, with approximately 700 Jewish students currently pursuing an undergraduate degree. Jews make up about 2% of McMaster’s total undergraduate population.  

The city of Hamilton has an estimated Jewish population of 5110. It is common for Jewish and pro-Israel students at McMaster to keep their heads low in fear of being attacked by radical student groups in the name of social justice and equality.

One such group is Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), a Canadian student-run organization claiming to uphold the rights of the Palestinian people. They have branches at university campuses across Canada, including McGill and Concordia, where it originated. According to Canary Mission, “As of February 2017, SPHR had active branches on nine (other) university campuses including: Université de Montréal (UdeM), Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), University of Ottawa (UofO), Queen’s University (Queens), McMaster University (Mac), University of British Columbia (UBC), University of Calgary (Calgary), Lethbridge college (Lethbridge) and University of Western Ontario (UWO)…”

The group has a history of antisemitism and defending violence against Israel. It is common for SPHR to portray Israel in a negative light to a general student audience. Just last year, while walking through the halls at McMaster, I walked past multiple posters advertising SPHR’s Israel Apartheid Week, featuring convicted terrorist and airplane hijacker Lela Khalid holding an AK-47.

A recent pamphlet circulated by SPHR accused Israel of “falsely promot[ing] itself as gay-friendly to display itself as modern, progressive, and democratic, distracting from its grave abuses of Palestinian human rights.” (This supposed Israeli evil is dubbed “pinkwashing.”) Of course, this is an entirely erroneous premise – Israel is the most progressive and democratic country in the Middle East.

To distract from this obvious reality, SPHR’s propaganda disseminated multiple falsehoods to advance the group’s mission of attacking Israel and Israelis.

To start off, the poster claims that the Israeli government spent “$94 million to attract gay tourism to Tel Aviv in 2010,” and states that this “deceptive PR strategy is also known as ‘pinkwashing’”. But is this truly a “PR strategy,” or is it a byproduct of the fact that Israel has the most liberal LGBT rights by far in the Middle East, and is the most LGBT-tolerant country in Asia?

– It recognizes same-sex cohabitations,

– It currently recognizes same-sex marriages performed outside of Israel,

– It legally prohibited employment discrimination based on sexual orientation in 1992.

– Same-sex couples also have the same adoption rights as any other couples.

– There are LGBT-identifying individuals in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and in the Israeli Knesset.

– Tel Aviv holds one of the world’s largest gay pride parades annually and has even been referred to as the “gay capital of the middle east.”

Many gay Palestinians even seek refuge in Israel to escape persecution. These are just a few of the many facts that SPHR does not want the public to know, in order to portray Israeli society as intolerant.

The SPHR flyer boasts that there are groups that have “taken action against Israeli pinkwashing, such as AlQaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society,” but it conveniently glosses over the fact that in response to an AlQaws-planned event, the Palestinian Authority (PA) banned its planned activities in the West Bank.

A PA police spokesperson claimed that these activities are “harmful to the higher values and ideals of Palestinian society.” Members of the AlQaws group subsequently received threats and hate messages, and the PA (reportedly) eventually rescinded their statement following the backlash.

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The flyer also asserts that the “conservative” Israeli society “discriminates against LGBT [people] by banning gay marriage [and] promoting gay conversion therapy.”

Despite these accusations, Israel passed a bill in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) just this year to ban conversion therapy – it was the first (and only) country in the Middle East to do so. Unfortunately, gay marriage is currently not recognized under the Israeli Rabbinate (which controls Israeli marriages).

Nevertheless, it is important to note that while the Rabbinate seems to hold quite a bit of bureaucratic power, it does not reflect the views of broader Israeli society. Many gay Israelis get married abroad, as same-sex marriages abroad are recognized, and same-sex couples in Tel Aviv can register as married.

A recent survey found that 78% of Israelis supported the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, suggesting that Israeli society is far from discriminatory.

SPHR sets up booths at McMaster events to paint Hamas as a heroic and gentle organization and the Israeli Defence Force as an aggressor targeting innocents. (Photo: SPHR McMaster Twitter)

SPHR’s final claim on their flyer argues that the Palestinian LGBT community is “worse off” because they are “blackmailed into joining the Israeli army…[and] are subject to severe racism, in addition to homophobia.” SPHR seemingly provided no evidence to support the assertion that Palestinians are “blackmailed” into joining the Israeli army, and I could find no such evidence upon further research.

SPHR also fails to note that in Gaza, the US-designated terrorist organization Hamas has sentenced homosexuals to death. By contrast, there are many LGBT-identifying soldiers in the IDF.

Moreover, SPHR consistently ignores discriminatory practices anywhere except Israel, with apparently no concern for the application of the death penalty to same-sex couples in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, and Yemen.

Those who are looking for an accurate picture of LGBT rights in the Middle East should not buy SPHR’s propaganda – tolerance should be admired, not vilified.

Ezra Nadler is currently in his third year of the Arts and Science program at McMaster University in Hamilton, minoring in Psychology. He is the 2020-2021 Fellow On Campus for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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