Queer Palestinian tells the truth about Tel Aviv

Rainbow flagAfter the Guardian recently repeated without question Tel Aviv’s claim to be the most gay-friendly city in the world, a Palestinian describes his own, very different, experience.

“As a queer Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, I was disturbed last week to see the Guardian acting as a vehicle for Israel’s ‘pinkwashing’ – a term describing Israel’s self-promoting smokescreen as a haven of liberalism and gay rights even as it continues its illiberal and brutal oppression of Palestinians inside Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza.

In Eyewitnessed (15 June) you featured Tel Aviv’s gay pride event with an unquestioning caption quoting the mayor’s claim that it is “the most gay-friendly in the world”, while Harriet Sherwood (Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride parade draws thousands to the city, 10 June) described a “liberal, hedonistic” gay-friendly city. The reality is more unsettling, and deserves more analysis from your writers.

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Fake gay couple in the Israeli army

Two male Israeli soldiers, seen from behind, holding handsThe image on the right was posted to the Facebook page of the IDF, the Israeli army, in June 2012, to coincide with Tel Aviv Pride. People were encouraged to share the photo, which, it was claimed, illustrated how “the IDF treats all of its soldiers equally”. You would assume it shows a gay male couple, both members of the IDF. Thousands of people “liked” the picture.

But then the Times of Israel claimed that it was not what it appeared to be. The two men were not a couple, and only one was gay. And they both worked in the IDF spokesperson’s office – that is, for Israeli army PR.

For more detail, see the Guardian report. And for the truth about equality in the IDF, see a report from 2011 in the liberal Israeli paper Haaretz, headlined “Gay and lesbian IDF soldiers complain of widespread sexual harassment”.