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Washes Pinker

This is a guest post by Eve Garrard

As a splendid article by Jamie Palmer points out, a new way to protect the world from any possibility of  Israel appearing to do good things has recently become popular among those who make it their business to provide us with such protection.  It arises in response to Israel’s properly liberal approach to the rights of gay people  – an approach which includes providing safe haven for gay Palestinians who face violence, up to and including murder, in Gaza or the West Bank on account of their sexual orientation.  Since this might look like something to Israel’s credit, it has to be revealed as having malevolent origins, and it is so revealed: this is nothing but pink-washing, we are told, where the appearance of respect for gay rights is just a device to distract attention from Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.

Now this strikes me as a splendid manoeuvre, clearly a close relative of the equally splendid Livingstone Manoeuvre (courtesy David Hirsh), in which worries about anti-semitism are scornfully dismissed as, you guessed it, devices to distract attention from Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.  But excellent though the Livingstone Manoeuvre is, I feel the Pinkwashing Manoeuvre has even richer depths, even more argumentative possibilities to protect us from seeing anything good in Israel.

Here’s why.  The logic of the Pinkwashing Manoeuvre goes like this: Israel does something apparently good (in this case, it respects and protects gay rights).  But appearances can be deceptive – it’s only doing this to distract the world from its crimes.

This is an amazingly powerful logic, since it can so easily be generalised. Why, after all, should we stop at pinkwashing?  The same logic will enable us to say that Israel gives the vote to all its citizens, but only to cover up its crimes against Palestinians – votewashing, we might say.  Israel protects the rights of women, but only to cover up its crimes against Palestinians (femiwashing?).  Israel gives medical treatment to Palestinian children, provides university education as much for its Arab citizens as for its Jewish ones, has a very diverse and lively free press, has Arab senior academics, senior judges, senior members of parliament – but all, all in order to cover up its crimes against etc etc.  You get the idea. This logic is really going places – in particular, it’s taking its practitioners to a place they very much want to be, a place in which they are fully protected against the possibility of any evidence shaking their conviction of Israel’s unrelieved wickedness.  Their views are perfectly sealed-off against refutation, a condition which is psychologically very comforting, though of course intellectually ruinous.  (If you should doubt the logical legitimacy of any of the extensions of the Manoeuvre outlined above, then you’ll have to doubt the original Pinkwashing Manoeuvre itself – it’s the same logic.)

Here’s an argumentative manoeuvre which ensures that we can go on regarding the objects of our hostility as being guilty as charged, no matter what they do.  What a very satisfying intellectual device – why wouldn’t people want such an argument? (Unless, if course, they have some concern for validity, plausibility, supporting evidence, and other uncomfortable truth-oriented stuff like that.)  I predict the very rapid spread of this Manoeuvre – the future, I fear, may well be Pink.