'Pinkwashing,' Israel, LGBT activists and the conference the mainstream media missed

Anti-Israel activists are a varied lot. Some seek a particular political change in Israel, such as an end to construction of West Bank Jewish settlement housing that they believe undermines any reasonable, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Then there are those who oppose everything and anything Israel does because -- well, because I believe their ultimate goal is the destruction of the Jewish state and its replacement by a single Palestinian-dominated nation. They're more than just anti-Israel; they're really anti-Zionist, in that their hostility is not limited to Israeli government policies but to the very idea of there being a Jewish state in the Middle East.

Moreover, they hold to that anti-Israel/anti-Zionist position even if the issue at hand is one they would normally support big time if any other nation were involved. The latest example of this relates to the issue of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights and societal acceptance.

The Israel-be-damned-24-7 crowd rejects the many legal gains that LGBT people have achieved in Israel by calling it "pinkwashing." Given the diversity and sensitivities within the LGBT community, the term itself sounds to me like outdated, negative stereotyping.

Nevertheless, the term is used to reference the activists' claim that Israeli society's liberal approach toward LGBT rights is insincere and hypocritical and meant only to divert attention from what the activists insist is Israel's unconscionable treatment of Palestinians.

The issue surfaced in a big way at last month's Creating Change Conference held in Chicago. The conference is the nation's largest annual gay rights gathering. Anti-Israel gay rights activists -- joined by outsiders with their own anti-Israel beefs, or simply to show solidarity -- loudly, angrily and forcefully sought to shut down a conference event because American Jewish gay activists had invited Israeli gay activists to join them.

Charges of blatant anti-Semitism were leveled at the protesters, prompting conference sponsors to offer an apology. Click here for a brief Chicago Sun-Times piece on the mea culpa.

But wait. You say you hadn't heard about this story?

Perhaps that's because it received very little coverage in American media, despite the raucousness of the anti-Israel protest in a prominent public hotel. LGBT, American Jewish and Israeli media, on the other hand, have run story after story on what happened.

Here's one piece from a Chicago gay-oriented paper. And here's another from The Washington Blade, the capital city's LGBT paper, and one more from a leading American Jewish publication, The Forward.

Not even Chicago's big dailies paid much attention to the uproar in their midst. My Web search turned up nothing in The Chicago Tribune (readers: please let know if you saw something I missed). And while The Sun-Times did run a couple of pieces, including the one linked to above, they were short and read as if they were pulled together from press releases and Web rip offs. No real time reporting was in evidence.

Given that gay rights and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict command so much media attention, I was surprised that the Creating Change Conference was so overlooked.

As for the Chicago mainstream media's lack of attention, I'm even more surprised given that the city and its suburbs have large Jewish, Arab/Muslim and LGBT communities

Presumably, they all would have great interest in this story.

I was able to find a few after-the-fact mainstream-media opinion columns that took umbrage with the protest. Here's one that ran on The Washington Post's website.  Here's another from The New York Post.

In the interest of fairness and completeness -- because I think regular GetReligion readers are pretty clear about where I stand on Israel-related issues -- here's a link to a piece defending the pinkwashing charge and the Creating Change demonstration. It's from Electric Intifada, which, as its name implies, is very much pro-Palestinian.

Israel is the one Middle East nation with a national policy supportive of gay rights. Tel Aviv, Israel's overwhelmingly secular beachfront city, is often called the most LGBT-friendly city in the Middle East, and is promoted by city and national tourism officials as a great vacation destination for LGBT travelers.

This is not to say that all Israelis look favorably upon homosexuality, and certainly not upon its open display. Some Jewish religious traditionalists have acted violently toward gays. Hostility toward LGBT individuals and rights are also deeply rooted in Israel's Arab community, which is more socially conservative than the general Jewish population.

So why was this story overlooked?

Frankly, I don't think it's because the media is tiring of LGBT and/or Israel conflict stories. In the Web world -- the new battleground for media consumers -- these subjects tend to fire up the clicks and comment sections. Trolls and sincerely involved readers alike, from all sides of these issues, seem to live for opportunities to have their say.

Rather, I think the missing coverage is just another sign of the shrinkage of real-time, shoe-leather reporting in this era of major staff downsizing that is radically reshaping -- some would say destroying -- the news business.

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