Pinkwashing is "the attempt by a state or people to highlight its treatment of gays to show how progressive it is, in turn covering up human rights violations from which it wishes to detract attention‟ (Ryan 2012). It has repeatedly been used by western powers, for example, as a way to construct themselves as "superior‟ or "advanced‟ because they support LGBTQ rights, and to construct the Other as "backwards‟ because they supposedly do not support these rights. A person or institution is engaging in pinkwashing when their motives are not to help LGBTQs but rather to further a separate agenda.
In the recent past, Israel has perhaps been the most avid "pinkwasher‟ due to its repeated attempts to divert attention away from its brutal occupation of Palestine by constructing itself as the only "gay haven‟ in an otherwise homophobic Middle East. Israel has launched a publicity campaign aimed at constructing Israel as a safe space for Middle Eastern homosexuals. This campaign, which has included widespread advertising, is aimed at showing that Israel is the only homophobia-free country in the Middle East. This is specifically in contrast to Palestine, which is automatically cast as a dangerous and violent place for LGBTQs.
Numerous Palestinian LGBTQ groups have reiterated that Israel is currently engaged in pinkwashing:
Sara Salem is a PhD candidate in development studies at the International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, Netherlands. Her research interests centre on social movements, anti-imperialism, queer studies, feminism, postcolonial theory and decolonial thinking in the context of the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and the MENA diaspora in Europe.