LGBT+ and Israel: A Key Example of Pinkwashing

Originally published by PLUS

Kamryn Stringfield, National Director of PLUS, from Oregon

One of the primary objectives of PLUS as a working class LGBT+ organization is to combat the imperialist pinkwashing that we see in so much of the western press when we’re hearing of developments in geopolitics. The term “pinkwashing” is one that many people I’ve talked to say they’ve never heard. Right away, however, they understand the meaning. Pinkwashing, like whitewashing or, as a better example, greenwashing, is the use of the LGBT+ community, movement, symbolism or oppression to bolster the interests of the imperialists.

Sometimes, it’s through defending the imperialist institutions and economies, claiming that they’re more LGBT+ friendly than before or are somehow advancing the cause of that community (the military industrial complex and intelligence agencies in the US are particularly guilty of this). Sometimes, it’s through attacking a country or group that opposes the west by implying or claiming that they are anti-LGBT+, and that military action or economic sanctions can be justified on that basis (similar to the cries to “save” the women and children in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, etc.) In any case, pinkwashing serves the imperialists, but doesn’t actually serve the LGBT+ community.

The war with the most media attention right now is the genocidal war that the Zionist Government of Israel is waging on the Palestinian people. In more than five months, more than 35,000 Palestinian people have been killed. While much of the war propaganda has focused on Hamas and the October 7th attack, there has been a campaign now and for years prior to pinkwash Israel/Palestine.

The term “pinkwashing” was initially used in the 80’s to refer to companies claiming to support women with breast cancer while profiting from cancer, but was actually recoined by a group of anti-Zionist LGBT+ people in San Francisco named “Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT)” in a 2010 piece for the Electronic Intifada publication, pointing to the Holocaust era pink-triangle for the reasoning behind the “pink” suffix. Since then, it has been used time and time again to refer to the Israeli government’s actions and rhetoric regarding LGBT+.

Since October, multiple Israeli publications have invoked pinkwashing to defend the Israeli government and attack Hamas, justifying collective punishment on Gaza. They claim that Israel is a haven for LGBT+ rights and that Hamas is violently oppressive of LGBT+ rights and should be opposed by LGBT+ groups on that basis. This propaganda fails to recognize that LGBT+ people do exist openly and publicly in Palestine and that occupation, blockades, sanctions, apartheid and bombing campaigns don’t help LGBT+ Palestinians or Israelis.

Israel has its own political challenges with the far-right threatening LGBT+ rights in the country, just like the Republican wave of anti-LGBT+ bills in state legislatures across the US. Zionism doesn’t serve LGBT+ people any better than NATO does, and neither could ever be justified in their military intervention against countries or people they claim are anti-LGBT+. We recognize that LGBT+ liberation is only to be found in the liberation of all oppressed people from imperialism, in the liberation of the working class, and that LGBT+ comfort in imperialist states is a privilege we can use and we can lose. PLUS unequivocally opposes the Israeli governments genocide and occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and stands with the Palestinian people, especially our Palestinian LGBT+ siblings.

This article was from the Stonewall Lives! Bulletin Spring Summer 2024 Edition that was just released. You can find the announcement of the bulletin and its full PDF at