Two Seattle city commissions should not be supporting a one-sided forum on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the editorial board writes.
The Seattle LGBTQ Commission and the Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities should not be supporting a one-sided forum on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Thursday’s showing of the local documentary “Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back” is a missed opportunity for constructive dialogue. Instead, it seems designed to make up for a controversial decision by the Seattle LGBTQ Commission to welcome an LGBTQ delegation from Israel in 2012.
That 2012 event was canceled a day before it was scheduled because the commission decided the event failed to offer a balanced viewpoint. The documentary, edited by Amy Mahardy and directed by Dean Spade, shares the story of how the 2012 event was stopped and offers an interesting window into Seattle government process, local LGBTQ activism, as well as Palestinian and Jewish perspectives on the Middle East conflict.
The political backlash before and after the 2012 event was canceled is at the heart of the documentary. Speakers in the film call for more cross-cultural dialogue on the conflict. Great idea. That’s exactly what the Thursday event should be.
But instead, it is being promoted as an opportunity to criticize Israel and to illustrate how promoting Israel as a gay-friendly place is just “pinkwashing” propaganda designed to distract from the uglier and deadlier parts of the Palestinian conflict. The Facebook page promoting the event, which features an interesting debate on these issues, is filled with posts by the Seattle LGBTQ Commission on human rights violations by the Israeli government.
In response to questions, Julia Ricciardi, co-chair of the LGBTQ Commission, said in a statement that the event is designed to encourage learning and civil discourse, and includes several Jewish voices. Those are voices critical of the state of Israel, and Jews are not monolithic in their views on Israel or Palestine.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, which felt its perspective on Israel will not be represented by the Jewish voices on the event panel, asked the commissions and Councilmember Kshama Sawant, an event presenter, to postpone the event until it could be offered as a more inclusive presentation.
Max Patashnik, the federation’s government affairs and community relations manager, says the Jewish organization is talking about holding its own screening of the documentary, but with a more balanced panel leading the discussion.
All community viewpoints should have a place at the table to promote a broader dialogue, but most especially at a city-sponsored event held inside City Hall.
The local documentary is worth watching and discussing, but it should be presented within the broader context of gay rights throughout the Middle East and a discussion about how LGBTQ issues intertwine with the debate over the Israel-Palestine conflict.