Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Pink-Washing of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict

Critics of Israel say the state touts its gay-rights record only to conceal its oppression of Palestinians. They call it pink washing. That’s nonsense.  
By James Kirchick  
        In June 2007, I marched in Jerusalem’s gay pride parade. To do so was a risk. A group of ultra-Orthodox rabbis had issued a hex on the event. “To all those involved, sinners in spirit, and whoever helps and protects them, may they feel a curse on their souls, may it plague them and may evil pursue them,” they declared ahead of the march. Two years earlier, a fanatical Orthodox Jew had stabbed three parade participants. And in 2006, a prominent Hebron sheikh had asserted that the parade was “a cancer whose objective is to destroy the Islamic nation through humiliating Jerusalem by demonstrating the perversions of gays and lesbians.” Gays serve an ecumenical purpose in the Holy Land: Extremist Jews and fundamentalist Muslims put aside their differences to join together in hating them.  
       Thankfully, no violence occurred at the 2007 parade, though hundreds of anti-gay activists lined the route shouting imprecations and holding hateful signs. “Go to a shrink,” one particularly blunt poster read. “Go Away. Your sickness should be healed, not flaunted,” declared another. Over 7,000 police and army officers protected the marchers, and snipers were placed on the rooftops of nearby buildings.
As the ugly reactions to the parade revealed, the vast array of rights that gay people enjoy in the Jewish state—which include serving openly in the military, adoption, domestic partnerships, and the recognition of marriages performed abroad—did not emerge from nowhere. These rights are the fruit of hard work on the part of many activists, gay and straight, who had to push for them against politically powerful, socially conservative elements. This ongoing fight for inclusion was manifested most recently in the creation of an LGBT faction within the Labor Party, supported by all the party’s Knesset members except for Arab-Israeli MK Raleb Majadele.
        But the struggles of Israeli activists and the progress they’ve achieved are meaningless to some, including Sarah Schulman, professor, novelist, and self-described “active participant citizen.” In a New York Times op-ed published last week, Schulman argued that these advances in gay rights are merely a “potent tool” in the Jewish state’s “pinkwashing,” by which she means Israel’s “deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.” As evidence of this so-called pinkwashing, Schulman cited the fact that the Tel Aviv tourism board is spending $90 million on a campaign to market the city as “an international gay vacation destination.” For Schulman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reference to the Middle East as a region “where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted” in his May speech to Congress is yet another example of the sinister pinkwashing trend, also known in many quarters as diplomacy.
        Schulman, a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, isn’t the first person to employ the phrase. In May, a writer for Time magazine alleged that Israel and Israelis’ participation in a series of international gay events was part of a coordinated campaign undertaken “in the hopes of redirecting [Israel’s] global image away from politics, terrorism and the occupied territories.” Joseph Massad, a professor of Arab politics at Columbia University, told Time that Israel launched this effort “to fend off international condemnation of its violations of the rights of the Palestinian people.” (Massad has written a book, Desiring Arabs, which alleges the existence of a nefarious “Queer International,” with supporters of Israel at its core, whose “discourse … produces homosexuals as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist” so as to paint Arab cultures as barbaric.)
The first fallacy of the pinkwashing meme is that it’s a non sequitur. No one is saying that Israel ought to be immune from criticism because it treats gay people humanely. Israel’s stellar record on gay rights does not prevent anyone from condemning the country’s settlement policies, its proposed ban on foreign funding of NGOs, or its lackluster effort to integrate Arab Israelis—issues that Israeli gay activists, many of them leftists, would gladly join Schulman in denouncing. But none of these failings renders Israel’s record on gay rights any less impressive, nor does touting that record constitute a covert method of justifying the occupation or racism against Arab citizens.
      Schulman seems incapable of such discernment. “Increasing gay rights have caused some people of good will to mistakenly judge how advanced a country is by how it responds to homosexuality,” she wrote in the op-ed. While it would be foolish to judge a country’s “advancement” solely on the rights of gays, it is a telling standard. The protection of minorities is a bedrock principle of any liberal society, and it is an indisputable fact that sexual, racial, and religious minorities are better off in Israel than they are anywhere else in the region.
        Though Schulman claims that, “pinkwashing … manipulates the hard-won gains of Israel’s gay community” it is Schulman who renders these gains meaningless. According to her, the victories of gay-rights advocates in Israel do not exist in and of themselves, but are cogs in a grand propaganda machine to legitimize occupation and oppression. The effort to create a more open and inclusive Israeli society is merely part of a broader PR campaign—undertaken, ironically enough, by the same right-wing forces who recommended I see a psychiatrist to cure me of my homosexuality—to fool credulous Western liberals into believing that Israel is something it’s not.
While accusing the government of Israel and pro-Israel activists of deceiving well-intentioned progressives, Schulman and her ilk are in fact using the issue of gay rights to forward an ulterior agenda. So consumed are they by hatred of Israel that they are willing to distort the truth about the horrible repression of homosexuals in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. If there’s any cleaning of dirty laundry going on here, it is Schulman’s whitewashing the plight of Palestinian gays.
      Schulman’s assertion that homosexuality has been effectively “decriminalized” in the Palestinian territories since the 1950s when Jordan revoked colonial-era sodomy laws, will come as cold comfort to the countless gay Palestinians who have fled to Israel after being tortured or receiving death threats by Hamas or Fatah agents. Schulman’s claim would certainly come as news to Maen Rashid Areikat, the PLO’s ambassador to Washington. When asked earlier this year if homosexuality would be tolerated in a future Palestinian state, Areikat replied, “This is an issue that’s beyond my [authority].” Hamas strategist Mahmoud Al-Zahar was blunter. In comments directed toward Westerners, Al-Zahar told Reuters last year that “You do not live like human beings. You do not (even) live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticize us?” And whatever law might be on the Palestinian Authority books has yet to persuade the leaders of Aswat, a Palestinian lesbian organization, to relocate their headquarters to Ramallah from Haifa. By making the absurd claim that the issue of gay rights is being “manipulated” by the Israeli government, Schulman ends up making excuses for people who kill homosexuals.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Russian gay rights activist slams anti-gay bill in St. Petersburg

On November 2011 St Petersburg shocked the world. As the legislative assembly approved, in its first reading, a bill which outlawed the promotion of homosexuality, transsexuality and paedophilia to minors. The passage of the bill provoked a quick reaction from local LGBT activists, who organised several protests against the initiative. It also mobilised the international community. The bill was condemned by MEPs, the US state department and thousands of people from around the world, who signed an online petition against its implementation. 

To read the full story at the Guardian click here

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from Boy Butter!

Ah! on Thanksgiving day.... When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more, and the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before.What moistens the lips and what brightens the eye?What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?

~ John Greenleaf Whittier

Sunday, November 20, 2011


The number of Israeli lesbian, gay and bisexual teens who identify their sexual leanings and “come out” to their family and friends has grown dramatically in the past two decades, with the average age dropping from 25 in 1991 to 16 in 2010, according to Tel Aviv University researchers.

In a new study published in the journal Family Relations on the stress factors and the mental health of sexual minorities, Dr. Guy Shilo of TAU’s Bob Shapell School of Social Work reported that family support and acceptance is becoming increasingly essential for LGB youth. “Family support is a crucial variable in the mental health of young LGBs, higher than peer support,” wrote Shilo, noting that it is difficult for LGB teens to separate themselves from unsupportive families because they are still dependent on them for their welfare.

Shilo and his colleague Prof. Riki Savaya conducted a study of 461 self-identified LGB youth aged 16 to 23 to examine how stress related to being part of a minority group was impacting their mental health. To determine stress levels, the researchers questioned participants on how they felt about their family, friends and peer support, as well as their connection to the LGB community for emotional support. Participants were evaluated for mental distress and feelings of well-being – the polar negative and positive of mental health.

While peer support certainly had an impact on the mental health of participants, the researchers discovered that family support was more central to their sense of well-being.

A lack of family support was found to significantly heighten mental distress among the study participants, which can lead to depression.

In addition, they found that family acceptance had the strongest positive impact on self-acceptance of sexual orientation.
Adult LGBs who lack the support of their families, explained Shilo, often react by leaving their families behind. They build separate lives that can include “families of choice,” where peer groups – mainly from the LGB community – form an alternative family structure and give each other the same emotional support and sense of belonging that a family is meant to provide. But this is not always a viable option at a younger age.

Today, more adolescents are open about their sexual orientation – and the younger they are, the more important family connections tend to be, wrote Shilo, who works with Beit Dror, a shelter for runaway LGB youth in central Tel Aviv supported by the municipality and the Welfare and Social Services Ministry and the Israel Gay Youth Organization.

The average 16-year-old is still in school and depends on family for financial support, food and shelter. “They can’t just get up and go.”

The tendency of LGBs to come out earlier in life derives from social and cultural progress, concluded Shilo. Most adult LGBs knew they were homosexual or bisexual at the age of nine or 10, he maintained. “The increasing respect and recognition of the rights of sexual minorities have provided the encouragement to ‘come out’ at an earlier age,” he wrote.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wear Milk? Designer Uses Textile Made From 100% Cow Juice

       German designer Anke Domaske has perfected a fiber from milk and made it into part of her Mademoiselle Chi Chi clothing line. The silk from milk was first publicly introduced this past summer, but this week it really hit the big time, being picked up by all the major networks and newspapers since it won the innovation award of Germany’s Textile Research Association.
        The fabric is called Qmilch, a word Domaske invented that is a combination of quality and the German word for milk, and several companies have now reportedly expressed interest in using the fabric in mass production. The completely organic product is produced from sour milk that is reduced to a protein powder, then boiled and pressed into strands that can be woven into a fabric.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Boy Butter hits Chicago this weekend

I am in Chicago meeting with my best friend, Xavier Caylor, and enjoying the chilly windy city this weekend. Both of us have many friends here and we always have a great time. While here I always take the opportunity to put up a couple posters in Boystown and visit with stores like the Ram, Cupid's Treasures and The Pleasure Chest. Chicago may be colder than NY but surrounded by such warm people in this city makes it comfy and cozy.
Poster on Halsted
Posters in front of 7-11 on Halsted
Xavier noticing Smitty the bat at the base of the stairwell of our friend, Rob's house.
Pretending to smoke from Rob's ornamental hooka
Vishnu helps sell real estate too.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My brother-in-law completes NYC Marathon

       Yesterday my awesome bro-in-law, Terry McGovern, had successfully completed the grueling 26 mile NYC Marathon with almost 47,000 runners from all over the world. The marathon starts out in Staten Island then crossing over the Verrazano bridge to Brooklyn, then Queens, the Bronx and finally finishing it up in Central Park surrounded by 2 million on lookers with an amazing time of 3 hours and 50 minutes. Terry is an experienced and active runner and cyclist in his home of Bonn, Gemany, with years of marathon experience under his belt. He can now boast that he conquered the NYC marathon and even managed some cool press on an AOL news site called, Patch. The local Brooklyn Park Slope Patch wrote about Terry McGovern preparing to run the marathon with his childhood friend, Mike Clark. To read the news piece on Terry and Mike's marathon mission, click here.
Mazel Tov and Congratulations Terry, we love you!!
Terry at the 23rd mile 
Terry waving to us
Marathon Man

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Prose Poem On Hawaii

by Mark Twain 

No alien land in all the world has any deep, strong charm for me but that one; no other land could so longingly and beseechingly haunt me sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done. Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change but it remains the same. For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore; its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud-rack; I can feel the spirit of its woodland solitude; I can hear the path of its brooks. In my nostrils still lives the breath of a flower that perished twenty years ago.

Beach at Poipu

Floral hedge
House with Blue floral hedge
Poipu lifeguard tower at beach

My little Macadamia nut, Robert Noble (great friend)
Kauai hillside
Abandoned Coco Palms Hotel, (famous hotel of Elvis's Hawaii movies)
Dilapidated Coco Palms
Kauai Beach

Walking to the beach

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Montel Williams: Israel Leads In Medical Marijuana

JERUSALEM (AP) — Emmy Award-winning television personality and patient activist Montel Williams said Sunday he was impressed with Israel's liberal attitude toward medical marijuana, and he believes the U.S. could learn a thing or two from the Jewish state.
Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999 and he has since been an outspoken advocate of medical marijuana to relieve pain caused by the disease.
The former host of the popular long-running talk show "The Montel Williams Show" is in Israel on a fact-finding mission to learn about its medicinal cannabis practices. He is meeting with legislators, scientists and physicians.
At the height of his TV career, Williams was one of the most recognizable faces in America alongside fellow daytime TV hosts Oprah Winfrey, Phil Donahue and Geraldo Rivera.
"We need to get out of the dark ages and into the new ages," he told The Associated Press. "Not every patient can use cannabis, but for those who can — why deny it?"
In Israel, certain doctors can approve cannabis prescriptions and disperse them to patients, said Itay Goor-Aryeh, the head of the pain management unit at the Sheba Medical Center in central Israel.
He said that while marijuana use is strictly regulated, many doctors prefer prescribing it to patients who qualify because it is "the lesser of evils."
"Those patients, if they do not get cannabis, they will get morphine-like drugs and other harmful drugs," said Goor-Aryeh. "I think that in many ways, cannabis is tolerated and is less addictive that morphine-based drugs."
Sixteen U.S. states have decriminalized the use of medical marijuana to some extent. Critics claim dispensaries are often no more than drug trafficking fronts.
Williams said that those merely seeking to smoke pot won't go through the lengthy bureaucratic process when they could just "go down the street."
Williams, 55, said he takes cannabis on a daily basis.
"For me, there is nothing else that can do what it does," he said. "It helps me suppress my pain ... When I am not using cannabis I am thinking about my pain every 45 seconds."
He said the drug has been "vilified to substantiate the false reason why it was banned in the first place," and that he hoped it would one day become a regular prescription drug.
"There are chemicals within that plant," he said, "and some of the leading science on where and how those chemicals work is being done right here in this country," referring to Israel.