Alleged Israeli whitewashing vs. Palestinian appropriation

The real question is: what kind of “washing” is it called when Palestinians hijack crucial social issues and use them as a platform to advance their own agenda?

US POLICE during the Ferguson riots in 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS)
US POLICE during the Ferguson riots in 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“Israeli whitewashing” is the concept that Israel is allegedly using its significant aid to countries in need as a tactic to distract public discourse and opinion from the conflict with the Palestinians. It’s a favorite of many anti-Israel/Zionist individuals and organizations which are trying to delegitimize Israel entirely.
According to this theory, when Israel sent 250 doctors and rescue personnel to Nepal after the 2015 earthquake there – the largest delegation sent by any country – it was merely to earn “brownie points” with the international community and distract from the Palestinian conflict.
A similar concept is called “pinkwashing.” This is where Israel supposedly uses its liberal policy toward the LGBT community – with Tel Aviv considered an LGBT capital of the world – as a tactic to gain favor with Western society, and again, distract from the conflict with the Palestinians.
These allegations are absurd, of course.
The real question is: what kind of “washing” is it called when Palestinians hijack crucial social issues and use them as a platform to advance their own agenda? It’s been happening a lot.
When Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black male, was shot in Ferguson, Missouri, protests and unrest erupted across the United States. People were calling for social justice and an end to institutional racism in America. This gave a surge to the Black Lives Matter movement, which seeks to raise awareness of instances of police brutality and racial inequality in the US. Photos of the Ferguson protests showed images of protestors facing off against police in full riot gear.
Some Palestinian groups were quick to latch on and draw a parallel to the situation in the Middle East. Signs bearing slogans such as “From Ferguson to Palestine, Occupation is a Crime” and “Ferguson and Palestine – Stop Apartheid Now!” started to appear.
The two have nothing to do with each other. Two very different causes, thousands of miles away – but the Palestinians hijacked the issue to suit their own agenda. And now fighting this alleged “Palestinian genocide” and “freeing Palestine” is part of official Black Lives Matter policy.
When early in US President Donald Trump’s administration he enacted a travel/ immigration moratorium on specific countries – again protests erupted nationwide.
This time signs appeared with the slogan “From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have to Go!” Again, these are two very different issues which have nothing to do with each other, but the Palestinians saw an opportunity and they hooked on – hijacking the issue for their own agenda.
When the International Women’s Strike took place in March 2017, the agenda was clear: preserving female reproductive rights, ending violence against women, ending gender bias, closing the wage gap between males and females – these are social issues which need addressing and this was a platform dedicated to doing so. It was all very direct.
But somehow the Palestinians managed to squeeze into the policy a clause spotlighting and isolating Israel; “the demand for... the decolonization of Palestine [is] for us the beating heart of this new feminist movement.”
No mention of the Syrian Civil War and the millions of women suffering there. No mention of Iran and the millions of women being oppressed there. Apparently, according to them, Israel is the only country which oppresses women. Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian organizer of the event, even went so far as to claim that Feminism and Zionism are completely incompatible.
Ironically, at the same time, the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini stated that feminism was a ploy being used by the Zionists to disrupt society. Regardless, the Palestinians attempted to hijack feminism and spin it around against Israel.
At an event at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where there are hundreds of Palestinian students enrolled receiving an education gratis, courtesy of the Israeli government, two Syrian men were speaking about the Syrian civil war, and how it has drastically altered their lives and the lives of their families. Palestinian students began disrupting the speech – yelling that these men should be ashamed for talking about their plight while Palestinians are being oppressed under the Zionists.
These Palestinians attempted to hijack the Syrian civil war, which has seen over half a million people killed and millions more displaced – to promote their own agenda.
Why is there no term for this type of hijacking? Why is this not a style of “washing” being used by the anti-Israel activists to fool social justice movements, with specific agendas, to shoulder the Palestinian cause? Perhaps because it isn’t “washing” at all, but merely theft.
These anti-Israel activists are stealing attention away from other social issues, because they perceive their own as the most important of them all. Not only is this shameful, but it diminishes the support these issues deserve and ends up regressing both sides.
This is not something that should be accepted by the public.
The Palestinian issue is something that needs to be discussed and resolved. It would be wrong to suggest that all Palestinians living in Israel lead perfect lives. But it shouldn’t detract from other movements’ agendas. On college campuses there is a significant effort among students to prevent cultural appropriation; the appropriation of social justice movements to benefit the anti-Israel activists should not be treated any different.
The author is the Israel director at The Pinsker Centre, a UK based organization that defends Israel on British university campuses. Follow him on Twitter @AlwaysShachor.