The Pinkwash Paradox and the Ambassador's Wife
"IDENTITY PROBLEMS"? Ambassador's wife and deputy ambassador herself, Nurit Tinari-Modai embarasses Israeli Foreign Ministry with plan to smear critics in Ireland .
ISRAELI propaganda on the sexual liberty front seems to be running into trouble. Running? More like caught with its trousers down and tripping over its own feet, ass over er...elbow.
A picture showing two male soldiers holding hands on the Israel Defense Forces' official English Facebook page turned out to be staged, according to a report in the Times of Israel. The two soldiers in the photo are not a couple, only one of the two is gay, and both the soldiers serve in the IDF Spokesperson’s Office.
The picture gathered thousands of "likes" on Facebook and went viral over the internet. It appears to have been taken on Itamar Ben Avi street in Tel Aviv, around the corner from the Spokesperson’s Office headquarters.
A spokesperson for the IDF Spokesperson’s Office did not deny the photo was staged, but said: “The photo reflects the IDF’s open minded attitude towards soldiers of all sexual orientations. The IDF respects the privacy of the soldiers featured in the photograph, and will not comment on their identities.”
I suppose there are worse things one has to do for the military, though you may wonder why the army goes to this trouble. After all, as someone commented, a survey in Gaza found that more than 99 per cent of Palestinians were also open minded, not concerned as to whether the Israeli who bombs them was gay or straight.
But the Israeli state and its propagandists have been going to great effort to prove how modern and enlightened the country is, compared to those nasty folk over the wire, and further afield in Iran. Male homosexual sex was outlawed in Israel until 1988, and in the 1950s the IDF was the only official state institution to try and jail soldiers for engaging in such behavior, according to the Israeli National LGBT Task Force.
Gays were not initially included in those entitled to rights under the so-called Law of Return, which continued to discriminate against non-Jewish gay partners until recently. (And needless to say excludes non-Jews, i.e. Palestinians who gay or straight, really are trying to return to what was their country!)
But Israeli tourism officials and hasbara(PR)niks have been keen to welcome gay pride events, even at the risk of uniting hostility from Orthodox Jews, fundamentalist Christians and Muslims. What has been called "Pinkwashing" not only offsets the tourism boycott, but they hope, takes minds off other little problems, such as 45 years of occupation, discrimination and increasingly strident racialism. It's one of the ways they hope to promote "brand Israel" as a positive image that avoids the problems of politics.
Trouble is, trying to project a comfortable and reassuring image for gays or anyone else sits ill with the brutality of oppression, macho culture and racist thuggery. Somehow things just don't fit. They just can't get it right.
Last year there was the case of the gay called "Marc" who had supposedly been turned away because of his sexual orientation when he tried to join the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. "Marc"s flashy video circulated on YouTube, he looked quite sincerely hurt, but a lot of his footage was far too like a record promotion and pink stereotyped to fit its supposed subject, or for any of the gay people I know to identify with. It might have been made by some IDF propaganda unit with its crude idea of what would appeal on YouTube.
That's only an impression, mind.
What we do know is that the "gay activist Marc" whom nobody had heard of, has been identified as an Israeli actor called Omar Gershon, and that one of the people promoting the video turned out to be an official in Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's office. Well, nice try, fellas!
More recently, spectators watching Gay Pride processions in the United States have been treated to a tasteful float on which an effigy of Iranian president Ahmadinejad is being buggered by a nuclear missile. What such crude and violent imagery has to do with gay rights or peace we don't know, but it is the work of an outfit called "Iran 180" which claims to stand for "human rights, not nuclear rights", and is supported by some quite "respectable" but mainly pro-Zionist organisations, and directed by a PR man called Marco Greenberg who previously worked for the Israeli army. The persons on the float were professional actors, though whether paid or volunteering we don't know.
In case such efforts were not bad enough, the pinkwashing game has been undermined by some Israeli figures singing from a different page. Like Knesset member Anastassia Michaeli of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party led by Russian immigrant Avigdor Lieberman. She has angered gay groups and MKs alike by saying "most gay people commit suicide at 40."
On Wednesday, speaking at a meeting of the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women, Michaeli accused Channel 10 television of encouraging people to become homosexual. "When I turn on Channel 10 I see entertainment programs supposedly showing how nice it is to be gay," she said in remarks reported on Army Radio. "Why should my children have to hear how fun and nice it is to wear a dress and put on makeup? Why does Channel 10 broadcast such programs?"
Michaeli said she had seen an interview with the mother of a gay man who divorced her husband. "I want to ask, what happened to that boy when he was 3 years old regarding his father and why did they divorce?" Michaeli then said she thought "most gay people suffered sexual trauma at a young age and committed suicide at 40."
Channel 10, for its part, said it was happy to learn that Michaeli regularly watched the channel with her children. But it said it did not know what she was talking about and that it believed in giving equal expression to all groups.
Yisrael Beiteinu responded that Michaeli's remarks "reflected her own views and not those of the party." Yisrael Beitanu (Israel Our Home) may be a small, extremist party, mainly interested in ethnic cleansing while basing itself on Russian sectionalism, but it is part of the ruling coalition and Lieberman is Israel's Foreign Minister.
Michaeli, a former Miss St.Petersburg who converted to Judaism on marriage, was previously reprimanded by the Knesset for attempting to physically remove Israeli-Arab MK Hanin Zuabi from the floor as Zuabi tried to speak about the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid. In January 2012, Michaeli threw a cup of water at Israeli-Arab MK Raleb Majadele during an argument about an Arab high school principal who had taken students to the annual Human Rights Day march in Tel Aviv. Majadele promised to take Michaeli to the Ethics Committee for sanctioning. On January 10, the Ethics Committee suspended Michaeli from the participation in the Knesset plenum or committees for four weeks, but still allowed her to take part in house votes during this period. (Wikipedia).
Then there is Nurit Tinari-Modai, Israel's deputy ambassador in Dublin, who has reportedly come up with what she considers a novel plan to combat those who are engaged in "delegitimisation" of Israel, that is the people who criticise the Zionist state and its treatment of the Palestinians. It seems there are a lot of such people in Ireland, not only Irish people who for historic reasons identify with an oppressed people fighting for its land against occupation, but Israelis who are living in Ireland.
"An exceptional statement by a senior Israeli diplomat is published for the first time today (Tuesday), on Channel 10 News. The deputy to the ambassador to Ireland, Nurit Tinari-Modai, has argued that pro-Palestinian Israeli activists who defame Israel abroad are acting from psychological motivation, including problems of sexual identity. Ireland is one of the sharpest hot-spots of the pro-Palestinian activism against Israel, and some of the people who take part in that activity are Israeli.
In a cable Tinari-Modai sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem she proposes a new strategy: work directly against those Israeli activists, humiliate and shame them. “It is possible to obtain names of the Israelis… you have to try and hit their soft underbellies, to publish their photographs, maybe that will cause embarrassment from their friends in Israel and their family, hoping that local activists would understand that they may actually be working on behalf of Mossad,” writes the deputy ambassador.
“The activity of those activists against the state is, in my evaluation, not necessarily ideological (!) but grounded in psychological reasons (generally of disappointment with the parents, [or] sexual identity problems) or the need to obtain a residency visa in one of the countries in Europe,” adds Tinari-Modai.
This letter was met with fury by senior figures at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The deputy ambassador has become entirely confused, this result of going against the Israelis will empower the objectors. It would be better to fight against the delegitimization than to propose deranged ideas,” they told Channel 10 News there.
The official response by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is that “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs unrelentingly fights the delegitimization of Israel everywhere, but does not engage in witch hunts. Such proposals are not aligned with the spirit and customary practice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
(Moaz Vardi, Channel 10 News)
The deputy ambassador in Dublin is also the wife of the anbassador Boaz Modai. A few years ago he was the subject of a restraining order over harassing midnight telephone calls to a female junior in the Israeli Foreign Office.
In sending him off to Dublin the Israeli government removed one embarassment, and in sending his wife to be his deputy, it not only saved money but put her where she could keep an eye on him. Till now her main contribution was organising an Israeli film festival, but by letting her smear plan get out she has delivered more embarassment. Israel just can't get reliable staff these days.