Pinkwashing Palestinians

by Rowan Sporte Ehn

In the late-stage capitalist imperialist society that has been shaped by years of oppression and the insatiable need for growth, it is hard to be surprised when large corporations utilize queer ideologies to rake in profits. June marks the beginning of Pride Month, and with it corporations plaster rainbows all over their stores, products, and ads. Every year, companies,–some of which covertly fund or are themselves anti-LGBTQ institutions–without fail, use this tactic known as “pinkwashing”, otherwise known as “rainbow-washing”, in order to increase profits or to attract queer people to their organization. While this issue of abusing pride month for their own profits is common for many organizations, one particular culprit stands above the rest: Raytheon.

RTX, also known as Raytheon, is a weapons production company based in the United States that sells high-tech weapons to countries abroad; it is the second largest weapons producer and largest producer of guided missiles in the world. Currently, RTX “supplies the Israeli Air Force with guided air-to-surface missiles for its F-16 fighter jets, as well as cluster bombs and bunker busters, which have consistently been used against Gaza’s civilian population and infrastructure” (AFSC). According to their website, “RTX supports the Human Rights Campaign Foundation through investments in programs that improve social justice for the LGBTQ+ community” (RTX). There is further information in their website about other LGBTQ organizations that RTX works with to “promote” equality. Thus, while the company claims to promote human rights and social justice, they continue to provide the weapons needed to carry out the active genocide taking place in Gaza.

Beyond the corrupt greed of corporations, “pinkwashing” can also be used as a general term to describe forms of queer erasure. Once again looking at the current genocide in Gaza, Israel has positioned itself to make it look like it is the only safe haven for people in the LGBTQ+ community by building on the anti-Arab rhetoric and generalizing Muslim people as homophobic. However, though the Israeli government may attempt to flaunt its open-mindedness and acceptance of LGBTQ identities, Israel continues to egregiously attack Palestine, killing both queer and non-queer people alike. This racist tactic then erases queer Palestinian identities and attempts to justify Israeli occupation. Queer Palestianians exist, and denial of their existence only exacerbates the human rights violations that Israel is committing in Palestine.

This pride month, while we continue to celebrate freedom of expression and for pride in one’s identities, we must remember those who are still being oppressed against and we must continue to raise their voices.

Rowan Sporte Ehn is a MAPA intern on co-op from Northeastern University. They are a member of the “Twin Threats”/CANDU and Gaza campaigns as well as the Racial Justice and Public Engagement & Movement Building Working Groups.