I’m going to break even with you. Israel is an issue that I think about often. Perhaps more often than I’d like to admit. On Monday, Lee Hiromoto came to the JRC to give a lecture titled “Out in the IDF” (translation; Gay in the Israel Defense Force). Reading this title I had a knee-jerk negative reaction. Hiromoto would be here to talk about how Israel treated its own minorities wonderfully and thus was the most moralistic society in the world, handling their occupied territories ethically. “Pinkwashing,” as the action was officially titled by Sarah Shulman in her New York Times editorial, is the action of using Israel’s record on gay rights in comparison to the record of their Palestinian counterparts to show that Israel is a superior country and thus is in the right in their territorial disputes. However, this is a glossing-over of a complex and nuanced topic, and I urge you to read Shulman’s editorial and the firestorm that ensued if you really want a good grasp on the issue. Back to our issue at hand, I thought Lee was simply another tool of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, sent to simplify one of the world’s greatest conflicts into a plain, black-and-white equation.
However, let me make one thing clear: 10 minutes into the lecture, and Lee had laid my fears to rest. Lee was an evenhanded thinker, willing to admit faults on both sides, highlighting his own bias (Lee served as a media representative for the Israeli Army in both Israel and in the West Bank) and telling an interesting and inspiring story. Lee Hiromoto, the gay Yale grad turned IDF spokesman, did not follow the typical pinkwashing script to the ‘T’ but he did make one claim that I must dispute.