Assi Azar on Israeli-government sponsored Pinkwashing tour
Israeli gay activist Gal Uchovsky wrote in the Jerusalem Post, November 4, 2011
Have you heard? November is Out in Israel month in Boston.The program was an initiative of Israel’s consul-general to New England, Shai Bazak, and will feature performances by gay heartthrob Assi Azar. Azar, a popular TV host in Israel, will screen his made-for-television coming-out film Mom, Dad, I have something to tell you to audiences around the Boston area, followed by panel discussions about life as an openly gay man in Tel Aviv.The event makes Israel the only country in the world to run a campaign promoting its LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) population. By any standard, that is a milestone. How did we get to the point where New England hosts an openly gay icon, with the full sponsorship of the Israeli government? A couple of years ago, right-wing foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s troops decided to use the boistrous, proud Israeli LGBT community as a vehicle to show the world that Israel is an advanced liberal democracy.Gays, in their minds, are the clearest proof possible that Israel is the only modern, open oasis in an ever-more extreme Muslim desert.
Suddenly, the conservative Right was not only okay with LGBT, it was promoting it.
Israel’s minister of tourism, Moscow-born Stas Meseznikov (Israel Beiteinu), has been working closely for over a year with gay Tel Aviv municipality official Yaniv Weizman on a grand promotional campaign to attract European gays to visit Tel Aviv. The campaign succeeded in bringing almost 100,000 gay men and women to the country in 2011.
Earlier this year, the foreign ministry organized an exhibition of gay art in London and Manchester with works from some great Israeli talents. The Assi Azar US tour is the first US leg of this grand scheme.
But there are no free lunches. A month before the London exhibition, I got a call from the Foreign Ministry. The ministry asked if I could be its guest at the London art opening and talk about the gay community in Israel and how prosperous it is.
“Anything special you want me to emphasize?” I asked.
“Yes,” said the voice on the other side enthusiastically. “I’ll send you our brief.
These people don’t know that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that respects gay rights. The only country in the region where gay people can live openly and safe. They should know that.”
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