Cake decorations are seen on a cake during a symbolic group wedding on Valentine's Day in Lima Feb. 14, 2012 The wedding was organized by the local gay community to create a discussion about the illegality of gay marriages in Peru.
Decorations are seen on a cake during a symbolic group wedding on Valentine's Day in Lima Feb. 14, 2012. The wedding was organized by the local gay community to create a discussion about the illegality of gay marriages in Peru. Photo Credit: Reuters.

Prominent gay rights activist Peter Tatchell has been in the news for the past several days because he said that the late singer Whitney Houston was secretly gay and that her marriage to Bobby Brown was a smokescreen.

What went unnoticed in the media clamor over Tatchell's comment about his friend's sexual orientation was his signing a letter criticizing Israel for Pinkwashing or trying to project an image of a progressive state in its policies towards Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.

The letter, which endorses the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, said it is ironic that Israel, in an attempt to gain a veneer of respectability by promoting itself as a liberal, has grown tolerant towards gay people while the oppressive regime routinely violates human rights.

Not surprisingly, the LGBT community endorsement of a Palestinian campaign has attracted suitable amount of criticism from bloggers.

In a blog post published in the American Jewish newspaper The Algemeiner, under the title, How Can Gay Activists Boycott the Jewish State?, founder and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations Ronn Torossian tried to draw a comparison between Israel, champion of gay rights, and Palestine where homosexuals are hanged.

Instead of fighting for the lives of gay Arabs, Peter Tatchell is fighting for the men who would hang them. It seems that Jew-haters will always find a reason to hate the Jewish state, and will use something asinine to mask that hatred, Torossian wrote.

However, not everyone thinks that Israel indeed is a gay haven it is projected to be. According to Ashley Tellis, a gay rights activist based in Delhi, Israel is a hypocritical country and it cannot fool anyone by claiming to be pro-gay.

I have Jewish friends who have suffered at the hands of the Israeli state. If you are critical of the state, you are persona non grata. Only rightwing gays can love Israel for its so-called progressive attitude. Let us not forget that this gay culture is built on the dead bodies of Palestinians, Tellis told IB Times.

Tatchell, who had previously applauded the equality achievements of Israeli LGBT groups, and the support they offer to LGBT Palestinians, clarified his position to IB Times: Israel never grants asylum to LGBT refugees fleeing homophobic persecution in the Palestinian territories, which is a blot on its otherwise good LGBT human rights record.

But Tatchell maintains that he rejects the way some pro-Palestinian campaigners one-sidedly demonize Israel, while ignoring human rights abuses by Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region.

However, according to Tellis, Tatchell's pro-Palestine effort is a move to try and salvage his reputation as a blind and hysterical Islamophobe.

Among the many problems with Tatchell is his complete naiveté in understanding contexts and his black and white and flattening perspective on everything. To equate Palestinian homophobia with what Israel is doing to Palestine is simply ridiculous. He just blunders in with his one-point agenda without seeing any of the nuances, Tellis said.

Tatchell, however, refuted the claims of Islamophobia: The suggestion that I'm Islamophobic is without foundation. The Muslim Council of Britain has never accused me of Islamophobia. I work with the main Muslim groups in Britain and many of my activist colleagues are Muslim. They would not collaborate with me if I was anti-Muslim.

I have played a key role in the defence campaigns of British Muslims framed on terrorism charges and have campaigned in support of persecuted Sunni Muslims in Iran and persecuted Shia Muslims in Bahrain, Tatchell said adding that it is untrue that I have only recently embraced the Palestinian cause and have done so for opportunistic reasons.

It is delusional to think that the gay community sleeps on a bed of roses. But the LGBT crusade has definitely grown to become a mainstream movement dealing with a whole new set of agenda than simply the gay rights.

(Updated on February 22, 2012 1:45 AM EST with reply from Peter Tatchell)