“Veganwashing” in Israel?

September 10, 2019 • 12:45 pm

We already know that Israel-haters have accused the country of “pinkwashing”: being a gay-friendly nation and giving full rights to LGBTQ people only to burnish its image so it can distract world attention from its oppression of Palestinians. People who make this accusation, however, never manage to add that the Palestinian Territories, along with some other Arab nations, are definitely not gay-friendly, and you can be killed simply for being gay in Palestine. Those who go after Israel for publicizing its treatment of gays better check for beams in their own eyes.

However, the pinkwashing trope pales before this accusation on the Mondoweiss site, which is unbelievable (click on the screenshot). At first I thought it was a joke, but no, Monodoweiss is an established site (the Washington Post call it a “hate site”) that’s deeply anti-Israel in content. Well, they can write about what they want, but isn’t “Vegan-washing” a bit trivial? Apparently not: read and weep (or laugh)P

The IDF, which caters to vegans, comes in for particular disapprobation, as how can you not want to kill animals but want to kill Palestinians? (That’s the assumption of why people join the IDF.) Doesn’t that make Palestinians lower than animals?

A few select passages.

If you’re vegan, Israel looks like paradise. At least, that’s what Vibe Israel and its partners at the Israel Brand Alliance want you to think. Their Vibe Vegan tour for food bloggers is just one small element of Israel’s government-sponsored veganwashing campaign, which aims to replace reports of its vicious human rights abuses with the peace-loving compassion usually associated with veganism and thereby repair its image on the global stage. Make no mistake: Israel is using veganism as a calculated facade to justify its military’s program of terror, gloss over its occupation of Palestine, and appropriate regional culture and traditions that predate Israel by hundreds if not thousands of years.

Far from being a politically neutral “lifestyle,” true veganism is a radical anti-oppression philosophy, and yet one of the most oppressive governments in the world is co-opting veganism for its own gains.

Veganism is at its core a political position, despite the fact that many people who identify as vegan see it as a set of consumer choices. My favorite definition of veganism is “an ideological framework that seeks to abolish the commodity status of animals and that advocates for animal liberation.” Regardless of one’s individual motivations for adopting veganism, the choice is inextricable from a commitment to minimize harm to living beings. You would be forgiven for thinking, then, that all people who claim to be vegans are staunch supporters of human rights. After all, a person who is committed to animal liberation would also be committed to human liberation. Right?


Put simply, veganwashing is the act of using veganism to create positive image associations or appear more compassionate than one actually is. A classic example is Ben & Jerry’s line of non-dairy ice creams, which they use to brand the company as vegan-friendly without ever actually decreasing their contribution to animal exploitation. Veganwashing appeals to an ethos of nonviolence and so is an especially useful strategy for actors who have a vested interest in concealing ongoing acts of violence, such as, say, a colonial government.

The issue here, as reader Orli (a psychologist) suggested, is “projection”. How do they (or we) really know that Israel is veganwashing and pinkwashing just to distract attention from its perfidies? What about an alternative: that Israel, by touting gay-friendly policies and veganism (the IDF, for instance, hands out leather-free combat boots and wool-free berets to vegan soldiers), is trying to make the country more attractive to prospective settlers?

I don’t know the answer, but author Sarah Doyel pretends that she does:

Not one to be behind the times, Israel’s veganwashing campaign has focused heavily on attracting the millennials scrolling through these influencers’ pages and sites. Non-profit organization Vibe Israel invited prominent vegan bloggers and YouTubers on what amounted to an all-expenses-paid veganwashing vacation to learn about Israeli vegan culture. Vibe Israel’s stated mission is to enhance Israel’s global reputation, and the organization even states prominently on their website’s homepage that it is “harnessing the power of social media and country branding strategies” to convince the world that Israel is a hip and happening place. Birthright Israel, a government program that offers free trips to Israel for Jews around the world ages 18-26 while completely ignoring the fact that most Palestinians can’t go home, now has a vegan option for teens and twenty-somethings who want a “cruelty-free” experience in occupied territory.

Watching the video of the Vibe Vegan tour, there is no way that you would have any idea that brutal human rights violations are happening just kilometers away from the joyful shots of cooking classes and fresh produce. Which is, of course, the point.

The article hits all the Offense Culture buttons by also making the misguided assertion the Cultural Appropriation is happening. To wit:

The final piece of Israel’s veganwashing campaign relies on the appropriation of Palestinian cuisine and the simultaneous erasure of plant-based tradition in Palestinian culinary history. Both the Israeli government and Israeli vegans themselves frequently lay claim to Palestinian foods that have been around for hundreds of years and repackage them as “Israeli cuisine,” regardless of the fact that the country of Israel has only existed since 1948. Israeli chefs tout naturally plant-based dishes such as falafel, hummus, tabbouleh, and baba ghanoush as evidence that Israeli food is especially vegan-friendly. What they fail to mention is that each of these dishes are actually Palestinian and Levantine plates that predate Israel’s presence in the region by centuries.

Restaurants in my current home of Washington, DC engage in this kind of cultural appropriation all the time, which might be slightly less disturbing to me if they weren’t so successful as a result.

Doyel doesn’t consider that this cuisine is actually Middle Eastern cuisine, and Jews have lived there, and eaten it, for hundreds of years. Even if cultural appropriation were bad, which it almost never is, this isn’t even nearly cultural appropriation. The cuisine may predate 1948, but it doesn’t predate Jews in the area that is now Israel.

It’s sad when people hate Israel so much that they can’t even recognize when it does good stuff, like promoting veganism and being gay-friendly. They have to see these things as ways to distract from the supposed monstrous crimes of the Israelis. Again—mote, beam.

But this is a sign of the times. Just like there is simply no possibility to a Woke person that their opponents can have any positive traits, or do any positive things, so Israel can’t possibly do anything good. The inability to recognize ambiguity—that people or countries can do both good stuff and bad stuff—has made the world increasingly and unnecessarily polarized. (The statue of Thomas Jefferson at my own alma mater is now being defaced in the same misguided way.)

In the end, though, this is ridiculous: Doyel is engaged in embarrassing behavior, and her agenda is showing. What’s will be the next kind of “-washing” that Israel is accused of?


h/t: Orli

25 thoughts on ““Veganwashing” in Israel?

  1. ‘Dish-washing’ – where you point out all the lovely dishes of traditional cuisine that Israel is responsible for, all while an Israeli soldier slaps a child in the face and laughs in the background.

    ‘Bosch-washing’ – the same, only the political props this time are the happy workers at an Israeli plant that manufactures Bosch technology.

    ‘Oshkosh-washing’ – same again, only with Oshkosh instead of Bosch.

    ‘Oshkosh B’gosh-washing’ – ditto, only with Oshkosh’s children’s brand.


    1. “…while an Israeli soldier slaps a child in the face” – yeh, right.

      The Israeli Nazi soldiers in operation against petrified Palestinian girls:

      Compare to the treatment one of these girls (Ahed Tamimi) gets from police in some European country:

  2. Well, Hitler the vegetarian never thought of that line in racist propaganda, did he. (That’s the first ever Argumentum ad Nazium I’ve posted on the internet, but that is so ridiculous it deserves it.)

    No one should have to take anything that laughably absurd seriously, but unfortunately, we’re forced to. Antisemitic violence continuing to rise throughout the world, and in the UK a Jew-baiting terrorist-supporting loon on the cusp of power, with 40% of British Jews planning to leave Britain if he wins.

    The other victims of antisemitism are the Palestinians themselves. Their rights are only supported if Israel can somehow be blamed for violating them. In Gaza at least 18 people have just been summarily executed after being accused of being informers. (Virtually the only people I ever see speaking up for their rights are Jews and Jewish organisations.)

  3. “Far from being a politically neutral “lifestyle,” true veganism is a radical anti-oppression philosophy,”

    Sarah Doyel must be a true Scotsman, or rather Scotsperson.

    1. I am a vegan for ethical reasons, but my compassion for animals and not eating them has nothing to do with my ethics toward human beings. I am also pro-choice and in favor of the death penalty.

  4. …What about an alternative: that Israel, by touting gay-friendly policies and veganism (the IDF, for instance, hands out leather-free combat boots and wool-free berets to vegan soldiers), is trying to make the country more attractive to prospective settlers?

    Or, Israel has sound values and defends the liberties and choices of its people through its policies.

  5. That statues of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and the rest of the”Founding Fathers” are fair game for defacement makes it clear that American History is no longer taught to American students with any degree of truth or fairness. There’s no room here for their proper defense, so I can only provide my educated opinion: at worst some of the founders of the U.S. were slaveholders who lacked the guts and integrity to not only rid the country of slavery, but worse, they lacked the moral fiber to release their own slaves. However, at best they were men whose words made the abolition of slavery in their new country inevitable. If Jefferson’s first writing of the Declaration of Independence, which included the end of slavery, had been allowed to stand, the FFs may never have come to the agreement that moved the country to fight the most powerful armed forces on the planet for independence. But they did agree and they did fight and slavery in the U.S. ended far in advance of the slave trade in Africa, which continues until today and is primarily funded by Islamic fundamentalism.
    Blaming Israel for human rights violations and defacing statues of Thomas Jefferson, among others, while claiming moral high ground for the Palestinians is completely opposite the truth. It displays a lack of education or intentional distortion of the truth.
    These things seem so obvious to me that I feel like I should apologize for wasting your time if you read this, but it’s also pretty clear to me that many, if not most, disagree with me. You are the people who elected and will reelect Donald Trump. Your consolation is that people like me continue to age.

      1. I took “you people” to be the defacers of Jefferson monuments or more generally the woke – implying backlash against “those people” elected and will re-elect Trump.

      2. I thought it was clear in my comment that I meant those who have veered so far to the left that they would support Palestine over Israel and would vilify the founding fathers of the U.S. to the point of damaging statues should expect a backlash in the form of Trump supporters. I’ve been reading your posts for too long to suppose that very many readers here are Trump voters. But to give another example, the U.S. has never been remotely close to a Socialist country, yet the Democrat Party has (had) 20+ candidates for president who seem to embrace Socialism or at least Socialist views toward large parts of the economy. If the idea is to get Trump re-elected, putting up a Socialist candidate would be a good start. I’m not claiming they are all Socialists, but in the debates most of them seemed to be trying to out-Socialist Bernie Sanders. Ask any economist what should be expected from the banning of all fossil fuels combined with socialization of the 16% of the economy that is healthcare.
        There is no freedom without economic freedom. Destroy the American economy and we will no longer have to worry about immigration because nobody will want to come here to live.
        That the left is thinking the way I’m describing is the reason Trump will be re-elected. That’s what I meant.

        1. And Dr. Coyne, didn’t you graduate from my Alma Mater, Maryland? Or did you teach there? Perhaps you went to Virginia? There’s a wonderful life-sized statue of Jefferson in front of the gift shop at Monticello; I hope that wasn’t the defaced statue.

  6. The whole idea here, which began with “pinkwashing,” is to get people to ignore that Palestine is a repressive place where women don’t have rights, gays are killed, apostates are killed, children are used as human shields, and on and on. And to take the attention off of the fact that Israel is a democracy where people of all religions, sexes, genders, sexual preferences, etc. have full rights.

    1. Have you ever lived in Israel, or still are living in Israel? Because Israel is pretty far from a place where people of all religions, sexual preferences, yada yada have equal and full rights. Muslims, Jews and Christians are constantly prejudiced against. Religion is forced on secular Jewish citizens, e.g.:
      * Many Jewish citizens are not allowed to marry within Israel due to archaic religious Jewish laws and are offered the ridiculous options like common law marriage (which does not provide full rights) or getting married abroad and registering in Israel.
      * Israel has compulsory military service, that is, unless you are a Muslim or a religious Jew, then it is only optional. again, ridiculous.
      * Gays do not have an option to adopt, hire surrogates, and are frequently prejudiced against because of the mixing of religion and state.
      Israel is also unfriendly towards its dark skinned citizens, you can follow the story of the Ethiopian Jewish citizens of Israel and their history, and how they are segregated and suffer daily at the hands of their government and police.

  7. There’s a subplot about hummus in the recently released warmhearted and humanistic Israeli-Palestinian comedy Tel Aviv on Fire. I saw it last Saturday, and I’ve been stopping by the local Middle Eastern joint for take-out pretty much every day since. I won’t be stopping till I’ve damn well had my fill, and if that constitutes “cultural appropriation,” well then all I can say is tough shish kabob to that.

  8. So if I become a vegan influencer, I’ll get a free vacation to Israel? Sign me up!

    When I read things like this, I despair for the world. Don’t these people have anything better to do?

  9. And, of course, Israeli advances in computer, medical, energy, and agricultural (particularly arid zone) technologies could be called “science-washing”. Since 6 Israelis have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and two in Economics, there is also Nobel-washing. And as for cultural appropriation—why, the Israelis commit culinary genocide by adopting hummus, and have had the effrontery to use the minor key in music, obviously stolen from the culture of the Arab indigenes.

  10. The IDF, which caters to vegans,

    Sorry, but don’t all large-scale caterers have to cater to vegans, just because they’re an appreciable proportion of the population these days. Some of us can remember the idea that “I’m looking for the vegetarian option” (not even a vegan option!) being greeted with “There’s sausage soup – you can pick the lumps of sausage out of that.”

  11. That’s right, I knew that. I believe I was a student while you were teaching there. I was there from ’70 until I graduated in ’74. Not much science for me though, something I regret. I enjoy reading books by scientists now and that led me to you. I was tired of hearing stupid opinions about evolution and while it seemed logical to me that life couldn’t have developed any other way I wasn’t capable of making a coherent argument on behalf of the science. So thank you for the education though I had to read WEIT several times to truly get it. In fact, it’s time for another reading soon. It’s easy with your books because, unlike many scientists, you write very well and you also lay out your arguments logically, step by step, which makes it easier for a guy like me to understand. I’m sure you already knew that though.
    Thanks again.

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