NY’s famed LGBT Center folds under pressure - bans “Party to End Apartheid!,” Israeli Apartheid Week event and groups
Taking Pinkwashing to a whole new level, one of Israel’s very very good friends– gay male pornographer Michael Lucas– is boasting that he single-handedly got NY’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Trans Community Center to not only cancel a “Party to End Apartheid” fundraiser to cover costs for Israel Awareness Week, but to ban the group from ever renting there again. How? You know, the usual calls from supporters and threats to withhold major donations (according to Lucas). Stephen Thrasher in the Village Voice writes:
Lucas, one of gay porn’s most outspoken figures, is known equally for his “Men of Israel” films, his rabidly right-wing political writing for the Advocate, and his custom-made dildo in the shape of his own manhood.
We were surprised at how quickly he succeeded.
Just hours after writing, “It was an inexcusable decision on the Center’s part to associate itself with a hate group like Israeli Apartheid Week, but there’s still time for them to reverse course and begin restoring their reputation,” Lucas proclaimed victory, writing: “We prevailed! Congratulations to everyone who stood with me in support of Israel. With your help it took only eight hours to accomplish our mission.”
The LGBT Center released a two-sentence statement: “We have determined that this event is not appropriate to be held at our LGBT Community Center, which is a safe haven for LGBT groups and individuals. Therefore, the meeting at The Center has been cancelled and the host group will no longer meet at The Center.”
Safe haven? For whom exactly?
Perhaps it’s the use of the word ‘apartheid’ that got to Lucas. The event was part of Israel Apartheid Week- but that word, whether you agree with it or not, has long been used to describe conditions in Israel by many including former education minister Shulamit Aloni, and former Israeli Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair. And how is Israel so utterly weak that it apparently cannot stand strong or at worst strident language? Isn’t this the core of democracy- protecting popular and unpopular speech?
Here’s a recently released open letter from Queer Palestinians that has something to say about safety, which should extend beyond safety for just Michael Lucas and his friends. It also makes a compelling case that many other groups have made for aligning LGBT freedom with other struggles (including the fight for free speech). A message likely long ago internalized by the LGBT Center except, it turns out, when it comes to Palestinians.
We believe that, as Queer communities, we must pay close attention to any grave human rights violations on our way to support the LGBTQ struggle, especially in a context where the country in question that oppresses, discriminates, and implements an apartheid system. We should question the ethics and the values of Queer organizations or groups that voice fervent support for and participate in an apartheid state’s institutions. Human rights should not be compartmentalized, and the human rights of a certain group should not be more important than others’. We, as Palestinian queers, cannot ignore the struggle and the rights of the Palestinian people. To us, the two struggles go side by side.
All I can say is, the LGBT Center screwed. It’s appalling how easily they folded to threats from right-wing donors-apparently it took just 8 hours to make this unprincipled decision. I can’t imagine that NY area LGBT activists, who love and helped build the ground-breaking center, are going to like this anymore than the activist community in Toronto that staged a full-out Cairo-style rebellion when a small group of right wing friends of Israel similarly pressured Toronto Pride into banning the word ‘apartheid’ , when associated with Israel, in the parade. (Pride overturned the decision because, like this decision, it was indefensible.)
“Party to End Apartheid!” was a benefit for the Siege Busters Working Group, whose membership includes Emily Henochowicz, a Cooper Union art student who lost an eye during a peace protest in Israel, and the group Existence is Resistance. Both groups are raising money to send another aid ship to Gaza. The last such unsuccessful effort led to the death of nine people (and to the protest where Henochowicz lost an eye).
----- Original Message -----
From: Peter Drucker
Sent: Thursday, February 24, 2011 7:39 PM
Subject: [iire-lgbt] Petition against NY LGBT Center ban on Palestine solidarity event
----- Original Message -----
From: Steven G. Ault
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 9:03 PM
Subject: [NYCAnti-War] Petition: Save NY`s LGBT Center! Don`t Let
Wealthy Bigots Shut Down Free Speech
via Todd Eaton
Please click onto the website, read, sign, and spread widely!
Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions PSA - video
We, the undersigned, are LGBT people and allies who condemn the
stifling of free speech at New York's LGBT Center due to pressure
from wealthy supporters of Israel's anti-Palestinian policies. A
slanderous press release followed by a threatening call-in campaign
led to the cancellation of an Israeli Apartheid Week event scheduled
for March 5, 2011, and the right of peaceful pro-Palestine activists
in the Siegebusters group to meet at the Center.
New York's LGBT Community Center has a 28-year history of
accommodating the needs of oppressed and marginalized groups and
allowing controversial opinions to be aired. It is a sanctuary for
those seeking a democratic organizing space. The recent press release
by Michael Lucas, a wealthy gay porn entrepreneur, threatened a
boycott and defunding campaign if the Center didn't cancel the event,
which it tragically agreed to do.
If activists allow this decision to stand, the Center will go from
being a liberated space of democracy and free speech to yet another
occupied, homogenized venue where wealthy and powerful voices can
squelch all the rest.
Lucas's accusation that the March 5 event and groups organizing to
build it are "anti-Semitic" is not simply an odious lie, it is an
attempt to manipulate hatred of anti-Semitism to draw attention away
from the ongoing Israeli crimes of dispossession, systematic racism,
collective punishment and wholesale warfare on a population guilty of
nothing other than their own existence. An international campaign for
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel has global support,
including diverse voices from queer theory icon Judith Butler and
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Auschwitz survivor and
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network spokesman Hajo Mayer.
The LGBT Center must return to its mission as a space for the
oppressed and marginalized and reverse its decision on the March 5
event and reinstate the right of Siegebusters activists to meet there.
Please email or call the Executive Director of the Center, Glennda
Testone at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-620-7310
In solidarity and struggle,
Siegebusters Working Group,
Existence is Resistance,
Sherry Wolf, author, Sexuality and Socialism; International Jewish
Cleve Jones, AIDS and LGBT rights activist
Judith Butler, author, Gender Trouble; Professor, University of
From: josken [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, February 25, 2011 7:42 AM
To: Glennda Testone
Subject: giving in to dictatorship!
Isn't it time institutions such as yours stood up for themselves and
stopped allowing themselves to be intimidated by the thugs of the Israel
lobby. They are the anti-semites - working against Jews throughout the
world who are NOT Israelis, do not believe in zionism and support BDS.
Ask yourself why these Jews - in the USA, as elsewhere - continue to
live out of Israel and NOT in Israel! - millions of them!
You lose funding from some zionist thugs - you gain it from non-zionist
non-thugs and everyone is happier.
To allow youselves to be shut down by someone who purports to be a
spokesperson for Israel - is he Israeli? is he Jewish?
What is a Jew?
Get hold of a book called "The Invention of the Jewish People" by
Shlomo Sand, an Israeli professor and then try and work our who is
Jewish and who is not!
The zionist lobbies try and intimidate everywhere - New York, Melbourne,
Johannesburg, London - but they are just right-wing reactionaries
Undo the damage you have done and right a wrong situation!
Best wishes from an anti-zionist Jew,
Mannie De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne
Thank you so much for your feedback.
Some members of our community have asked questions about our request that the Siege Busters Working Group move a meeting they had scheduled at the Center. Upon receiving feedback from a number of Center members and constituents with a variety of opinions on this event, the Center had to consider how renting space to this particular group was interfering with our primary focus of service to the LGBT community. The group is not LGBT-focused, nor was the event focused on LGBT people or issues. As a non-LGBT issue began to distract from our core mission, we asked the group to move the event. As for the status of the group going forward, we have decided not to rent space to the group for the same reasons.
The Center has a rich history of welcoming the exchange of ideas and divergent points of view on LGBT issues. We provide meeting space to a wide array of groups. The Center neither endorses nor sponsors any group or activity renting our space. Should any one group or event divert us from our primary focus of service to the LGBT community, we must always prioritize the many needs of our community and act accordingly. We don't make decisions of this nature lightly. We acknowledge and respect the range of viewpoints on all sides of this debate. We hope those who care passionately about this issue will understand our desire to focus on our mission and the needs and issues of the LGBT community.
by Jadaliyya Reports
[Queers Against Israeli Apartheid: Image From Unknown Archive] [Queers Against Israeli Apartheid: Image From Unknown Archive]
alQaws and Aswat Statement to the LGBT Center in NY
Dear Glennda Testone,
We, Palestinian queer activists from alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society and Aswat Palestinian Gay Women, are writing to you to express our shock and dismay at your recent decision to cancel the "Party to End Apartheid" event and ban activists working for human rights in Israel/Palestine from the LGBT Center.
We have recently concluded a first of its kind tour to the US, where we shared our personal, social and political struggle as Palestinian Queers living in Israel and Palestine with diverse audiences and activists in 6 cities, including New York City. During those open discussions, we met with human rights activists, lawyers working at the forefront of LGBT rights campaigns, and LGBT people of color who organize on a grassroots level, and were greeted warmly and enthusiastically at every venue at which we spoke. The support and acknowledgment we encountered were both overwhelming and inspiring.
We wish that you could have attended one of our panels. Perhaps, instead of acquiescing to the demands of a neoconservative gay pornographer, you would have the courage and insight – like so many members of the LGBT community in the US – to conclude that the struggle for human rights in Israel/Palestine is a queer struggle.
Certainly, this connection is clear to us. As organizations that work with and for LGBTQ Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank, we are forced to deal with the severe consequences of the Israeli occupation and its apartheid system on a daily bases. Israel' apartheid wall, army checkpoints and frequently imposed curfews on entire populations oblige us to deal with legal issues and face many challenges, including mobility. In addition, some of our members live in the US and have been relying on the Center for vital services and activities. They draw much inspiration from the Center’s history and the LGBTQ struggle in the US.
Your decision to cancel the "Party to End Apartheid" event has sent a clear message that debate over Israel/Palestine will not be allowed at one of the most progressive institutions in the US. Your decision to ban an activist organization focused on Israel/Palestine limits the freedom of expression for everyone who relies on the Center as a safe haven. In addition, your decision also tells LGBTQ Palestinians in New York and our community in Israel/Palestine that their human rights as Palestinians are not welcome at the Center, and that while they visit the Center, a part of their identity must be left at the door! How can the Center be, as you claim, "a safe haven for LGBT groups and individuals," if Palestinians and pro-Palestinian groups are either unwelcome or outright banned?
After experiencing such overwhelming support from prominent LGBT organizations and LGBT leaders in the US, we never imagined that the LGBT Center of New York would not join us, and the larger community, in connecting the struggle for LGBT rights to the struggle for human rights. We are saddened that the LGBT Center has chosen to act in a way that betrays its mission of inclusion, openness, and progressive values.
Indeed, if debate on Israel/Palestine is forbidden at the Center, what can that mean for other LGBTQ communities also facing extraordinary challenges? Will they, too, be unwelcome at the Center?
Your decision damages the multicultural, inclusive nature of the Center’s community. We would like our expatriate and Palestinian American members, as well as LGBTQ individuals from diverse communities all over New York, to feel safe and welcome there.
We strongly urge you to reconsider your decision and allow the event "Party to End Apartheid" to take place as scheduled. Rest assure that this will mark a new era for your center; one of multicultural inclusiveness and genuine solidarity
alQaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society: