The National LGBTQ Task Force, in response to anti-Israeli activists, has banned a Jewish group from hosting a reception at its upcoming Creating Change conference in Chicago. The reception was to have featured members of Jerusalem Open House (JOH) for Pride and Tolerance, an organization that organizes the annual Jerusalem Pride March, where last year a teenage Israeli girl was murdered by an ultra-orthodox zealot.
The reception with JOH was to be sponsored by A Wider Bridge, a Jewish LGBTQ organization, which issued a statement that recounted:
After being approved as a part of the program well in advance, the organizers of the Creating Change conference in Chicago caved into extremist anti-Israel demands and canceled the A Wider Bridge-sponsored reception that was to be held on Friday, January 22. The reception plans to feature two leaders of Jerusalem Open House, (JOH) Jerusalem’s flagship LGBTQ organization. A Wider Bridge is announcing today that the reception will go on, but at a new location outside of the conference venue.
Writing at The Huffington Post, Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, contends:
The growing demand on the left for political purity includes the act of blacklisting and de-platforming — i.e., not allowing people with whom you disagree a platform from which to speak.
This trend is particularly evident at Creating Change, Beyer notes, including most recently, when the Task Force allowed
a group of queer women of color to take the stage to prevent the Denver mayor from speaking, and just last week a fiasco with the invitation/de-invitation of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to participate in the conference. The Task Force is allowing the loudest voices to quash dissent and inhibit dialogue, the kind of dialogue that is necessary for progress.
On the ICE disinvite, the Task Force said:
We know the decision to accept a proposal from ICE for a session at our Creating Change Conference was the wrong decision and that it has caused hurt and pain to communities and individuals we deeply care about. The decision also could have created a situation where the conference would not have felt like a safe space — a vitally important component of what makes the conference special — for undocumented immigrants, immigration activists and allies.
It might also have allowed for dialogue and education—as would the reception with Jerusalem Open House—but that is of little concern at an event that is all about affirming fidelity to a strict line of thought.
I believe the Task Force has an absolute right to invite and even disinvite
whoever it feels is insufficiently ideologically pure, but that doesn’t mean its actions shouldn’t be criticized as deeply offensive, just as the religious right’s Value Voters Summit should be able to exclude LGBT conservatives from having a booth, but should also be castigated strongly for doing so.
Interestingly, the Task Force has many big-name National Corporate Partners (which the Values Voters Summit and its primary organizer, an affiliate of the Family Research Council, don’t have). Shame on these companies, including Hilton Worldwide, Office Depot and Wells Fargo, for supporting such bigotry!
Update: A reversal! The National LGBTQ Task Force has reinstated the joint American-Israeli event at their annual conference, after its cancellation provoked strong protest. That’s good, but sponsors and donors who don’t favor making the anti-Israel boycott and divestiture movement part of the progressive LGBT agenda would be advised to remain vigilant.
Prior to the reinstatement, Rea Carey, the Task Force’s executive director, said in a statement that “while we welcome robust discourse and political action, given the complexity and deep passions on all sides, we concluded the event wouldn’t be productive or meet the stated goals of its organizers. We also have the overarching responsibility to ensure that Creating Change is a safe space for attendees.”
As reported by The Tablet, “A petition calling for the event’s reinstatement gathered over 1,100 signatures, including those of prominent LGBT rabbis and activists—Jewish and not.”
More. Given the support of the academic left for the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, it’s not surprising that the Task Force leaders would respond to demands to exclude JOH from Creating Change. What is surprising is how Carey misjudged that a wide swath of LGBT progressives, including influential liberal Democrats, remain opposed to the academic left’s demand to boycott Israel (and even Israeli “doves” have found themselves blacklisted from many academic conferences). This has more than a little to do with the fact that Israel is the only Middle East nation where gay people have legal equality.
Furthermore. James Kirchick takes note:
As I write this, ISIS is hunting gay men to toss from the rooftops of Raqaa, and nearly 80 countries proscribe homosexuality. Yet for a 36-hour period earlier this week, the National LGBTQ Task Force chose to ally itself not with the one country in the Middle East that guarantees and protects the human rights of LGBTQ people, but with those who hang them from construction cranes. …
And let there be no confusion: A non-compulsory Shabbat dinner and discussion of the Israeli LGBT experience is “divisive” in the way that the presence of a gay man in a locker room is “divisive.” It only “offends” the sensibilities of bigots.
They thought blacklisting Israel was now the correct position for progressive activists to take.
Couldn’t you guess? Censorship by disruption, by the anti-Israeli LBGTQ left. And, of course, the LGBTQ Task Force caves in, again: “Protesters on Friday forced the cancellation of a reception at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s annual conference that was to have featured two advocates from Israel.”
Said Arthur Slepian, executive director of A Wider Bridge:
These remarkable LGBT leaders from Israel, who do great work in the very diverse and challenging city of Jerusalem, had spent the last six months helping their community heal and recover from the trauma of a barbaric act of anti-gay violence at last summer’s Jerusalem Pride march. They expected to be supported and embraced by the U.S. LGBT community at Creating Change. Instead, the protestors denied their humanity and silenced their voices, and the conference tragically did little to provide for their safety and security.
From the Windy City Times:
A Jan. 22 statement from Chicago-based Gay Liberation Network summarized the protesters’ objections. “For several years the Israeli government has attempted to use propaganda about the freedoms some LGBTQs in that country have as a cover for their increasingly brutal rule over Palestinians, a process known as ‘pinkwashing,'” the statement said. …
Earlier in the week, Black Lives Matter Chicago voiced its disapproval of AWB’s participation at Creating Change, drawing correlations between the experiences of African Americans and the Palestinians. In a statement, they said, “They/We navigate heavily surveilled and detained realities on tightropes. They/We are expected to be grateful to those that itemize their/our pain to strengthen existing norms. As is routine for too many souls across the globe, They/We must negotiate oppressions as a provision of harm reduction and triage.”
Faith Cheltenham, president of BiNet USA, took part in the protest and said shortly after it ended that she saw it as part of a larger effort to get “our movement back.”