Yes to Free Speech, No to Bigots

Please click on this link to the petition site, sign and circulate widely.

Save NYC’s LGBT Center: Stop Wealthy Bigots From Shutting Down Free Speech

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 glennda@gaycenter.org or 212-620-7310

In solidarity and struggle,

Siegebusters Working Group

Existence is Resistance

Sherry Wolf, author, Sexuality and Socialism; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Cleve Jones, AIDS and LGBT rights activist

Judith Butler, author, Gender Trouble; Professor, University of California-Berkeley

Sarah Schulman, author, People in Trouble; LGBT rights activist

17 responses to “Yes to Free Speech, No to Bigots

  1. Dear Sherry,
    I’m so sorry to hear that your little anti-Israel fiesta got canceled by NY’s LGBT center.
    I suggest you contact the embassy of Iran. I’m sure they’d be more than happy to host your event. They’d probably even provide you with a gay effigy to hang from the ceiling as a pinata.
    Warmest Regards,
    Michael Lucas

    • I see, of course! Anyone—including Holocaust survivors and Nobel Peace Prize recipients—who defends human rights for Palestinians must be a shill for…Iran’s Ahmadinejad!

      • Dear Sherry,

        Congratulations on finding one holocaust survivor who is willing to call for Israel’s destruction. Maybe waving him around like an NBA mascot isn’t the most subtle way of telling people that you’re cynical and you don’t really care about honoring holocaust victims at all.
        🙂

  2. Marvin Srulowitz

    Where is your advocacy for the human rights for Jews in Palestinian areas? Oh, I’m sorry. Jews are not allowed in Palestinian areas. Where is your advocacy of the human rights for Jews in Arab countries? Oh, I’m sorry. There are now virtually no Jews in Arab countries. Talk about “dispossession, systematic racism, collective punishment and wholesale warfare on a population guilty of nothing other than their own existence.” It’s thus difficult to see how your anti-Israel focus can be confused with anti-Semitism.

    • I fully support the right of Jews who would like to live in the open-air prison of Gaza created by the Zionist state to do so, though I would prefer to see one democratic secular state for all in Palestine—the decades-long demand of anti-imperialist Palestinians as well. As for the story of Jews who left Arab countries, here is a typical account from Robert Satloff’s pro-Israel work, Among the Righteous:

      “At every stage of the Nazi, Vichy, and Fascist persecution of Jews in Arab lands, and in every place that it occurred, Arabs helped Jews. Some Arabs spoke out against the persecution of Jews and took public stands in unity with them. Some Arabs denied the support and assistance that would have made the wheels of the anti-Jewish campaign spin more efficiently. Some Arabs shared the fate of Jews and, through that experience, forged a unique bond of comradeship. And there were occasions when certain Arabs chose to do more than just offer moral support to Jews. They bravely saved Jewish lives, at times risking their own in the process. Those Arabs were true heroes.”

      Most often, the Arab forces most aligned with the interests of imperialism, first British then American, express the deepest hostility toward Jews.

      • Do you really expect us to believe that the Jewish minority left in your “secular democratic” state (consisting of an Arab Muslim majority) would have rights or freedom or security?? Yes, and let’s force Ireland into the UK so they can live in a “secular democratic” state.

        I guess “imperialism” is to blame. I think you forgot to include the Caliphate in your definition. I guess you’re in favor of imperialism as long as its anti-America, anti-Jewish, and anti-Gay. Interesting…
        🙂

        Let’s have the queen of anti-censorship delete my comment again!

  3. When you talk about Nobel Prize recipients are you referring to Yassir Arafat? He is a guy who has really stolen from the Palestinian people. Big Time. Billions of dollars.
    By the way, love how you bait your people by blaming the rich Jews. Nothing antisemitic about that, right?
    As for your Holocaust survivors, there are crazy Holocaust survivors out there as well. Nazis did not choose their victims on the basis of their IQ.

  4. Jose Lopes Bejarano

    As a homosexual is shocking to me that a LGBTQ center was involved in a activity to demonize Israel, the only country in the middle east that enshrines LGBTQ rights.

    Aren’t we suppossed to be working to protect LGBTQ rights first & foremost? Why aren’t this boycotters fighting for Gay rights in the territories? It’s now impossible to be an open gay in the P.A. or in Gaza. Why not fighting for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in the territories, why not pushing their leaders?

    I invite any Gay supporter of the palestinians to go Ramallah or Gaza City and have a Gay Pride Parade; They will love you there…but as target practice.

    • Though I doubt any of you who are so blinded by slavish devotion to Israel’s ethnic cleansing give a crap about the actual opinions of Palestinian LGBT people, here is a link where Palestinian queers support and answer questions about the BDS movement, http://pqbds.wordpress.com/

      I stand in solidarity with them.

  5. Jose Lopes Bejarano

    Ethnic Cleansing? ~~Drama Queen!

    In the mean time the jihadists continue to arrest, harrass and push out of the territories any LGBTQ person.

    The State of Israel allows foreign partners of its homosexual citizenry to receive residency permits. The Civil Service Commission extends spousal benefits and pensions to the partners of homosexual employees. The Israeli State Attorney’s Office has extended the spousal exemption from property-transfer taxes to same-sex couples. Israel’s attorney general has granted legal recognition to same-sex couples in financial and other business matters. Attorney General Meni Mazuz said the couples will be treated the same as common-law spouses, recognizing them as legal units for tax, real estate, and financial purposes. Mazuz made his decision by refusing to appeal a district court ruling in an inheritance case that recognized the legality of a same-sex union, his office said in a statement. Mazuz did differentiate, however, between recognizing same-sex unions for financial and practical purposes, as he did, and changing the law to officially sanction the unions, which would be a matter for parliament, according to the statement.

    The city of Tel Aviv recognizes unmarried couples, including gays and lesbians, as family units and grants them discounts for municipal services. Under the bylaw, unmarried couples qualify for the same discounts on day care and the use of swimming pools, sports facilities, and other city-sponsored activities that married couples enjoy.

    On January 29, 2007, following a Supreme Court ruling ordering them to do so, Jerusalem registered its first gay couple, Avi and Binyamin Rose.

  6. Jose Lopes Bejarano

    Proponents of the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel are increasingly seeking to promote initiatives of selectively boycotting ”the occupation,” i.e. targeting for boycott individuals and businesses associated with Israel’s presence in the West Bank, arguing that such boycott actions are a necessary and worthy response to the supposedly illegal Israeli presence in those areas. Quite aside from the many legal arguments as to the legitimacy of Israel’s presence and civilian activity in those areas until such a time as a political accord is reached between the sides, there are many arguments, both practical and ethical, against the adoption of such a boycott.

    Following are ten reasons why this so-called “targeted BDS” is a bad idea:

    1. BDS, at its heart, is a tool designed to win a propaganda war, not help bring a real peace. It is a blunt weapon of ideological hostility, not human empathy and engagement. It is neither a genuine response to the suffering endured by both peoples nor a program designed to address effectively the complex challenge of improving their lot.
    2. Focusing on BDS in any form weakens other, constructive forms of engagement and action that seek to bring Israelis and Palestinians together. Choosing even partial BDS as policy promotes a vision which undermines the principles of engagement, tolerance, dialogue and coexistence and makes it more difficult to establish trust, mutual awareness and compromise.
    3. Despite claims to the contrary, there are other ways to express concern and opposition to the ongoing Israeli presence in the territories, if that is a position that someone wishes to support. The presentation of boycotts as a last resort where all other measures have failed is a misrepresentation of the opportunities to impact positively on the story.
    4. While someone supporting a limited boycott may think they are not engaging in an act of delegitimization, BDS proponents use and abuse any kind of BDS activity to claim support and momentum for their own, full-blown anti-Israel version of the strategy. No matter how good the intention may be, associating with BDS strengthens the delegitimizers who seek Israel’s demise.
    5. BDS doesn’t address the real sources of the current political impasse, such as the Palestinian failure to reassure the Israeli public of the peacefulness of their intentions. Punishing Israelis for the “occupation” may even help entrench maximalist Palestinian claims, rather than encouraging the necessary moderation needed to reach a fair political accommodation. Opponents of the “occupation” would also have greater credibility within Israel if they dissociated themselves from the boycott campaign.
    6. Boycott campaigns by their very nature are divisive and hurtful. BDS tactics have brought division and rancor to every institution (coops, campuses, church groups and others) they have targeted, precisely because the conflict in the Middle East is a complex one in which both sides have grievances that must be addressed in direct negotiations. One-sided attacks on Israel do not resolve Palestinian concerns and ignore Israel’s altogether.
    7. The distinction between Israeli businesses and communities in the territories and the rest of their compatriots cannot be applied in practice. Any steps to isolate and exclude Israelis from over the green line would inevitably also isolate and exclude Israelis from within it. The collective-punishment nature of the BDS agenda which makes it wrong in general also undermines its validity in its supposedly more focused version. [This one is unclear]
    8. The Arab League has applied a boycott against Israel since 1945 without significantly harming Israel’s economy or coercing it to change its policies. A BDS campaign is also doomed to failure as it will not change Israel’s perception of its fundamental national interests as regards the core issues of security, borders, Jerusalem, settlements, and refugees.
    9. “Targeted BDS” is easily dismissed by Israelis who see it as hypocritical, anti-Semitic and/or anti-Israel given that the proponents express no concern about non-democratic countries.
    10. “Targeted BDS” won’t help the Palestinians achieve their political or economic goals. In fact, were BDS in the territories to take hold it would make Palestinian lives worse, by removing the livelihood of tens of thousands of Palestinian bread-winners, with no viable prospect of alternative employment anywhere to be seen. On the political level, BDS creates a magnetic attraction for Palestinians away from the negotiation table and reinforces the view that the way ahead is to run to supporters in the international community, rather than make tough decisions inside the negotiating room.

  7. Dear Sherry,

    The LGBT Center of New York City must remain an open arena for our community. No group should be censored for their political views. Like Pride Parades, The Center is a place where we all convene together regardless of viewpoint. There are groups at The Center who hold views that are the opposite of my own. So what? Free speech is more important than any specific ideology. The banning of Seigebusters is a Terrible step in a tragically partisan direction that hurts us all.

    Yours, Sarah Schulman

  8. Sherry’s response to her obvious double standard vis-a-vis Jewish Refugees is some quote that seems to imply that Arabs are innocent because some of them tried to help Jews when they were oppressed and expelled from Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, etc., where they had lived scorned, in Ghettos, for centuries. Applying Sherry’s logic, Israel is blameless because the Israeli left opposes the occupation. Its pretty obvious that when Jews like Sherry demand “Justice” for Palestinians (Victory of Arab Nationalism over Jewish self-determination) without acknowledging why half of Israel’s population lives there (they’re refugees from Arab countries), that Sherry has hatred and contempt for her own people, and not a genuine concern for human rights.

  9. no one has taken away your right to free speech…as evidenced by this blog

    you and the other suicidal gays, are free to spew your crap in any public venue you like.

    you just cant do it at the center anymore

    but i will be happy, and more than willing, to support and raise funds, for your next gay rights parade to be held in nablus and/or gaza city

  10. Sherry

    in regards to what happened in north africa during the holocaust….most arabs sat silent….many assisted the vichy and the italians to persecute jews.

    i take it you didnt read all of satloff’s book, just the blurb.

    but thanks for presenting more evidence that those involved with bds want to see the end of israel, and the creation of a new nation, where jews are again dhimmi, and gays are killed according to sharia law.

  11. Queers 4 palestine visit Gaza or WestBank! Please go there, have a Gay Pride Parade! Hamas can always use target practice. Israel Enshrine the Rights of LGBTQ people, it’s the only country in Asia to do so. Your AntiSemitism is so EVIDENT. Shame on you!

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