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Written By Phyllis Chesler
They mean to kill us. They have been saying so for a long time and murdering us as well. Usually, the world stood by as Jewish blood was shed.
But this time, given the rise of jihad in the Arab Middle East and the deadly rivalry between Sunni and Shia Islamists for who will control the Caliphate, it is not surprising that, as of Egyptian President Mubarak’s departure, Gaza-based Islamists, possibly backed by Iran, stepped up their rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel, or that, on March 23, a bomb blew up at a Jerusalem bus station filled with civilians. So far, one passenger, a woman, is dead and 39 are wounded, three seriously so.
Let us not forget—let us never forget—the recent murder of five members of the Fogel family in Itamar, which the world media turned into an opportunity to condemn Israeli “settlement” policy.
And now: Something closer to home but actually no less important. It must be seen as part of this same war, the war in which alleged Western progressives: leftists, feminists, anti-racists, and gay liberationists, are aiding, supporting, and funding the demonization of Israel, which they hope will lead to its demise which, in their view, will lead to world peace, even peace for the (unworthy) Jews (who have only themselves to blame if that doesn’t happen).
Yes, I am talking about all the self-righteous apparatchiks who call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions, who view Israel as a Nazi, apartheid state, who silence truth-tellers who are pro-Israel or anti-Islam in the streets, during lectures, at the United Nations, and on campuses all over America and Europe, and who scream ugly curses and carry hateful signs, and in every way try to imitate the hoarse roars of the “Arab street.”
I am talking about New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. According to their website, the Center receives 6,000 visitors and hosts more than 300 groups each week. “We provide groundbreaking social service, public policy, educational and cultural/recreational programs. We also serve as an incubator for grassroots groups that meet here. Indeed, we were the birthplace of organizations such as the AIDS activist group ACT UP and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the principal organization combating homophobia and stereotyping of gays in the media.”
According to its website, the Center reported in its audited financial statement that the government granted them $3,618,814 for the year ending June 30, 2010. That same year, it received $2,174,655 in private contributions. Apparently, the Center runs on an annual budget of approximately 10 million dollars and has 14 million dollars in assets. It has a major presence in the gay community both locally and worldwide.
Yesterday, I published a piece about a heroic Jewish gay man, Michael Lucas, who, together with other Center members such as Stuart Applebaum and Steven Goldstein, among others, actually stood up to the continued false portrayal of Israel as an “apartheid” state and the continued provision of space for the funding of possible foreign terrorist entities—and managed to have the third annual Israeli Apartheid Week party canceled at the LGBT Center.
The “party” planned to raise funding for yet another flotilla to break the siege of Gaza. The leader is Sherry Wolf, a socialist activist and writer who is an editor at the International Socialist Review. The anti-Israeli Apartheid group calls itself “Siegebusters”, and although they might have only 57 members, they are mainly Jewish lesbian feminists, and therefore, the Center trembles when they demand something. These are women who know how to yell, express anger, and simply persevere until they get their way.
Or so I have been told.
Intimidation and demonization by “Palestinianized” lesbians
Please understand: For more than 44 years, I have worked with the most noble of lesbian-feminists. Their courage and ability to make sacrifices for larger ideals has given me the greatest joy. I especially want to mention Wanda and Brenda Henson of Camp Sister Spirit who ran a bookstore, a domestic violence and rape crisis center, a woman’s music festival, and faced down the most profound homophobic and racist wrath in the Deep South. I stood by their side in Ovett, Mississippi and hosted fundraisers for them here in New York City—but that is a tale for another day. My point: In addition to working with me on behalf of custodially embattled mothers and abused children, the Hensons really were anti-racists. They worked with and for African-Americans, and they held Passover sedarim each year in solidarity with the Jews.
I do not know who these new kinds of “Palestinianized” lesbians are.
This NYC LGBT Center is on record as a “home,” a safe haven for every kind of gay group and individual. And yet, amazingly enough, they really mean the Center is a safe space only for those gays, including Jews, who toe the pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli line. After the Center canceled the March 5, 2011 Siegebusters event, they demonstrated outside the Center on that very day and, on March 14, 2011, Siegebusters packed a forum at the Center in which they drowned out the pro-Israel voices.
They also had their supporters sign petitions and email and call the Center. Thus, when the Gay and Lesbian Yeshiva Day School Alumni Association (GLYDSA), a gay Orthodox group which also meets regularly at the Center, requested that Michael Lucas deliver a lecture for their group at the Center—here’s what happened.
The Center canceled the Lucas lecture.
Well, not exactly. They intimidated and guilt-tripped GLYDSA and made them feel that they would be responsible for any unpleasantness or even danger the Lucas lecture might cause.
According to Lucas, they didn’t cancel it outright. Not at all. Instead, they took it upon themselves to call the GLYDSA representative to say that the “meeting is inappropriate because it won’t be safe…Jews will become afraid to come here. We have received so many threats, there will be protests, this is not a wise thing to do.”
The GLYDSA representative gamely hung in. He said: “At least, can you make sure that our meeting won’t be interrupted?” He was told: “Absolutely not. The Center is open to everyone, everyone is allowed to have their equal say. I suppose if you get interrupted or it seems dangerous, you yourself can call the police and the police can decide what to do.”
Thus, just as the universities, the United Nations, many churches, most mosques, and most other public forums in the West have become utterly dominated by angry hecklers, silencers of anything that is pro-Israel or anti-Islam, intimidators, shriekers, haters, Nazi brownshirts (who view themselves as liberationists and progressives and view the “other side” as Islamophobic demons)—the Gay and Lesbian Center of NYC has joined their ranks.
Increasingly, the only place one can speak the truth without being jeered, interrupted, silenced, and physically menaced is in the safety of one’s own home. Thus, Michael Lucas will be delivering a lecture in a private home for the Orthodox gay and lesbian Jews.
Here is an interview I recently conducted with Michael Lucas.
Read the full Q & A with Michael Lucas
Q: What happened on March 14, 2011?
A: Opponents showed up for the meeting who were just a handful of people who do not really represent the Jewish community or the gay Jewish community. There were people there from several different groups. The loudest group was Jewish lesbians. I would say there were probably 50 of them. Some of them did belong to groups like Siegebusters and some of them didn’t and were speaking for themselves.
There were phony Queer Palestinians who were making absolutely ridiculous suggestions that queers in Palestine were living fine lives, that the agenda of every queer in Palestine is fighting Israel, because they feel that they should “survive first as a Palestinian and then as a queer.” These “Palestinians” have probably never even been to Gaza, rather they were born here or came here at a very young age. They organized themselves to talk about the right to free speech, claiming the pro-Israel supporters were suppressing it. They said that by making the decision not to host Siegebusters, the Gay Center is suppressing free speech and is siding with Zionists. This is not true.
I think we still have not succeeded in getting across our key point —- we are not fighting “criticism of Israel” as many gay journalists wrote and many people think. We are fighting the delegitimization of the State of Israel. The stated goal of these groups is a united, multiracial Palestine. That’s inevitably a Palestine with a growing Muslim majority and the end of the Jewish homeland
The Gay Center Board doesn’t care about Israel. It’s just scared of losing federal funding and Jewish donors. The main concern of the Gay Center is the accusation of anti-Semitism. The Center’s Executive Director, Glennda Testone, says that their biggest concerns are that Siegebusters is not LGBT focused and that they are part of a movement, IAW, that associates Israel with apartheid and they are uncomfortable with that.
Q: Were Arabs involved in the protest on March 5th and in the March 14th meeting?
A: There are Arabs from different countries and many phony Palestinians. Gay Muslims living in the US don’t care about LGBT rights in Muslim countries. They are protected by gay rights here so they don’t care about gay rights for their gay brothers and sisters in their native countries. They live in safety in America. Their preoccupation is not with helping Iranian gays from being hung or beheaded. Their agenda is to crush Israel. This is what the gay Arab movement is about. I do not see the difference between straight Muslims or gay Muslims when it comes to Israel or LGBT rights in Muslim countries.
Q: Do you think that your experiences in Soviet Russia have taught you what Brownshirt fascism is really about, what totalitarianism is and can do?
A: Russia taught me that Israel is incredibly important. Russia was so anti-Semitic that for many Jews, Israel is a logical answer, just like for the Jews who survived the Holocaust. It’s the opposite of arrogant American Jews that, for the most part, don’t know about anti-Semitism. They don’t even know what Israel is about or of its purpose and creation. As for gay Jews, they are all totally involved with gay rights, so if they are not anti-Israeli, then they simply don’t have time for Israel. It’s not anywhere on their radar. Most gay organization boards are at least a quarter Jewish. And it never occurs to them that Israel is in much more danger than gay people in America are at this point.
Q: How do you answer their challenge that not being allowed to hate Israel and tell Big Lies about Israel is equivalent to squashing their First Amendment and Free Speech rights?
A: The point is that this has nothing to do with free speech. They can exercise their free speech anywhere else. They are even being hosted in universities. This has to do with their event not belonging in the Gay Center, which was founded on giving space to gay focused groups who are forwarding the LGBT agenda. Hate towards Israel has nothing to do with the mission of the Center.
Q: What do you think will happen next at the Center?
A: It’s difficult to say. I can tell you for sure that I will rally Jewish organizations and bring what happened at the Center to the attention of straight organizations which oppose anti-Semitism. Unfortunately we don’t have enough gay people to speak out on our side, though I’m about to change this. I am starting a new organization called Out For Israel. It will be my answer to the organization Queers for Palestine.
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at City University of New York. For extended biography visit The Phyllis Chesler Organization.