Asked by Gay City News if the Center asked GLYDSA to cancel its meeting, the group wrote, “[W]e were not asked to cancel or move our meeting... Yes, we were pressured to cancel Mr. Lucas. This was in addition to potential unwanted intrusions by outsiders, including the press. We made the decision to move away from any potential disruption for the benefit of our members who trust us to guard their privacy and confidentiality. As long-standing constituents and supporters of the Center, we thought it might also diffuse some of the tension there as well.”
March 31, 2011
March 29, 2011
I have seen gay and lesbian contingents marching together with leftists and Arabs outside presentations I have given; they have heckled, hooted and tried to silence me in the lecture hall. The loudest chants of "From the River to the Sea -Palestine will be free" are coming, not only from the Muslim student associations or from the Palestinians with loudspeakers; they are coming from the mouths of American Jewish lesbian feminists whose very lives, certainly their political identities, are strangely bound up with Arab territorial claims.The Jewish lesbians among them are not "self-hating Jews." They are political opportunists obsessed with their own victimhood posturing -even if it means they must sacrifice the cause of both women and homosexuals in the process.
Village Voice: Some info on Michael Lucas, and the Center's initial resistance to kicking out Siegebusters
Michael Lucas: The Zionist Porn Impresario Waves His Political Muscle in the Left's Face
... By the end of the week, Lucas became known for flexing his political muscle: He intimidated New York's LGBT Center into canceling its hosting of another group's Israeli Apartheid Week event scheduled for next month. And it took him only a few hours of emails and phone calls, plus a little more than $1,000, to do so....
"At first," he tells the Voice, "they tried to tell me, 'Don't intimidate us.' " He says he was told the Center had an "open-door policy." (Center officials have repeatedly refused to answer the Voice's specific questions on the matter.)
Within hours, the Center's open-door policy shut down. Lucas says: "[Executive Director] Glennda Testone responded directly to me, writing, 'We are canceling the event. Next time, maybe we can talk more about it before you do all of that.'"
'Party to End Israeli Apartheid!' Still On at Gay Center, Activists Vow, But With Picketing, Not Dancing
MuzzleWatch: 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).
Village Voice's Steven Thrasher sheds some light on the difference between Lucas' and GLYDSA's versions of why Lucas' speaking event was moved from the Center. Snippet follow the link.
Lucas was to speak about his role in lobbying for the cancellation. But at the last minute, the Orthodox Jewish gays decided to call off their own meeting at the center and hold it at another location.
Members of Siege Busters, and others who supported the anti-Zionist activists' right to meet at the Center, howled, questioning the double standard of allowing a pro-Israel group to host a controversial speaker, while forbidding a pro-Palestine group from doing it own thing at the Center.
But on the eve of yesterday's event, the Orthodox Jewish gay group moved it to another locale.
Fanning the flames of the feud, Lucas added, "The problem is that the Center got so much involved with anti-Semitic groups that now Jews don't feel safe meeting there any longer."
There's no evidence of that, and the Center's officials — and GYLDSA — deny that there have been any threats or pressure. "We are a small private group with no interest in publicity," a group spokesman tells us. "We received no threats, nor did the Center ask us to 'un-invite' Michael Lucas."
March 28, 2011
On March 17th, the Gay and Lesbian Yeshiva Day School Alumni Association (GLYDSA) posted this announcement of an event -- at the Center -- featuring Michael Lucas. A few days later, Lucas seems to have pulled the event from the Center himself. (Read more after the jump.)
Queers for an Open LGBT Center, along with some members of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, intended to leaflet the event to decry the hypocrisy of the Center -- giving the controversial Lucas a platform, even as they bars others from speaking either at his behest or because they're "too controversial."
Thank you for checking in with us. We are continuing to carefully review the community feedback from the forum and the input coming in through the online suggestion box. This issue is a priority for us and we will keep you apprised. One of the things we heard loud and clear at the forum was that people wanted more avenues to communicate input and concerns to the Center, so in addition to the initial community forum and the online suggestion box, we have decided to offer other community forums as well. We also plan to share the details of our process for analyzing and revising our room rental policies in a public memo as soon as possible.
March 21, 2011
Dear Glennda, Mario and Tom,
We're writing to stay in touch about the issues raised in the
community forum and to get an update. There were several issues on
the table when we ended the forum--particularly the questions of
whether the Center would invite Siegebusters to resume meeting there,
and whether the Center Board of Directors would open its own meetings
to the community.
We are members of an ad hoc group meeting tonight to talk about all
this and we would appreciate knowing whether the Center has made any
decisions about any of the above.
LGBT Center’s Ban on Israeli Critics Debated at Forum
March 13 town hall draws crowd of 100, deeply divided, with some faulting content standard for access
BY DUNCAN OSBORNE
|Glennda Testone, executive director of New York City's LGBT Community Center.|
“I think the Center cannot, in any way, make decisions based on the content or controversial nature of the event,” said Urvaishi Vaid, the longtime queer community leader, at the March 13 event. “I want the Center to be a place where people like Michael [Lucas] can come and organize and people like Siegebusters can come and organize.”
More Sniping in the Gay Center's Battle of Zion
A little effort to organize progressive queer activist thinking produced a Pink Sheet -- an open letter from queers to queers intended to help keep the discussion focused. Text and the list of signers are below. More detail on what did happen at the forum is posted next on this blog.
Letter to participants at the LGBT Community Center public forum –
March 13, 2011
Greetings to All,
We don't know how this meeting will go. We are (separately) members of Siegebusters, members of groups who wrote to the Center to object to the treatment of Siegebusters and queer political activists in general, organizers of the last week’s protest against the Center’s censorship, Palestinian and Jewish queers, and active participants in queer community. The Center hasn't included any of us as “stakeholders” in planning this meeting. However, we'd like to offset some of the chaos by offering a few starting ideas.
Responding to Israel Flap, LGBT Center Announces Mar. 13 Community Forum
Dispute over pro-Palestinian event cancellation continues, Jewish state’s critics plan Mar. 5 protest on W. 13th St.
In the wake of an emotional debate pitting the LGBT Community Center and defenders of Israel against critics of the Jewish state’s treatment of Palestinians living in the territory it controls and other community members concerned about the cancellation of a fundraising party those critics had planned at the West 13th Street facility, the Center is now planning a “Community Forum” on Sunday, March 13 at 5 p.m.
The Center’s announcement of the March 13 forum followed by one day failed negotiations between its top staff and representatives of Siege Busters about the possibility of holding a town hall meeting the evening of March 5 at the time the IAW fundraiser had initially been planned.
March 25, 2011
150 Picket Center's Nixing of Anti-Israel Fundraiser
Protesters hoist the Palestinian National Authority's flag at a March 5 protest outside the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan. (GAY CITY NEWS)...The crowd of roughly 150 who turned out for the early evening protest voiced angry criticism of the Center for its decision 11 days before to bar a fundraising party by Siege Busters. The event would have provided money for a new flotilla to challenge the Israeli navy’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
...“The idea that the Center’s core mission does not include concern for queer Palestinians is a very odd definition of a core mission,” said Naomi Brussel, speaking for Siege Busters. Glennda Testone, the Center’s executive director, said in a February 22 release that controversy over the party had begun “to distract from our core mission.”...For Testone and the Center, however, the toughest challenge could come from critics such as Rami Al-Bakri, a 22-year-old Palestinian who has been in the US for the past four years studying (he declined to say where).
Pointing to daily humiliations he and his family endure at home, he said, “Then I come to New York and experience the same thing at the Center. It’s something I expect from the Israeli state, but not from the Center.”
Asked about the treatment of queers by Palestinian leaders and whether pro-Palestinian activists in the US can credibly claim to be speaking for LGBT people in Gaza and the West Bank, Al-Bakri, who is affiliatged with alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society, responded, “Queers and women have always been part of the struggle for Palestinian rights. As a Palestinian identified as queer, I’ve always been part of the movement since I was a kid.”
“Am I giving up on my society to be gay? No,” he said, emphasizing his determination to stay with the cause in his homeland. “In Palestine, I fight for my right to be queer in the Palestinian movement. Here, I fight for my right to be Palestinian in the queer movement.”
Firestorm Over LGBT Center Jettisoning Critics of Israel
Michael Lucas, the Center's Glennda Testone, and Siege Busters' Sherry Wolf.The February 22 decision by New York’s LGBT Community Center to cancel a party planned to mark Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), an annual international mobilization by critics of the Jewish state’s treatment of the Palestinians who live in the territory it controls, has sparked outraged response from many LGBT New Yorkers, including a good number of prominent Jewish lesbian and gay activists — but has also won support from other progressive Jewish gay leaders and journalists....
Groups challenge LGBT Center's move to ban anti-occupation group at behest of pro-Israel funders
March 5, New York, NY – More than 130 New Yorkers gathered this evening in front of the NYC LGBT Center on W. 13th St. to protest the Center's decision to cancel tonight’s scheduled “Party to End Apartheid” and to ban one of its organizers, Siegebusters Working Group, from holding regular meetings there. The party was intended to be part of the annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), a series of events designed to educate and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns in concordance with the just demands of Palestinian civil society.
A festive but determined mood permeated the crowd as activists chanted and members of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra drummed and trumpeted. Chants included, “We’re here! We’re queer! And we support Palestine!” and “Educate! Agitate! Organize!” – a phrase that also appears in a large art installation inside the Center itself. Individuals instrumental in the cancelation of the event did not escape notice, as protestors also chanted, “Michael Lucas, we know you – spreading lies and hatred, too!” and “Glennda, Glennda, you will see! Our center will be free!”
LGBT & PALESTINIAN RIGHTS GROUPS PROTEST DISCRIMINATION AT NYC'S GAY COMMUNITY CENTER
Groups challenge LGBT Center's move to ban anti-occupation group at behest of pro-Israel funders
Protest rally against LGBT Community Center: under pressure from pro-Israel funders, the Center has cancelled an anti-occupation fundraiser and banned meetings of a Palestine human rights group.
All conscientious community and: Siegebusters Working Group, Existence is Resistance, Israeli Apartheid Week organizers,
Saturday, March 5, 6:30-7:30pm
Outside LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street (near 7th Ave.)
Many voices have been raised against the Center's decision through a petition: (http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/savenyclgbtcenter/) - 1400 signatures and counting, and statements from individuals and organizations: (http://newyork.apartheidweek.org/en/pr-lgbt-center-3-1-1)
The LGBT Center's director, Glennda Testone, cancelled a major Israel Apartheid Week fundraiser this week. She acted just hours after an anti-Muslim activist threatened to organize donors to pull Center funding. Glennda also decided that SiegeBusters can't meet at the Center any more; and that airing Israel's violent repression of Palestinians -- queer and otherwise -- violates the Center's "safe haven."
This isn't the first time the Center is labeling community members "good" or "bad": it's not so long since trans people were literally thrown out when trying to attend Center events. We fought back then, and we'll fight back now. No silencing of voices calling for liberation.
Faced with bad press and a torrent of criticism, Glennda "offered" to substitute the fundraiser with a closed meeting about the Center's policies. We're not distracted by Glennda's bad-faith deal. And we don't have to have a meeting to know that the LGBT Center belongs to all of us.
Well, that was quick. We were looking forward to covering "Party to End Apartheid!," an Israeli Apartheid Week event on March 5 at the LGBT Center, where those two worlds would collide.
Our excitement was short-lived. Pornographer Michael Lucas was furious that the Center would hold such an event and vowed "a boycott that would certainly involve some of the [NYC LGBT] Center's most generous donors." 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.
- The marginalization of queers of color, Middle Eastern queers and Palestinian queers in particular by the Center's actions
- Objections to censorship of free speech and queer organizing
- Objections to the Center's capitulation to funders demanding to control queer space
- Lack of a transparent process for deciding how our community's Center can or cannot be used
- Challenges to the Center's excuses for acting as they did
- and more...
Aswat - Palestinian Gay Women and alQaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society:
March 23, 2011
- Affirm SiegeBusters' right to meet at the Center (and reinstate)
- Clarify guidelines for use of Center space (and make sure they're open)
- Open up board meetings, including maybe create Community Advisory Board
Queers for an Open LGBT Center continues to meet and work regularly.