Queers & the Pinkwashing of Israeli Apartheid
On 13 March 2011, I went to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) Community Center in Manhattan as I had on so many previous occasions since moving to New York in July 1995; but the meeting I attended on that day in 2011 would change the course of my activism and arguably alter the trajectory of my life.
Before that ‘community forum,’ I had had no direct involvement with the issue of Israel/Palestine, though I had had extensive involvement with the Center — not only attending literally hundreds of meetings there but also participating in a campaign to change the name of the organization: bisexual activist Sheila Lambert had persuaded me to work with her to get the Lesbian & Gay Community Services Center of New York City to change its name to include ‘bisexual’ and ‘transgender’ in its name, which its board of directors did as a result of our campaign; certainly, there were those on staff — particularly at the Gender Identity Project — who had wanted the organization to adopt a more inclusive name, but it was our campaign — which we dubbed the ‘Campaign for Unity & Inclusion’ — that was the catalyst for the name change; to that extent, I was actually feeling better about the Center as an organization in February 2011 than I had for some time; but the actions the Center took that month would fundamentally alter my view of the organization.
I had known Glendda Testone rather superficially before she became executive director and had been on friendly terms with her before February 2011; but I had friends who felt very differently about her — friends who were active members of the Siege Busters Working Group — formed to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip.
October 28, 2012
To the Editor:
In “Ambitious Facelift Planned for LGBT Community Center” (by Paul Schindler, Oct. 10-23), you report on the Center’s planned $7.5 million renovation and quote executive director Glennda Testone as saying it is part of “a vision for the Center that offers impeccable social services in a setting that everyone who walks in feels is reflective of their lives.”
But that $7.5 million ‘vision’ does not reflect the lives, perspectives, or aspirations of LGBT human rights activists or those of LGBT Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims and many queer immigrants living in New York City who no longer feel welcome at a center that has banned all mention of Palestine. Under the influence of a few wealthy anti-Arab and Islamophobic donors and funders, the Center continues to ban all Palestine solidarity organizing, including meetings of the Siege Busters Working Group and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA). Sadly, the Center’s board and executive director have rejected the original vision that led to its founding — as an open space for all members of the community and a site for community organizing and political activism — in favor of one that reflects the values of the most privileged elements of our community. The Center is no longer a community center but rather a profit center that has abandoned all pretense of commitment to social justice.
New York City Queers Against Israeli Apartheid
This letter to the editor appeared on GayCityNews.com on 19 November 2012 under the title, “The Center’s Facelift & Its Blemishes.”