NYC LGBT Center Cancels ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ Event After Calls for Boycott

Yesterday in my round-up I noted that porn producer Michael Lucas had called for a boycott of New York's LGBT Center over an event it was holding by the group Israeli Apartheid Week. 

Rainbow The LGBT Center has canceled the event, according to an email from Lucas:

We prevailed! Congratulations to everyone who stood with me in support of Israel. With your help it took only eight hours to accomplish our mission.

The LGBT Center has decided it will not host the party by Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), scheduled for March 5th.

According to an email I just received personally from Glennda Testone, executive director of New York's LGBT Center, it has been determined that “this event is not appropriate to be held at our LGBT Community Center”.

It is unfortunate that it took the effort of so many of us in order to obtain this decision. The gay center should know who they permit to use their facilities and should not have allowed this group access to the Center’s facilities and not have the need for our intervention.

I am embarrassed that some people within the gay community would take part in an IAW event and that many would choose to turn a blind eye to it. I find it shameful, dangerous and alarming.

I want to thank everyone who sent emails and made calls of protest to the Center. In this difficult time, Israel needs all of us. It is a tiny island of democracy in the jungle of the Middle East and Israeli democracy greatly needs our support. It is something that is important to preserve.

I stand with Israel for its right to defend itself, never to be exterminated again. Even if the entire world will think differently, I will not change my mind. I will always fight anti-Semitism in the world however it may try to hide.



  1. brian says

    While I think Michael Lucas’ involvement in porn is repulsive and repugnant, I do applaud him on this issue. We in the GLBT community need to understand that Israel is the only country in the Middle East which gives us our rights. In the other countries, we are either executed or jailed.

  2. ChicagoRick says

    While Israel does treat gays better than its neighbors do, it treats Palestinians horribly. I have much sympathy for Israel’s situation and support its existence, I believe it often overreaches and overreacts. So I have sympathy for many Palestinians. And while I don’t find porn “repulsive” or “repugnant” like Brian does, I don’t think porn stars tend to be the greatest minds of our generation, either.

  3. ravewulf says

    Yeah, and while we’re at it here’s some more weapons, military, and monetary support, and we don’t give a damn about what you do to your Palestinian neighbors. We will never take any political stance against any of the horrible things you do to them because you are the “holy land”

  4. dvdinorl says

    For those of you who have not been to Israel or bother to read all the facts, let me start with this one.

    The Palestinians to this day operate refugee camps in inside Gaza & the West Bank that have awful conditions – this is being done after millions if not billions of your tax dollars have been given to them to increase their standard of living. Why hasn’t the money been spent? Ask Arafat’s wife who lives quite comfortably in Paris on those same dollars. Ask Abbas who just got $400 million after the flotilla incident. This is a very complicated tale, that includes from my observation, internal abuse and neglect by the PA Leaders upon their for political gain.

    Your position has been poorly researched….

  5. Nick says

    I find it problematic that Towleroad has not bothered to research or write this story themselves but instead have given GOProud member Michael Lucas Towleroad to use as a forum to present his right wing anti-arab views as fact.

    Furthermore, read his latest editorial in the Advocate and you will see how much Lucas’s views resemble those of his fellow Republicans and the Tea Party.

  6. says

    As resulsive as I find Michael Lucas and GOProud, I have to ask: Why was the NYC LGBT center getting involved in this issue in the first place? Wouldn’t it be more logical for them to focus on LGBT issues in New York? Particularly in light of the violence against LGBT persons there in the past several months?

  7. Amy Pace says

    Really disappointed that entries on this have just been copy-and-pasted from Lucas’ press releases. I wonder: is he going to try to stop Judith Butler (easily the greatest mind working on queer theory) from speaking during this week as well? What about the events that are hosted by Jewish people who are critical of Israel? Apparently the gay community views pornstars as leaders to a greater extent than other communities.

  8. Rowan says

    Towleroad have always given gay republicans a pass. Like it or not, they are consistent in never shedding any light on what GOproud has been doing.

    The Advocate has always been a right wing rag because of Here media.

    No shock here.

    The reason why this LGBT center did this was because as Palestinians being the minority victims of this situation, they were empathizing by standing in solidarity. Not that shocking, here in the UK we do stuff like this all the time.

    Peter Thatchell is gay and is always fighting for the Palestinians.

  9. audiemurphy says

    I am deeply disappointed that the Center cancelled this. According to Hebrew University Professor Benny Morris, there were 25,000 Jews living in what is now Israel when Zionism began, and 400,000 Arabs. Today there are 5,000,000 Jews and 1,500,000 Arabs. The Arabs lost their country and are now a disenfranchised minority living in apartheid like conditions in Gaza and the West Bank. Sometimes they sold their land, often they were pushed off of it. Half of US foreign aid goes to Israel and Egypt to enforce their peace treaty. This is an American issue that Americans have a right to discuss. That Lucas, an Israeli of questionable morals, can manipulate an American institution trying to have a fair-minded discussion about this is nauseating. There will be a backlash about this.

  10. 10025 says

    >> I stand with Israel for its right to defend itself, never to be exterminated again.<<

    It wasn’t Israel that was exterminated in the second world war. It was the Jewish population of Europe. Big difference. Judaism is not the same as Zionism, and Israel is not the same as the Jewish population of the world.

    Unless Lucas is talking about the ancient diaspora, in which case, I don’t really have an answer, other than that today’s geopolitics should not be driven by 2000-year old traditions. Perhaps Lucas thinks the Native Americans displaced from New York State have the right to reestablish a homeland.

  11. Good lord says

    Unintelligent with power. What a shock. What do the intelligent people do besides sit on the sidelines and critique? Use the stupid as puppets for the cause? We are lazy, comfortable and watch life pass us by. Democracy. The new fascism.

  12. Jon B says

    These responses make me want to shake you all. Welcome to New York. Our Mayor is Michael Bloomberg. We are the American home of the bagel, the Jewish Deli, oh yeah… and the highest jewish population in the world outside of Tel Aviv. Jews not only make up a sizeable portion of the population, we are also probably the wealthiest group in the city. There are also a lot of wealthy gay jews in the city. Additionally, Jews tend to be significantly more accepting of gays and gay rights than people of other religious backgrounds. Add that together and you have an LGBT Center that doesn’t want to piss off a good number of supporters or push away potential supporters over an issue that has absolutely nothing to do with its stated purpose.

  13. Patric says

    Excellent point, Nick. It is really troubling that, instead of using this controversy as an opportunity to explore both sides of an issue (and in particular the side which people in this country never hear, the side which suggests that Israel may bear some portion of the blame for atrocities and human rights abuses in the Middle East), this site has simply provided a forum for the views of a particularly belligerent and completely unobjective voice on one side of the controversy.

    This is not about whether Israel or its neighbors treats gay people better. That is invariably the answer of those defenders of Israel here who want to cut off debate on any suggestions that Israel may ever be guilty of human rights abuses. If there are features of Israeli society – such as its democratic institutions or its moderate attitudes toward gay and lesbian people – that should be celebrated, then let’s celebrate those features. That doesn’t require, however, that we turn a blind eye to Israel’s treatment of its neighbors or the circumstances in which so many poor young Palestinian children are now living. Does the Palestinian Authority bear some responsibility for those circumstances? Surely, but so does Israel and those who doubt that should consult resources such as President Carter’s book on the topic or Christine Amanpour’s excellent documentary on the people of Gaza. As recognized by many progressive Jews in this country, moving Israel toward a more humane treatment of its neighbors, including by requiring an enforcement of international law re settlements, is not only the right thing to do but it is in the national security interests of the United States and those interests – not the perceived interests of Israel to which Michael Lucas and some others here appear to be more beholden – should guide U.S. policy in this area.

    I would hope that this site would attempt more balance on this topic instead of just becoming a forum for Michael Lucas but I won’t hold my breath.

  14. says

    Why I agree with the democracy, protection, and friendship with Israel, I can’t help but think the comment “It is a tiny island of democracy in the jungle of the Middle East” is intended to be racist and overly offensive.

  15. audiemurphy says

    Jon B: So your logic is because Jews are powerful and donors to the Center they get to shut down a discussion that might air out both sides of an issue? I have been a big donor to the Center as are a lot of non-Jews. Israeli is the best place for gays in the middle east, and I would rather live there than any Arab country, and it has many wonderful qualities. That is not the point. There is a tremendous amount of disinformation about Israel that impacts how Americans are percieved in the middle east. General Petraeus says our unilateral support endangers America’s military and as a vet that concerns me. Americans are not stupid and eventually will react if 2% of the population controls the debate on that issue–particularly if lead by an Israeli busiessman making money off porn who is openly racist.

  16. TampaZeke says

    Michael Lucas is clearly a MASTER of the red herring argument. Yes Israel is the most gay supportive country in the region but that has absolutely NOTHING to do with the apartheid conditions that they are imposing on Gaza, the West Bank and other occupied territories.

    If you have never, or at least not recently, been to Gaza and these other places, as I have you have NO idea how bad the conditions are there and how bad the human right violations.

    I applaud Israel for many things but that does not mean they shouldn’t be called to task for their horrible injustices committed in Palestine.

    I do question why the GLBT center is involving itself with this issue. It seems entirely inappropriate for them to host an event that is so completely unrelated to gay issues and gay rights.

  17. DH says

    Palestine is much better off under Israeli control. I’ll support the Palestinians the day I see them standing up for democracy and fairness for women and LGBT’s. But I won’t hold my breath.

  18. JJ says

    The issue is not whether Israel treats Palestinians in the territories (as opposed to the 1M Palestinian citizens of Israel) properly or improperly. The issue is that Israel is unfairly accused of apartheid policy. When a country has Palestinian members of Parliment, how can it be apartheid. Also, the distinction is not based on race or ethnicity. It is whether you live in sovereign Israel (under Israeli law – i.e., pre-1967, jerusalem & the Golan heights) or the occupied territories.


  19. Lonnie says

    Yes to Free Speech, No to Bigots

    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 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

  20. Brad says

    Good job, Michael Lucas!

    It’s totally inappropriate to have this kind of event at the Gay Center. Especially when they are boycotting a gay-friendly nation in favor of building what will be a very homophobic nation (just like its neighbors).

  21. Scott Rose says

    Israel is “apartheid” the way President Obama is “socialist.” In both cases, the inaccurate, false label is used as a political weapon. I would not think it appropriate for the gay center to host a “Crush the Socialist Obama Event” and on the same principle I would object to an “apartheid” event there.

  22. Argos says

    It’s pretty dangerous to start deciding who in the community is “in” and who’s “out.”

    Anyway, what is it about the Israeli/Palestinian issue that turns people on both sides into zealots?

    I’m Jewish. I wholeheartedly accept Israel’s right to exist and the right of the Jews to self-determination in their ancestral home. I also accept the right of the Palestinians to live in the same place, who are in large part descended from the same ancestors, and who even if they weren’t have been living there for as long as the Jews did (if we date Jewish control from 1000 BCE with the beginnings of a united Jewish monarchy, until 135 AD, when the Romans destroyed what was left of Judea). What’s the solution? Hell if I know.

    What I do know is that both sides have proved that they’re capable of treating each other abominably, and that at various points each has been the main obstacle to peace. Yes, Israel is a democracy, and it’s treatment of its LGBT population is better than most places in the world, let alone the Middle East. Yes, it’s true that many gay Palestinians flee the West Bank to live in Tel Aviv. The Palestinians themselves are victims of a corrupt leadership that has used their disenfranchisement to its own advantage, as have governments across the Arab world. They all have a stake in maintaining the status quo. And it’s true that, to this day, Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel and has fired thousands of rockets into nearby Israeli territory. What would any country do in the same situation?

    But it’s also true that Israeli Arabs face heavy discrimination and marginalization, making them second class citizens in their own land. It’s also true that the current Israeli government seems to prefer pandering to a right-wing base to seeking out real solutions to the situation, continuing to build settlements that back the Palestinians into a corner.

    It’s possible to support Israel and simultaneously support peace. Listening to people who don’t agree with us is a good start.

Leave A Reply