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NYC LGBT Center Lifts Ban on Events and Groups Dealing with Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

Earlier this week, a decision by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in NYC to bar author Sarah Schulman from doing a reading there based around a book dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict came under scrutiny. The Center has now lifted its ban and changed its rules.

CenterThey released a statement:

In 2011 the Center was thrust into a controversy involving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict about which we took no position, but were forced to expend significant resources to address. This controversy placed substantial strains on management resources and front line staff, and created an environment that interfered with our ability to assist those in our community who needed our services. In response, we imposed a moratorium on renting space to groups that organize on all sides of this conflict, which, while itself controversial, allowed things to cool down and gave us time to rethink the Center's space use policies.

Our resulting Space Use Guidelines, Terms and Conditions will govern the use of our space going forward, and, accordingly, the moratorium is no longer in effect. The Center does not endorse the views of any groups to which it rents space. We adamantly believe in and defend free speech and the open exchange of ideas, but we deplore the rhetoric of hate and bigotry.

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, NYS Assembly member Deborah Glick, NYS Senator Brad Hoylman, and NYC Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer released a joint statement regarding the new guidelines:

We support the new Space Use guidelines, terms and conditions being implemented by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center..

...That said, we want to make abundantly clear that we categorically reject attempts by any organization to use the Center to delegitimize Israel and promote an anti-Israel agenda. We adamantly oppose any and all efforts to inappropriately inject the Center into politics that are not the core of their important mission.

...We vehemently oppose the absurd accusations by some groups that Israel is engaged in so-called “pinkwashing”. We find this charge offensive and fundamentally detrimental to the global cause of LGBT equality. These accusations should be understood as just one part of the arsenal of those who seek to completely discredit the state of Israel altogether. In fact, Israel’s highly laudable record in advancing LGBT rights deserves praise, not scorn. Given the very poor record of much of the world on LGBT issues, we should be celebrating Israel's – or any country's – LGBT equality advances. We must always encourage countries with strong records of achievement for our community to be rightly and publicly proud so they may set an example for others. We continue to believe that the boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) movement against Israel is wrongheaded, destructive, and an obstacle to our collective hope for a peaceful two-state solution.

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  1. The donors should now follow through on their promise and pull all future funding. If the Center wants to be a site for radical activists to wage war on Israel or to vent about the Middle East, then the Center can get funds from those same activists.

    BTW, does anyone wonder how it is that the Center can take in such huge piles of money for the purpose of creating cheap meeting space, but then charges groups and individuals the price of a full movie ticket just to use an empty room? Even if this current controversy never existed, it would be good to pull funding from this bogus organization.

    Posted by: Dale | Feb 15, 2013 7:40:26 PM

  2. This is an important issue because the free and open exchange of diverse political ideas and opinions by gay folks at a gay center should be celebrated rather than feared. As Voltaire said, "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." I'm the glad the Center is abandoning the dangerous idea of censoring certain types of speech deemed too "controversial".

    Posted by: Kieran | Feb 15, 2013 7:53:49 PM

  3. Given that the Human Rights Campaign and various Equality groups have made it quite clear that they hold and require "Progressive" views it's a wonder this hasn't exploded until now.

    Gay people need to wake up and realize that many political organizations claiming to represent gay people are simply fronting as gay groups. Ask yourself this: do you think that the Human Rights campaign will pack up and sell their building when equal rights are secured under law? Of course they won't. That's because they don't exist to seek equality for gay people, they exist to provide large paychecks for a select few who specialize in running "nonprofits". I don't consider the HRC to be a nonprofit. Lots of people make money off the HRC.

    Posted by: David Hearne | Feb 15, 2013 8:13:47 PM

  4. PS - Good for the community center for refusing to rent to pro-islamic , pro-terrorist, anti-Israeli groups until now. How sad that they have decided to cave and pretend that all viewpoints are equal.

    Posted by: David Hearne | Feb 15, 2013 8:15:27 PM

  5. This is a growing problem. In San Francisco these anti-Israel groups, a swell as Occupy SF, homlessness advocates, "affordable" (= subsidized) housing folks, anti-gentrifcation protestors, anarchists and others shanghai LGBT rights/causes/interests for their fringe protests time and again. It needs to stop.

    Posted by: William | Feb 15, 2013 8:20:00 PM

  6. Interesting how this will all play out. I think every one should have the right to voice their disgusting perverted opinion, even if I agree with it! :-)

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Feb 15, 2013 8:40:44 PM

  7. The person they were banning was Sarah Schulman, who has been an important queer voice since forever. (In other words, not part of some political front or a paycheck grabber.) As Kieran says, hearing intelligent gay people speak about controversial issues, even if you happen not to agree with their viewpoint, shouldn't be threatening.

    Posted by: Ernie | Feb 15, 2013 8:44:13 PM

  8. If it weren't for Towleroad I wouldn't have known about this disturbing case of censorship at the Gay Center. Towleroad covered the story as well it should have. The Advocate ofcourse, did not report the story, which should not surprise anyone. Queerty was also MIA on this. Thanks to Towleroad for keeping the community informed.

    Posted by: Wally | Feb 15, 2013 8:48:19 PM

  9. Let's be clear, the Center did not want ANY one to speak about a controversial matter. They were VERY FAIR on this call. I think the real bad attitude is "we categorically reject attempts by any organization to use the Center to delegitimize Israel and promote an anti-Israel agenda." Translation: No free speech if we don't like what you're saying.

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Feb 15, 2013 8:57:03 PM

  10. This is not a free speech issue.

    The Constitution of the United States doesn't guarantee anyone a right to use the NYC LGBT Center's facilities.

    I think the most troubling thing about this is NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, NYS Assembly member Deborah Glick, NYS Senator Brad Hoylman, and NYC Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer getting involved and issuing that statement, pretty much telling the Center who they should rent to.

    I would point this out no matter how I felt about the decision of the NYC LGBT Center.

    In the United States, if the government tries to shut you up- that _might be_ a free speech issue.

    If anyone besides the government tries to shut you up, or refuses to let you use their platform or facilities to spread your ideas- that's NOT a free speech issue.

    The NYC LGBT Center has a right to control how their resources are used. It's not a free speech issue- no matter which way they decided on this one issue.

    IF DC Comics hires a viscous homophobe to write Superman, and we oppose that decision, that's NOT a free speech issue. They are free to hire him, and we are free to tell them they're idiots.

    NOM doesn't have a "right" to airtime on news networks to spread their hate, because the networks have a right to control their own resources. If they decide to allow NOM to spew hate on their networks so that the networks can make more money, we have a right to tell them that they're idiots- and we're not depriving NOM members of their right to free speech if we get them taken off the air.

    If you see an organization, individual, or business making what you believe is a stupid business decision, by all means, tell them so. But please don't add to the "dilution of the brand" of free speech. We have REAL problems of free speech being limited by the government, and saying that bad business decisions are free speech problems only helps the people that really want to limit free speech.

    Besides, the people you're criticizing usually only care about the bottom line, so pointing out how something is a lousy business decision has much more impact than pointing out false free speech violations.

    Posted by: Eric | Feb 15, 2013 9:05:20 PM

  11. The attitude expressed in the joint statement is infuriating. The legitimacy of every regime is questionable, and Israel can't be an exception to the guaranteed freedoms and equality that are expected of most democratic states. If nobody can criticize Israel, then it becomes an exception, and none of its citizens are truly free.

    Posted by: Gary | Feb 15, 2013 9:34:27 PM

  12. I hope none of you self-righteous queens ever needs the services provided by the Center. Get educated, kids. It's more than a theory to some of us, and what Israel or Palestine or Mali or Brazil decide to do or not do is not the immediate concern for a scared lgbt teen who just tested positive for HIV and has nowhere to go for information and help. And that's just one of the Center's focus areas. So take your dollars elsewhere and yeah convince all your friends not to support the evil center that pays its bills by charging for space rentals (OMG $10!!!!!) and sleep well knowing you're a big Internet hero who cares about the world around him and 'makes change'.

    Some of us need this place and wish you'd fight your idiotic Middle East eternal nonstop airsucking no-one-will-ever-win battles somewhere else.

    Posted by: Joe | Feb 15, 2013 10:29:47 PM

  13. Hey Joe, using the word "queen" to disparage gay people you disagree with reflects your own personalized homophobia. You can shove that. Many of us expect the NYC gay center to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. They can provide HIV and other services without resorting to political censorship of gay voices they disapprove of.

    Posted by: Kieran | Feb 16, 2013 12:12:55 AM

  14. A kick in the teeth for racists and anti-free speech supporters of the zionist bunkerstadt.

    Join unions around the world in boycotting zionists and mad dog IDF savages. Ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity no matter who does it.

    Posted by: Bill Perdue | Feb 16, 2013 3:01:14 AM

  15. Kieran, can the aggression. You're not Queen queen. You're the regular kind, like the rest of us.

    The fact that you consider being called a 'queen' a disparagement would show your internalized homophobia before mine. Be a proud queen, Mary. A lot of people fought for us under that moniker, and it's not your place to call me homophobic. Nice try at some sort of bizarro world political correctness, though. [eye roll]

    Posted by: Joe | Feb 16, 2013 3:39:43 AM

  16. As a Jew and fighting for gay rights for over 50 years, I am disappointed again that a few under the disguise of free speech,who use gay events and causes for other then gay causes. I seen it first hand with a group called JOIN THE IMPACT that inspired me to join... and then from within just a few.... similar to the old communist way took over control and instead of gay causes were protesting against Israel for Human Rights violations and etc. I left. Then a few years ago... gays in Toronto found a gay group who wanted to do the same thing for the Pride Parade. The same thing is happening at GLBT groups at various colleges. Recently in the Castro, a small group protested at Cliff's Hardware store because it was selling an Israeli product made in what they called Occupied Territory. Cliff's has been in the Castro before it became America's Gay Mecca and has supported and sponsored many gay events, as well as hires openly gay workers.

    In each and every case... just a few have an anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish agenda. I realize that Israel is not perfect...however in that region in the world it is a democracy. In neighboring countries... consenting straight adults are beheaded and gay youth are hanged in public squares, and in Israel there are Gay Pride Parades and Community Centers, and at various Pride Parades,like the one here in Chicago that have Floats for Israeli Tourist attractions.

    Sadly, just a few are able to disrupt other groups by waving the flag of FREE SPEECH. Those who funded Gay Community Centers or events never would of if they knew they would have to open their doors to political groups with other then gay issues. I am a proud Jew, because I know their history of their involvement here and throughout the world for civil rights,human rights and yes,gay rights too! NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO KOWTOW DOWN TO THOSE WHO USE FREE SPEECH AS A FORM OF HATRED AT THE EXPENSE OF THOSE WHO BUILD MEETING HALLS FOR LOCAL GAY HAPPENINGS.

    Posted by: Jerry Pritikin aka The Bleacher Preacher | Feb 16, 2013 6:25:21 AM

  17. Look at the history of Israel and its politics, NOT its faith...every nation has a right to protect itself, however keep in mind

    "freedom fighters/terrorists" engaged in acts of violence that killed innocents in the efforts to get their own state

    A state was formed that had/has an policy of apartheid

    Citizens are required to do military service

    The state has invaded its neighbors to grab territory for no purpose other than to expand its boundaries (e.g., there were no natural resources being sought)

    The state views any attacks on its actions or policies as an attack based upon prejudice, not a response to its own behavior.

    Posted by: QJ201 | Feb 16, 2013 7:36:01 AM

  18. Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (NYC QAIA) statement in response to rescission of the LGBT Center's moratorium on Palestine solidarity organizing

    The New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center issued a statement earlier today (Feb. 15, 2013) lifting the moratorium on Palestine solidarity organizing and discussion of Israel/Palestine.

    While we are pleased to see the Center's announcement, we in QAIA believe that the true test of the Center's new space usage policy will come when we request space at the Center. We are also concerned that the Center's guidelines for using space there says "no group utilizing space at the Center shall engage in hate speech or bigotry of any kind." We completely deplore bigotry of any kind, but we cannot help but wonder who will define "hate speech" and/or "bigotry of any kind." There needs to be more clarification on this issue. Such open-ended policies have frequently been used to silence critics of Israel, most often when anti-Arab/anti-Muslim forces conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

    In spite of lifting the moratorium, the Center appears to be positioning itself to police and shut down queer organizing in support of Palestinian queers, and Palestinian civil and human rights. A statement issued by pro-Israel elected NYC officials just minutes after the Center's announcement, clearly coordinated with the Center, "reject[s] attempts by any organization to use the Center to delegitimize Israel and promote an anti-Israel agenda" and dismisses this burgeoning queer movement as "politics that are not the core of [the Center's] important mission." The elected officials' makes clear, both to the Center and to the queer community, that the Center's ban on mentioning Palestinians, queer or otherwise, has its source in powerful political circles. The bigotry institutionalized in New York City's politics, which has chained our community center for the past two years, must still be challenged.

    Regardless of how the Center implements this decision and regardless of the misguided and uninformed opinions of these elected officials, we in QAIA are committed to continuing to organize around our mission to help end Israeli apartheid, the system of control exercised over the lives of Palestinians living under the illegal Israeli occupation. We expect a prompt issuance of detailed guidelines for the use of space at the Center as well as the formal complaint procedure mentioned in the Center's statement on the rescission of the ban; such guidelines should be free from any ambiguity on the question of the right of individuals as well as organizations such as QAIA to engage in discussion of Israel/Palestine and organizing in solidarity with the people of Palestine. We will remain vigilant in responding to any attempts by either elected officials, Center donors, other organizations, or the Center itself to modify or interpret the new policy in such a way as to preclude free and genuine discussion of the Israel/Palestine issue on the Center's premises.

    We are pleased that our two years of organizing is beginning to have positive results, but the LGBT Center is not in the clear yet and our work is not yet complete.

    Posted by: J.F. Mulligan | Feb 16, 2013 8:17:57 AM

  19. Good for the Center.

    If Israel and its passionate supporters believe their cause is just they have absolutely nothing to fear from public scrutiny or ANY criticism leveled against them.

    Posted by: irishspinrger | Feb 16, 2013 9:02:36 AM

  20. Good for the Center.

    If Israel and its passionate supporters believe their cause is just they have absolutely nothing to fear from public scrutiny or ANY criticism leveled against them.

    Posted by: irishspinrger | Feb 16, 2013 9:02:41 AM

  21. I find very surprising why any Israel criticism is banned in the USA.

    I'm far from being pro Palestinian (or pro any muslim country) but some of the Israel policies are atrocious.

    And there's a reason why Israel is one of the less liked countries in the world, and no, it's not antisemitism

    Posted by: jjose712 | Feb 16, 2013 9:05:47 AM

  22. The really sad part of this is the extent of the power the Israeli lobby has over American life. It's not about religion it is about politics which is fair game. Criticing Israel does NOT make you an anti-semit.

    Posted by: Jon | Feb 16, 2013 9:05:48 AM

  23. @J.F.Mulligan,It's obvious you do not know your history. When you say Israel invaded their neighbor for no other reason then to then to expand their boundaries. When Israel was created in 1948 by the U.N.,Palestinians were also offered a State,but turned it down. Then along with 5 other Arab Nations attacked the Jewish State to drive Israel into the sea.

    On 2 more occasions the Arabs started wars and lost to Israel. In the 19 years that the West Bank was under Jordan, there was not any talk about a Palestinian State and Jews were not allowed to go to their Holy Sites, and other Jewish shrines were destroyed. When Egypt owned the Gaza Strip, again there was no talks about an Palestinian State. The Palestinians were kicked out of the Jordan and went to Lebanon, and lobbed rockets into Israel. Since that time, Palestinians have continued to shoot rockets from Hospital roof tops,school yards and busy neighborhoods knowing quite well when Israel responded there would be innocent civilian casualties. When Israel built a wall to keep suicide bombers from blowing themselves up at bus stops or restaurants... the world complained. Palestinians had many chances with peace with Israel, but chose not to sign a peace treaty. The Palestinian leaders have stolen billions of dollars that was meant to build roads,schools and hospitals but rather keep their citizens in refugee camps so they can be used as pawns for groups like yours who blame it on Israel. YOUR ANTICS MAKE NO SENSE,ESPECIALLY UNDER THE DISGUISE OF GAY CAUSES. The Gay Community Center was built to help local gays. Not as a forum for ill informed dupes!

    Posted by: Jerry Pritikin aka The Bleacher Preacher | Feb 16, 2013 9:15:35 AM

  24. I like Sarah Schulman. She's a lesbian, and writes good books. I'd be interested in hearing what she says, and then coming to my own conclusions. What's the problem with that?

    Posted by: kodiak | Feb 16, 2013 9:38:00 AM

  25. I like Sarah Schulman. She's a lesbian, and writes good books. I'd be interested in hearing what she says, and then coming to my own conclusions. What's the problem with that?

    Posted by: kodiak | Feb 16, 2013 9:38:05 AM

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