The NYC LGBT Center summarily cancelled all future meetings of NYC Queers Against Israeli Apartheid — and all LGBT groups organizing around the Israel-Palestine conflict. The Center claimed in a press release that it has been diverted from its "primary purpose of providing programming and services" by the protest and rhetoric around the question of meeting space.
We object completely to the idea that the Center's "primary purpose" is for "programming and services" — it was created as, and has always been, a community space for queer organizing and self-determination. We object to the Center's spineless attempt to hide behind social services to queers, as if political organizing were not also critical to queer community and survival. We already know that the Center's board suffers from serious disconnection with the larger LGBT community and its history, but we are shocked and aggrieved at this slap in the face to queers as makers of our own path rather than passive recipients of "programming."
The Center's failure to stand up for queer communities' right to use its space sadly goes further, though. In banning "groups that organize around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the Center is telling queers that we will be out on the street as soon as we are challenged by powerful forces. The Center is clearly responding to pressure mounted by well-resourced pro-Israel forces — including right-wing activist Michael Lucas, who recently moved the Jerusalem Post to write an article full of absurd accusations that the Center is anti-Semitic and is "providing a fig leaf for Arab homophobia."
In fact, the Center has only been under two kinds of pressure: from the pro-Israel lobby, including some wealthy and powerful queers, comes pressure to ban groups who support Palestinian queers and oppose Israeli occupation; from the queer progressive community comes pressure to keep the Center open and decision-making transparent. Instead of insisting on queers' right to organize ourselves around what's important to us, the Center has said the choice between repression and openness is too much of a burden.
We must be clear on what's happening: the Center has only banned groups working in support of Palestinian queers' demand for an end to Israel's occupation as a critical step in achieving their civil and human rights. It has only responded to demands for openness by frantically slamming the door. And it has fully complied with the highly political demand of right wing pro-Israel groups that it shut out Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.
For the record, we would oppose any attempt to ban Zionist or pro-Israel queer groups as well as pro-Palestinian ones — it is not the Center's role to filter queer organizing. But contrary to its claim of "having no position," with this decision the Center moves from confusion to implicitly siding with Israeli Apartheid.
The Center has heard from groups of Arab queers, Palestinian queers, queers of color, and progressive queers that their actions have made the Center unwelcoming and unsafe for us. It's time for the Center to open its doors back up to the community — apologize, make its processes public, and stand up to those who would so narrow the entrance to our once-treasured community home.