Occupy the NYC LGBT Center
Published Mar 18, 2012 9:55 PM
A large rally to end a ban on Palestine solidarity organizing at the Manhattan Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center was held on March 3 during Israeli Apartheid Week. It was initiated by NYC Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.
Since March 2011, the LGBT Center has barred Palestine solidarity activists (LGBTQ groups and others) from meeting and renting space at the Center, and has imposed a moratorium on any discussion of the Palestinian struggle there. Activists say this censorship is in response to pressure from some wealthy Zionist supporters of the Center. The Center board has ignored petitions, calls, letters and requests to dialogue for repeal of the ban.
The ban mandates that LGBTQ Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs must promise not to mention an issue deeply affecting their communities; namely, the conditions of occupation, inequality and exclusion that Palestinians confront daily as a result of Israeli government policies. The ban brands anyone who even discusses the racism and violence of the Israeli government as a “terrorist sympathizer” and a safety threat.
Protesters say that the wealthy and powerful 1% should not be allowed to silence the voices of the 99%. Sponsors of the rally say the board has failed the diverse LGBTQ communities and must be held accountable.
Among the rally speakers were LGBTQ people who traveled to Palestine/Israel this past January. They reported on the ethnic, religious and racial discrimination, and oppressive treatment they witnessed against the Palestinians. This includes checkpoints that control Palestinians’ movement and access to education, employment and housing.
The message of the rally participants was that LGBTQ liberation and Palestinian self-determination are inseparable issues. They also said that “as allies of queer Palestinians, we recognize that our solidarity includes opposition to Israel’s illegal occupation and colonization.” Rally participants also spoke about the ongoing global campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and corporations that profit from the occupation.
National Lawyers Guild Executive Director Heidi Bogosian stated that the NLG was disheartened to hear that the Center was excluding pro-Palestinian meetings. She stressed the seriousness of these discriminatory actions, which, she said, violate everything that the Center stands for, including free speech and compassion for other communities.
Protesters’ demands include an end to the ban on LGBTQ organizing for Palestinian human rights at the Center; an end to the moratorium on any discussion of the Palestinian struggle; that all who support the stated mission of the Center be welcomed there; an end to the Center’s actions that have alienated so many Palestinian, immigrant, progressive and activist LGBTQ people and LGBTQ people of color; transparency from the Center; and that the Center open its board meetings and decision-making processes instead of excluding the community.
Other protests were held throughout the city during Israeli Apartheid Week to emphasize that there’s “no pride in occupation!”
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