With Israeli Apartheid Week a week away, Israel seems to have found an
unexpected champion in Michael Lucas, a popular gay columnist and porno producer
with dual US-Israeli citizenship.
Lucas told The Jerusalem Post
from New York Thursday that “I defeated a group of anti- Semites” who sought to
equate Israel with the former South African apartheid regime at an event slated
to be held at the city’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT)
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On Tuesday, Lucas issued a press release threatening to boycott
the center if it took part in Israeli Apartheid Week, a seven-day series of
lectures and protests organized by pro- Palestinian supporters that compares
Israel’s treatment of Arabs and Palestinians to minority-rule in South
Lucas told the Post
that an Israeli friend had drawn his
attention to the planned LGBT center event. He said in his Tuesday statement
that “I’m preparing to organize a boycott that would certainly involve some of
the center’s most generous donors.”
He added that “it was an inexcusable
decision on the center’s part to associate itself with a hate group like Israeli
Apartheid Week, but there’s still time for them to reverse course and begin
restoring their reputation.”
After Lucas issued his statements, the LGBT
center announced on the same day that it would not host the March 5 event called
Party to End Apartheid, and would bar the group that had planned the gathering
from meeting on its premises.
“We have determined that this event is not
appropriate to be held at our LGBT Community Center, which is a safe haven for
LGBT groups and individuals,” Glennda Testone, the center’s executive director,
said in a statement.
“Therefore, the meeting at the center has been
cancelled and the host group will no longer meet at the center.”
said he had initially called the LGBT center to complain about the event and
been told that the community center had an “open door policy” and did not
“discriminate.” He told the Post
that critics of his protest had argued that
some of the sponsors of the anti-Israeli event were Jews, including a Holocaust
“So what! There are a lot of self-hating Jews,” said Lucas,
adding that “they were put into death camps regardless of their IQ.”
termed “anti-Israelism the new anti-Semitism,” and said the cancellation of the
anti-Israel event at the LGBT center was a “landmark” moment in his life, of
which he was enormously proud.
Sherry Wolf, a member of the
pro-Palestinian group that organized the canceled event, started an online
petition on Thursday in response to what she called Lucas’s “odious
“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,” she wrote.
The Russian-born Lucas, formerly known as Andrei
Bergman, is the maker of such adult films as Men of Israel, a commercially
successful porno that is said to be the first of its genre filmed in Israel with
an all- Israeli cast.
Writing in the New Republic magazine, James
Kirchick dubbed Lucas “Gay Porn’s Neocon Kingpin” in a 2008 profile piece. Lucas
has earned a reputation as a fiercely sharp critic of antigay violence and
attitudes in the Muslim world. He writes a column for the gay magazine The
Advocate and has lectured at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
told the Post
that he became an Israeli citizen two years ago, and his father’s
uncle lives in Israel.
Many Israelis and Israel supporters take pride in
the country’s relatively liberal attitude toward gays, especially compared to
other parts of the Middle East.
“At first I thought this was a joke,”
Lucas was quoted as saying in his press release.
“Israel is the only
country in the Middle East that supports gay rights, while its enemies round up,
torture and condemn gay people to death – often by publicly hanging or stoning
them to death.”
The Israeli government is looking to highlight its
society’s pluralism as a way of debunking the analogy between contemporary
Israel and South Africa under apartheid. This week it sent a delegation of
volunteer speakers, including several gay and lesbian activists, on a tour of
the US to counter claims that it was discriminatory by nature.
“I feel a
lot safer in Tel Aviv than I do in most places around the world, including the
US,” Jonathan Meisler, 23, a gay rights activist who is part of the delegation,
told the Post
“When I walk down the street with my boyfriend,
I don’t feel like I have to hide,” he said. “Israeli society has its problems,
but its gay community is very strong and confident.”
While the LGBT
community is part of accepted society in places like Tel Aviv – where a gay
pride parade has been held every year for well over a decade, with up to 100,000
participants dancing in the streets – this isn’t always the case.
2006, attempts to organize a gay pride parade in Jerusalem managed to unite
Jewish, Muslim and Christian authorities in opposition to the
Despite their protests, the parade went ahead; during it, a haredi
man stabbed and wounded three participants.
In another incident in 2009,
an unknown gunman shot two people dead and wounded 15 others at a Tel Aviv gay
center. The crime remains unsolved.
Meisler acknowledged that some parts
of Israeli society were intolerant toward the LGBT community, but said that on
the whole, its record was favorable.
“I don’t go to Mea She’arim [a
haredi neighborhood in Jerusalem] to buy fruit,” he said. “I don’t want to
provoke them, and try to show respect for them and other parts of Israeli
society, even if they don’t always have respect for us.”
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