US LGBTQ group backtracks, will hold event with Israeli leaders

Task Force director: Canceling the reception was a mistake; we deeply offended many people.

January 19, 2016 14:25
2 minute read.
tel aviv gay pride

Israeli drag queens and go-go dancers dance on a truck during the annual gay pride parade in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on June 13, 2014. . (photo credit: JACK GUEZ / AFP)


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The National LGBTQ Task Force, a US umbrella organization, announced Tuesday it was reversing an earlier decision to cancel an event hosted by A Wider Bridge, an NGO that seeks to build ties between the US and Israeli gay communities.

“Having taken in a range of information and seeing what has happened over the last couple of days, I have decided to reverse our decision to cancel the ‘Beyond the Bridge’ reception hosted by A Wider Bridge with guest speakers from the Jerusalem Open House,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in a statement Tuesday.

“It is our belief that when faced with choices, we should move towards our core value of inclusion and opportunities for constructive dialogue and canceling the reception was a mistake.”

The reception was originally scheduled for this Friday as part of the task force’s “Creating Change” conference in Chicago this week.

But on Sunday, National LGBTQ Task Force deputy executive director Russell Roybal issued a statement saying: “We canceled the event as we were concerned about the possibility of this reception becoming intensely divisive rather than a casual and fun social event.”

Activists critical of Israel had been pressuring the organizers of the conference to cancel the event.

“We are aware that our original decision made it appear we were taking sides in a complex and long-standing conflict, which was not the intention, and that in canceling the reception we deeply offended many people, and our reversal will offend others,” Carey said.

“In reversing the decision today, we want to make it quite clear that the Creating Change Conference will always be a safe space for inclusion and dialogue for people with often widely different views.

“It was not at all our intention to censor representatives of the Jerusalem Open House or A Wider Bridge at Creating Change and I apologize that our actions left people feeling silenced.”

In response to the news, Arthur Slepian, founder and executive director of A Wider Bridge, thanked Carey for reinstating the event.

“On behalf of A Wider Bridge and LGBTQ and allied supporters of Israel and its LGBTQ community, we would like to thank Rea Carey and the Task Force for reversing their decision to exclude our reception and thank them for their statement today, which included a gracious apology,” he said.

“We look forward to bringing our important work, and the work of Jerusalem Open House, to Creating Change in Chicago. Our goal is to always engage in constructive dialogue that will further our cause, and now we can continue our important work for our worldwide community.

“We look forward to working more closely with the Task Force’s leadership in the days ahead. These past few days demonstrate we have much more work to do building bridges and strengthening the LGBTQ communities of North America and Israel.”

The event will go ahead as scheduled on Friday.

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