New York LGBT center ejects Queers Against Israel Apartheid

Community center announces moratorium on renting space to "groups that organize around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

gay pride rally 298.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
gay pride rally 298.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
The New York City-based Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center announced on Thursday an immediate “moratorium” on renting space at its West Village headquarters to “groups that organize around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
The LGBT center has been engulfed in a week-long controversy over its decision to rent space to the anti-Israel group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center and leading US gays blasted QAIA for stoking modern anti- Semitism and whitewashing rampant Arab homophobia.
In less than 24 hours after The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday about criticisms leveled against QAIA, Cindi Creager, the center’s director of communications and marketing, issued a statement via email to the Post.
“The center has been forced to divert significant resources from its primary purpose of providing programming and services to instead navigating between opposing positions involving the Middle East conflict,” she said.
“The center, which does not endorse the views of groups to whom it rents space and requires all groups to sign a non-discrimination pledge, has decided to implement this moratorium to allow a cooling off period.”
Executive Director Glennda Testone said in the statement, “We must keep our focus squarely on providing lifechanging and life-saving programs and services to the LGBTQ community in New York City.
“We respect those who are deeply passionate about these issues, and we respectfully ask that they take meetings outside of the center. Make no mistake, everyone is welcome at the center; but these particular organizing activities need to take place elsewhere.”
The public row over the 28- year-old center providing space to anti-Israeli groups has electrified supporters and opponents of Israel in New York City’s LGBT community.
Stuart Appelbaum, the openly gay head of the New Yorkbased department store Union and president of the Jewish Labor Committee, applauded the center for denying QAIA space to meet.
“The center had no business in hosting a group of anti- Zionist racists and their ‘Zionism equals Apartheid’ materials,” he told the Post on Thursday.
Groups like QAIA, “who do not share progressive values like opposition to racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia or anti-Semitism, do not belong in the LGBT Center,” since they ignore “the homophobia and cruel punishment inflicted on gays and the denial of basic human rights of women which are endemic throughout the Middle East.”
QAIA issued a statement on Friday, in which it accused the center of succumbing under pressure to ban groups who oppose Israeli occupation by “the pro-Israel lobby, including some wealthy and powerful queers” as well as to pressure from “the queer progressive community to keep the center open.”
The statement, which appears on the website “Queers for an Open LGBT Center,” said the center has banned groups working in support of LGBT Palestinians’ “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.”
Mario Palumbo, president of the center’s board, said on Thursday, “We have tried in good faith to weigh each space request while considering the deeply held beliefs of members of our community about these issues. But we are first and foremost a community services center and need to ensure that all individuals in our community feel welcome to come through our doors and get what they need to live healthy, happy lives. This must be our priority.”
Michael Lucas, a columnist for the The Advocate, told the Post on Thursday, “we have prevailed in the fight against anti-Semitism yet again. The LGBT Center of New York City overturned their own decision to allow another anti-Israeli group to be hosted on their premises.”
Lucas said the center has twice given space to anti-Israeli groups.
According to observers of the dispute, Lucas played a crucial role in waging the campaign against the center furnishing anti-Israel groups, including Siege Busters and QAIA, with space to organize activities.