Sherry Wolf: The Ruckus Over Israeli Apartheid Week, the Gay Center, and a Porn Star

Sherry-Wolf.jpg
Sherry Wolf
​Sherry Wolf is a member of the Siege Busters Working Group, which was planning a "Party to End Apartheid!" for Israeli Apartheid Week at the LGBT Center, where they'd met regularly since last summer.

Then, pornographer and ardent pro-Israel Jew Michael Lucas complained on Tuesday about the event, it was canceled, and Siege Busters was evicted from the Center.

Wolf, a long-time and well-known activist for both gay rights and socialism, talks to Runnin' Scared about her 23 years of being active at the Center, now being labeled an anti-Semitic Jew, and having her group kicked out without so much as a phone call.

Part of what enrages Wolf is that the Center didn't even bother to contact the group. (The Center said in a statement, "When one group's meetings or activities interfere with the Center's focus on our core mission, we reserve the right to ask this group to move." The Center didn't mention that it had played host to an Israeli Apartheid Week event in 2008.)

Runnin' Scared: Did it hurt to have a pornographer call Siege Busters a hate group?

Sherry Wolf: Yes, especially since the charges were so stinging! More than half of [Siege Busters] is Jewish, and the others are mostly Arabs, and they call us anti-Semitic? Isn't the center a place where different people are supposed to meet and discuss? Shouldn't Jews and Arabs, gay and lesbian and transgender, working together towards peace be something that is celebrated? We cannot allow a wealthy porn entrepreneur to dictate what kind of speech is allowed, at a center whose very mission is to represent the oppressed and the marginalized!

RS: When did Siege Busters start meeting at the Center?

Wolf: In late August of last year. We've been meeting sometimes weekly, sometimes every other week.

RS: Why did you meet at the LGBT Center? Were there many gay or lesbian members, or did one person know of it just as a place to meet?

Wolf: Many of us are gay and lesbian, but it's never been a condition, since my ACT-UP days, that you had to be gay or meet about a sexuality issue to meet at the Center.

RS: When did you first start going to the Center?

Wolf: In 1988, when I moved back to the city and got involved with ACT-UP.

RS: Are you are of aware, for lack of a better term, of other "non-gay" groups meeting at the Center?

Wolf: Oh, yes! We've had anti-death penalty meetings, anti-war events, a whole spectrum of political and non-political meetings there. There's a group that meets there of straight people who are into spanking! It's always been a place where people with nowhere else to go could be. It's atrocious that after 28 years, it's becoming yet another occupied, homogenized space that only powerful and, frankly, white people dominate. That's not the mission of the Center.

RS: Are you aware of any controversial events you've been a part of ever being cancelled before?

Wolf: An event cancelled? Never. The LGBT Center is the quintessential queer space, in which people who resist all forms of oppression have gathered to find support. I'm an author, of Sexuality and Socialism, and I had my book launch there. What if someone had a problem with socialists? Will we cave to that? The community has to embrace that our identity as LGBT people cannot be narrowly defined by a wealthy porn entrepreneur! I am a lesbian, a socialist, and an internationalist. As a citizen of the world, I have a responsibility and a right to organize with my Palestinian brothers and sisters, particularly because I am a Jewish anti-Zionist. I see no reason why the Center should shut itself down on this issue because of one porn entreprenuer with a platform in the Advocate.

RS: How did you find out your event had been cancelled?

Wolf: Informally, at first. I heard about four o'clock on Tuesday. Interestingly enough, I reached out to [Center Executive Director] Glennda Testone immediately. I hope she eventually returns my call. I tried reaching her. I saw an email that there was a press release and a call-in campaign [from Lucas]. Then, an hour, an hour and a half later, I heard that the event was cancelled, and Siege Busters was barred from meeting there.

RS: So they never even spoke to you before making the decision?

Wolf: No. There was no attempt to the contact the organizers, meet with the group, or even speak with us.

RS: It's not just the fundraising party that was ended?

Wolf: No. We are not supposed to meet there anymore. You know, I can remember a time, and it wasn't even that long ago, when people who were transgender were smeared upon, even by people in the gay and lesbian community. Should they be banned? . . . The Center has always been a home to controversy and free speech, and it needs to remain that. This is about saving the Center.

RS: Do you hope to meet again at the Center?

Wolf: We have no hostility towards the Center! But we are fighting for it. If radical people can't meet there, then it just becomes another occupied space for wealthy bigots. This should not be a place where people defend the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. It's an attempt to whitewash and pinkwash over the crimes people do not agree with. The Center should stand with the oppression of LGBT people all over the world. If this were Uganda, there would be no problem. But because we're talking about our Palestinian gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, it's an issue.

[sthrasher@villagevoice.com]

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39 comments
whatiswrong withupeople
whatiswrong withupeople

I have such contempt for Michael Lucas. He is a fraud and a toxic person. Someone who is a manipulator and a liar.

And a fraud. How can he be even considered a person with any sensible or valid opinions worth putting in print? He is a republican, a political association for which is ANTI-GAY! Ironically, Michael very intolerant towards Arabs for being anti-gay--considering his justification for this intolerance is based off of theirs; it is a contradiction to be lecturing about it in the first place, since your intolerance is the motivation for speaking out against them. It is ridiculous. He has demonstrated intolerance towards even blacks accusing them of homophobia-- yet again, his political affiliation alienates its gay base by putting anti-gay legislation into law. They pander to zealots of all kinds, which the majority are christian or even in some cases Jews.

Michael has been known to have illegally worked as an escort in the New York area for years, and with disregard for the anti prostitution laws. Why doesn't someone in INS or with the government effectively terminate his visa since he broke the law on numerous attempts and with complete respect to the united states laws for which he claims he reveres as a 'citizen'. He is a lawyer, and is completely aware of the law. I am disgusted with a government agency that would allow this type of person entrance into our country and yet only target migrant Mexican workers, who are impoverished and want to make an HONEST wage.

whatiswrong withupeople
whatiswrong withupeople

I think at the core of this issue is first amendment rights, for which anyone in porn has routinely fought for, and yet in this scenario a 'porn' producer is actually infringement on someones right to assemble and have free speech.

And While I might disagree with the groups stance, I do feel they should have a right to use the space-- the space was rented to them; they paid for it, and it was a matter of commerce NOT political affiliation.

If 'Micheal' or Andre wanted to make a serious statement against this group, he would put his money where his mouth is and rent the same space and hole a pro-Israel rally. Instead, he took this as an opportunity to hawk his name in the press. And scapegoat an innocent LGBT center. This guy is an asshole, and a media whore, uses incidents like this to further his REAL agenda which is to promote his porno company. Shame on you Micheal, you hypocrite!

RabbiLaFunque
RabbiLaFunque

The story: LGBT Center sold out to right wing pig with money. End of story. All these stupid arguments about antiSemitism or "hating Israel" are peripheral and meaningless.

geoffk
geoffk like.author.displayName 1 Like

kudos to mr lucas

when will sherry and the rest of those brave people be organizing a gay rights parade for nablus or gaza city????

rofl

Villarreal
Villarreal

Maybe when Israel stops its brutality and recognizes the rights of the Palestinian people - all of them - gay or straight.

By the way, when will you organize a gay rights march in one of the illegal West Bank settlements?

Also, how many gay Palestinians seeking refuge in Israel are allowed to stay?

Ethan
Ethan

Queer Palestinians say: Boycott Israel: http://pqbds.wordpress.com/

Queer Palestinians say: don't Pinkwash the Occupation. Israel oppresses us. There is no magical pink door in the Apartheid Wall or Siegewall of Gaza that allows Palestinian queers to go party in Tel Aviv: http://www.alqaws.org/q/

Listen to the voice of queer Palestinian Haneen Maikey: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.or......

"...Those of us who know a thing or two about Israel know that seeking asylum in Israel is not an option anyway for Palestinians, who are specifically ineligible for asylum under Israeli law. It may be true, as Kirchick proudly states, that Israel "legally enshrines the rights of gay people," but it enshrines only some rights for some gay people. Restricted freedom of movement, routine human rights abuses, detentions, checkpoints, and bombing campaigns are among the legally enshrined "rights" of Palestinians, whatever their sexual orientation, in the West Bank and Gaza. And while Palestinians in Israel and Jerusalem are granted some legal rights and their living conditions are significantly better than in the Palestinian Territories, Palestinian citizens of Israel, whatever their sexual orientation, are second-class citizens, who face legally sanctioned and everyday discrimination and racism in all areas of life, from courtrooms and boardrooms to hospitals and universities, from the streets of small villages to the streets of Jerusalem, from the floor of the Knesset to the floors of Tel Aviv’s hippest, gayest clubs....Kirchick, and anyone else, is free to blindly support Israeli repression of Palestinians, but we would like to suggest that he not do it by recycling unsubstantiated stories and false assumptions about queer Palestinians, whose suffering, like that of most Palestinians, stems more from Israeli policies than it does from "Palestinian homophobia." ...

Rocky
Rocky

I wonder if Sherry Wolf knows what happens to LGBT people in Muslim countries. Try leading a gay pride parade in Tehran or Gaza and see if you still survive.

Villarreal
Villarreal

Or Alabama 40 years ago! We should have bombed the heck out of Alabma and treated those people like animals.

comments
comments

Queer community are a bunch of hypocrites, as long as gays have rights, we don't care that apartheid continues....ow well... superficial as usual

Jack
Jack

The Stonewall Rebellion and the early GLF was all about recognizing connections between homophobia, racism and imperialism. We took the name "Gay Liberation Front" in solidarity with the National Liberation Fronts of Vietnam and Algeria. Most of our radical gay leaders died in the AIDS crisis and were supplanted by capitalist opportunists who've co-opted our movement. One of the great tragedies of the AIDS crisis was that just as we should have been mentoring youth coming out we had to be pre-occupied with the ill and dying. This has created a break in our history and our awareness.

Brava to Sherri Wolf! And may the SiegeBusters keep on busting!

For people who think socialism isn't compatible with queerness -- Oscar Wilde wrote "The Soul of Man Under Socialism", one of the first acts of the Bolshevik revolution was to repeal tsarist sodomy laws, the modern gay movement in America was started by Harry Hay, a Communist, and yes, it was socialists who kicked things into high gear in the late 60's early 70's. It's a vestigial bit of "socialism" -- ADAP -- that helps keep people with HIV alive when capitalistic insurers can't profit off of us.

And as bad as things are for GLBT people in Arab countries, Palestinian queers are pretty unanimous about the occupation making things worse for them there. Israel does them no favors and they, as much as anyone, want an end to the occupation. If you're really concerned about the plight of GLBT Arabs, talk to THEM! Don't just take what's fed you by the people stealing their land in Palestine and demonizing them elsewhere. And don't just take my word for it either. Talk with GLBT Arabs and listen to what they have to say.

Shelley
Shelley

What occupation? Fatah controls the West Bank and Hamas controls Gaza. Israel withdrew from those areas, not that it gets any credit for doing so. Israel's border policies can't be an "occupation" b/c if that were true, the India and Pakistan - who both heavily police their border - would be deemed to occupy one other, and Egypt would be occupying Gaza, and China would be occupying North Korea. Border control policies, whether wise or foolish, do not constitute an occupation.

Perhaps you mean that the rest of Israel is occupied. If so, say so and then we can all understand that this is about destroying a state that is recognized around the world and which is seated at the UN.

Finally, you should be ashamed of yourselves for naming your group after the Vietcong's political arm. They had just massacred 10,000 people during their brief occupation of Hue in 1968. They were murderous thugs, and the North Vietnamese wasted no time in dismantling them in 1975. That you would now boast about this only demonstrates your lack of moral judgment, something you share with the Siegebusters.

Knoawebster
Knoawebster

Amazing response Jack - I learned so much from just a few paragraphs. Clearly you have been present for a great deal of important events and queer history. I teach Intro to LGBT Studies at the college level and you've just pushed me out into yet another unknown facet of queer knowledge. Thanks.

JF

poppi
poppi

So as long as i have the right to get it up the ass, i don't care that Israel oppresses people in a system, that South Africans say was worse than their apartheid....i think your right, the hypocricy and elitism of a wealthy, elitist, probably mostly white gay community.

John
John

Lool! Poppi denounces the elitism of the elitist gay community. Poppi knows his tautologies. Too bad he doesn't know how to spell. Of course, spelling is just an elitist mostly white convention employed to keep the intersexed lesbians of color down.

AmericanNYC
AmericanNYC

You have a right to think whatever you want, but when you started wielding gay organizations as a tool for liberal credibility (as Sherry has), you invite comparison of Israel to homophobic Muslim countries.

VictorGNYC
VictorGNYC

It is disgraceful that OUR LGBTQ Center is being manipulated by a member of GOProud! SHAME ON THEM and shame on Michael Lucas, who apparently has no shame!

John
John

LOL! Have we now added a "Q" to the Center's name. This gets more bizarre every day. By the end of the year, they will have added an I an A and two more Qs. Political correctness is a form of mental illness.

Rocky
Rocky

Shame on the hypocrites who attack Israel, the only LGBT friendly country in the Middle East. If Sherry Wolf and her friends really were against bigotry, they would protest against the radical Muslims who advocate killing gays.

Villarreal
Villarreal

Hmmm. They aren't too friendly to gay people in occupied Palestine. But you probably don't think there are gay people there (maybe you don't even think of those folks as people). Shame indeed.

Yossarian22
Yossarian22

Yes, let's use gay rights as an excuse for ethnic cleansing and apartheid. That will surely help the plight of gay Palestinians and encourage tolerance.

Yossarian22
Yossarian22

I can't seem to reply to AmericanNYC directly, so Ill do it here. Sherry isn't using gay rights as an "excuse" to criticize Israel; she's criticizing Israel because of its violence, racism and total disrespect for the rights and dignity of the native Palestinians. And your inversion of cause and effect reminds me of the blatantly absurd claim that Palestinian terrorism preceded the brutal Israeli occupation and Israel's project tot ethnically cleanse the Levant.

As for gays in Palestine, a) how is using gay rights as a pretext to brutally oppress an entire population and support a system of racial hegemony supposed to help the gay Palestinians for whom you shed so many crocodile tears? b) do you think the West has the right to colonize and commit wanton acts of violence against any society which doesn't live up to 21st century Western standards of tolerance? Would it be OK to invade, say, Uganda, enslave the population and install a ruling class of "responsible, tolerant white men" to rule it?

geoffk
geoffk

do you know where gay palestinians live? in israel proper

know why? cuz if they are in the west bank or gaza...they are dead

dummy

AmericanNYC
AmericanNYC

So one's using gay issues as an excuse for Israel's occupation. Sherry's trying to use it as an excuse for hatred of Israel - she raised the issue, and Michael Lucas is the response. Your inversion of cause and effect reminds me of the accusation that Palestinians terrorism was caused by the West Bank wall.

Excelsior
Excelsior

Socialism and Queerness is at best, a contradiction.

Wolf is a hack....

kb
kb

Wolf if certainly no hack. Socialism=majority of society running things democratically, in our own interests, predicated on liberation for all."Para todos, todo" as the EZLN would say.

Vito Ivan Hernovich
Vito Ivan Hernovich

Kb... do not alter facts. You're confusing a social democracy with socialism. Do us a favor, get your facts straight.

Excelsior
Excelsior

I've watched her speak, and she was unable to answer my most fundamental questions about compatibility between socialism and queerness.

She's a hack.

Excelsior
Excelsior

No what I was saying bro. The spectrum of capital doesn't end on one end with Rand, and on the other with Marx/Zizek.

Anarchism is more equipped to deal with queer ontology.

Once again, Wolf is a hack.

Villarreal
Villarreal

Ya queers are fundamentally capitalists. There is no other economic system that could possibly be compatible with queerness. That makes lots of sense.

Joe
Joe

I'm surprised no local mosque has offered to host Siegebusters LGBT party, I suggest we start organizing and widely publicizing a Queers against anti-Israeli apartheid party in Gaza City for later this spring?

John
John

I think that Lucas should publicly offer to pay all of the expenses to hold the Seigebusters' LGBT party in any location in the West Bank or Gaza. Lucas will pay airfare, lodging and the rental for the party venue. The only conditions should be that the event take place in either the West Bank or Gaza, and that the Palestinian people be invited via public advertising to attend this fabulous LGBT event.

Just think of the cultural exchange and moving demonstrations of solidarity!

Bakir
Bakir

If I was in NY I am sure the lesbian group in the article would be welcome to meet in our mosque's women's prayer room to discuss the boycott with women from the area.

Villarreal
Villarreal

Gaza City? Be careful, you might get bombed by the IDF!

Jewbearforbear
Jewbearforbear

Road trip!

Mecca, Medina, Hebron, Ramallah, Amman, Baghdad, Basra, Tehran*, Kabul, Islamabad!

The Gays for Sharia World Tour: rocking the cassbah and making anti-Semitism look fab again.

*Sorry, tran-spectrum only there's no gays in Iran, cis-gendered or otherwise.

Girlsforgirls
Girlsforgirls

Joe...shut up....

LGBT4BeatificationPopeJPII
LGBT4BeatificationPopeJPII

Yes! Shut up Joe... Shut...up..and..stop...harassing...us...with...logical...!...

We stand in solidarity against Israel AKA Occupied Palestine!

Also please consider joining my other causes:

IndependenceBusters; a movement by queer-identified Africans to bring back colonialism.

and...

"Hot For Pot: A Queer Khmer Rouge Cabaret" featuring performances bringing glory to a whole lotta mass-murderers.

Or Trans-KKK, because those robes are made for cross-dressing...

Really
Really

Then why is the United States of America in Iraq? Oil? WMD? your occupying a country in fact many and even backs most of the Arab dictators in the Middle East who make Gay sex illegal. Your Country the USA killed 4000 civilians in Panama who had nothing to do with that government, killed nearly 150,000 people in Iraq and for what?

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