More Sniping in the Gay Center's Battle of Zion

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The LGBT Center
​Michael Lucas, the pro-Zionist pornographer who led the successful effort to get the LGBT Center to cancel an anti-Zionist "Israeli Apartheid Week" event, once again dominated discussion at what was billed a "community forum" last weekend on who gets to use the Center.

The spirited, standing-room-only crowd, on the other hand, appeared to consist mostly of Lucas's foes: supporters of Siege Busters, an activist group that was trying to put on the anti-Zionist event.

At the heart of the debate was the right to free speech for anyone renting space in the Center versus the right of donors to have their say about who gets to use the space. That argument is far from settled.

A large number of those present seemed to feel uncomfortable allowing the Center to decide what is or is not "too controversial" or "gay enough." Some said they'd feel uncomfortable coming to a Center where a group using the words "Israeli Apartheid" was allowed to meet. But more said they had met at the Center for years around "non-gay" issues like war, the death penalty, and South African apartheid.

Some of the loudest applause of the night came when a speaker said they wanted a Center where both Michael Lucas could rent space to host an event to discuss his side of things, and Siege Busters could host an event to discuss their side.

Glennda Testone, the Center's executive director, tried to mollify the crowd, explaining that Siege Busters, the sponsor of the planned "Party to End Apartheid," was ejected because they were deemed too distracting from the Center's "core mission" and that they were not "LGBT-focused." She claimed that, for example, a queer Palestinian group — controversial politics and all — would be welcome at the Center, but even members of her board of directors who were at the meeting contradicted her on that.

Some speakers claimed that some groups, in light of the Siege Busters flap, no longer want to meet at the Center, which they said has long been under the control of white, wealthy people.

The restless audience also wanted know what Siege Busters had done to get kicked out after having had other meetings there over several months, and which other events had ever been canceled by Center officials. Testone said a handful of events had not been allowed at the Center over the years, including a NAMBLA event in 1989. But other speakers, including representatives of the Audre Lord Project, said that transgender causes have not always been welcome at the Center.

Reporter Andy Humm tried strongly to pin Testone down for a plan determining access to the Center, saying anything less would be a "tragedy." But Testone wouldn't be pinned down. She claimed that it would be presumptive of her to lay out a plan before she received "input" from the forum.

The weekend event had been billed as an open community forum, but Center officials made it very clear up front that it wouldn't be open enough to allow people to vent about Palestine and politics. As transgender activist Pauline Park pointed out, the Center's decision to cancel Siege Busters' event was already a way of choosing sides.

A member of Siege Busters made a motion to read an opening statement, and though the audience voted to hear it, the Siege Busters rep was not allowed to speak until 80 minutes into the meeting. And, despite moderator Ann Northrup's assurance that everyone in the room would be allowed to talk once before anyone spoke a second time, Michael Lucas spoke five or six times, more than anyone else in the room but Testone.

When Lucas spoke, he often riled everybody, most notably when he said that all Jews identify with Israel (which made Jewish members of Siege Busters boo) and when he provocatively asked, "What would you do without our money?" (which made even one of the staunchest Zionists in the crowd yell, "Michael, you're not helping us!")

Testone, downplaying the role of donors in the Center's decision to cancel the event, tried to convince the crowd that she'd never spoken to Lucas until late last week. She kept reiterating that the cancellation wasn't just due to controversy, but due to Siege Busters' lack of LGBT focus.

But Tom Kirdahy, the board's at-large member of the executive committee, said that he voted to cancel the event because he believed letting the group meet there would prove "unsafe" for vulnerable LGBT users of the center, such as those in recovery programs. Board President Mario Palumbo (who stressed that he's half-Lebanese and that the board is not overwhelmed with Israel supporters) said that he voted to eject the group because they were not LGBT-focused and because they had used the word "apartheid" in their activity. This undercut Testone's claims that a queer Palestinian group would be allowed to be controversial.

[sthrasher@villagevoice.com]

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22 comments
Vito Ivan Hernovich
Vito Ivan Hernovich

What people fail to understand is that the arab minority in Israel are full citizens with voting rights.There have been arab members of the Knesset since it first formed in 1949. Why aren't people attacking Egypt for maintaining the same border patrols of Gaza as Egypt? Once I saw the "pro-Zionist" I knew Thrasher had no credibility.

In reference to the Center-- it must be a place where groups with a clear GLBT focus can meet. Groups should only be based on whether or not they focus on GLBT issues, from gay rights to STI prevention to religious Queers. Once we do away with guidelines, what is to stop our enemies, such as NOM or Exodus, from hosting a meeting at the Center?

Melinda Jones
Melinda Jones

When Glennda Testone answers the question "Which groups have previously been excluded from the gay center?" she is answering the wrong question. The right question is, "What makes Siege Busters different from any other group that has previously used space in the gay center?" The correct answer to that is "Siege Busters wanted to use the gay center's property to raise funds for a military action against a US ally. The gay center will not let space to groups raising funds for military actions against a US ally." You have right there the beginning and end of the whole matter. You have right there, what the gay center's policy should be, what it should tell the community its policy is. There is no need for any other detail of the argument. Siege Busters and its supporters are free to have the opinions they have, no matter how hateful and no matter how propagandistic, but the LGBT Community Center should not rent space to any group raising funds for a planned military action against a US ally.

Rick Gold
Rick Gold

There already IS a Palestinian State. It's called Jordan.

Alex
Alex

If the center reinstates this group's party, I will apply to have a party "in protest of the homophobic and misogynistic policies of Muslims in Saudi Arabia and across the Arab world". At least that will have some gay content. Lets see if the Center is ready for the threats of violence that will come from that "free speech".

 Alex
Alex

I was at that meeting on Sunday. I spoke to many of the siege busters members and supporters afterward. I was appalled at the unbelievable lack of knowledge they possessed on subjects of critical importance to the middle east conflict. For example, one outspoken woman who spoke twice in the forum expressed surprise that the West Bank is not in Israel proper. She was not aware that the law of that land is not Israeli, but rather Palestinian and that it was occupied by Jordan until 1967. She thought that one needs a permit from the Israeli government to build a home in Gaza, a land which has been under the complete control of the terrorist group Hamas that took power violently several years ago. She did not know that Jews and Arabs share the same schools and text books if they so desire. She honestly thought she had latched on to a good cause with the IAW and that is why she was supporting them. This group has infiltrated the minds of our liberal left with lies and half truths. The term apartheid is used to make you think you are on a crusade against racism, which this most decidedly is not. Michael Lucas is a loud voice.. and somewhat of a loud mouth. I really cannot say that I agree with almost anything he says or does. But in this case I am grateful that he told me about this Siege Busters. This is a wholly irrelevant and damaging group for the center. I have been reading a new "lingo" in the press now called "pinkwashing". That is the claim that Zionists are trying to cover over "their crimes" against the "Palestinians" by flaunting the open rights of lgbt people in Israel. Its a great strategy. If you see a losing argument (ie that Israel is a discriminatory country) give it a name so that it sounds insidious. Israel is the only place in the middle east that gays can go to escape murder and mayhem at the hands of their governments. But it is somehow not right, it is "pinkwashing" to point this out to these loathsome Jew haters (I don't care that there are Jews in the group, it is not relevent - ignorance is ignorance).

Melinda Jones
Melinda Jones

While Siege Busters may or may not be openly devoted to the destruction of Israel, Hamas documentably is. Its charter reads "Israel shall exist until Islam destroys it." It is not irrelevant in the context of this controversy at the LGBT community center to point out that Hamas's understanding of Islam leaves no room whatsoever for out gay people to live as out gay people. Siege Busters was planning to raise funds for a flotilla, with the aim of ending the Israeli naval blocade of Gaza. Israel does not maintain that blocade because it can't think of anything more profitable to do. It maintains the blocade because the government of Gaza has a charter that reads "Israel shall exist until Islam destroys it." That government has close ties with Iran, which in its turn is sworn to the destruction of Israel. Were the Israeli naval blocade of Gaza removed, Iran would supply Gaza with weaponry to destroy Israel. When past "flotillas" undertook their military action of trying to break the blocade of Gaza, Israel offered to inspect the ships, verify that only humanitarian materials were aboard and then to deliver those humanitarian materials to Gaza. Israel had verifiably completed such processes previously. The flotilla refused that offer. Its aim, and the aim of the proposed new Siege Busters flotilla, is not only to get humanitarian materials to people in Gaza. It is to break Israel's military blocade of Gaza. Essentially, Siege Busters and its supporters are demanding that the LGBT center allow its premises to be used for fund-raising for a military action against a United States ally and in favor of a terrorist group whose charter says "Israel shall exist until Islam destroys it." You add to that, the fact that, were the blocade lifted before the Gazans had committed to peaceful coexistence with Israel, and were Israel then destroyed, 1) the gay people living in considerable freedom in Israel today would be subjected to the same conditions as people in Gaza now face, and, the gay people in Gaza would continue being subjected to those harsh and oppressive conditions. Why is Siege Busters not telling Hamas it must expunge from its charter "Israel shall exist until Islam destroys it?" Why are Siege Busters not demanding that Hamas give the gay people in Gaza total equality and allow them to live openly as gay people? Is there not enough breath in the Siege Busters' members' bodies to make these demands, in addition to any demands they might want to make of Israel? It is unthinkable that the LGBT community center would allow fund raising on its premises for a military action against a US ally and in favor of a terrorist group whose charter reads "Israel shall exist until Islam destroys it" and which takes violent and irrational exception to the very existence of gay human beings. According to anti-gay, anti-Israeli propaganda widely and constantly circulated in Gaza, all homosexuality in the Middle East is Israel's "fault." The demonization of Israel . . . looking at the conflict and insisting that on the Israeli side, all is evil, and on the Arab-Muslim side, all is good . . can only stem from anti-Jewish bigotry. If Siege Busters et al were fund raising for something like "Towards enhanced human rights throughout the Middle East," they would be able to make whatever criticism they wanted of Israel and they would have some credibility as supporters of human rights. However, constantly looking at the situation in the Middle East and looking always at what the Jews there are doing . . and propagandizing about what the Jews there are doing . . and simultaneously giving everybody else a free pass . . . is a form of Jew hatred. And for the record, there are people born into Jewish and/or partly Jewish families who manifest internalized Jew hatred, just as there are gay people with internalized homophobia. There is no balance to Siege Busters' position, it is not reasonable to undertake a military action against a US ally, and it is especially not reasonably to demand that a LGBT community center allow you on its premises to raise funds for its military action, when, carried to its logical conclusion that military action would cause gay people in the Middle East to have fewer, not more rights.

Jeff
Jeff

Michael Lucas is to be congratulated for having the courage and the intelligence to label Siege Busters what they indeed are, a hate group committed to anti-Semitism. They do not represent the majority of the LGBT community and should not be allowed to put their hate on display at the Center. If the Center backs down on its correct decision to cancel Siege Buster's hate on display event, then all fair-minded gay men and women should discard the Center as their voice in the community.

Steve
Steve

Why is the title of this article not "I really dislike Israel - oh and Michael Lucas too" because that is how it opens, how it reads, and the tone it takes when the author focuses so much time on him. What he does for a living should not be an issue, but he has a good point: what would the GLBT Center do without donor funds? Of ALL the places in NYC for an anti-Israeli group to meet they chose the community center to protest the ONLY place in the Middle East where gay people can live with dignity and respect and where people from Iran to Saudi Arabia FLEE and are granted asylum to escape what is certain death if caught in their homeland. Should the LGBT Center throw open the doors to a political group that simply dislikes a country or should it remain a safe-haven for GLBT Jews and Israelis (or those that are not openly hostile to it) too? The question should be how did the group gain approval from the board to hold an anti-ANYTHING meeting at the Center in the first place - not why was it cancelled after it turned out that the values and the message of the group is antithetical to the facts as they are about gay people in Israel. Where else are gay people free in the Middle East? Where are we more free there than Israel? Nowhere. Have an anti-killing-gays day if you would like and I will be there to support it. Have an anti-Israel day without acknowledging the fact that is an open attack on gay people who happen to be Israeli, Jewish, or supportive of the ONE nation in the region and I will oppose it.

Oh, and next time look at the headline of your article and make it appropriate to the article. You don't like Lucas. Understood. Your previous four articles dealing with the "porn" guy involved in its opposition were sufficient. How tiring, though. Lucas' opinion is less valid because of what he does for a living? Very mature. Almost as mature as declaring a safe-haven for gay people from all over the region an apartheid nation. Free speech is a wonderful thing, but people should not have to foot the bill to watch a nation and her people torn down as the equals of evil because a reporter or a band of "Siege Busters" demand it.

Siege Buster
Siege Buster

So you're in favor of Israel annexing the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and giving their residents voting rights? Or ethnically cleansing the occupied territories and forcibly expelling their occupants to Jordan? Or what? Seriously, Rick, let's hear the culmination of your supposed reasoning here. Because the status quo - exclusive rule by a racial elite - couldn't look much more like South African apartheid if that were the plan.

Siege Buster
Siege Buster

Quoting stupid opinions from anonymous supporters of the other side is an old trick, and wasn't a particularly convincing one when it was a new one.

DougJosh
DougJosh

Right, because the mere hint of criticism of Israel is antisemitic hate-mongering. It's time to let that line go and look honestly at what's going on in Israel.

Can you explain in a way that is not sensational how calling attention to apartheid and human rights violations is hate? Or antisemitic? How calling on an occupying power to be held accountable for its actions is synonymous with opposing Jewish people worldwide? Have you forgotten that many of these people you label as 'antisemitic' are themselves Jewish people who can't themselves justify the actions of the Zionist state?

No, friend, it's time to put that line to rest.

DougJosh
DougJosh

Steve, your reasoning is incredibly thin. The opposition to apartheid or the occupation of Palestine is in no way anti-gay. No more is opposition to US use of torture or its own occupation(s) of the Middle East anti-gay for the simple reason that the US doesn't criminalize homosexuality. The fact that Israel tolerates queers does in no way negate the fact that it is an apartheid state.

You also ignore the fact that queer Palestinians exist, and I do not consider pro-gay any attempt to encourage impunity in the nation which sees to it that their houses are razed, their children killed, their nation destroyed, and which keeps them in poverty - even if that nation tolerates homosexuals at best. Ask a queer Palestinian which is the heavier yoke - homophobia, or the Israeli occupation - and we both know the answer.

No one here is calling for the destruction of Israel or its people, and it just goes to show you how deeply ingrained the idea is that these two peoples can not coexist. We are simply calling for human dignity to be extended to ALL people - Israeli, Palestinian, queer or straight.

Not all of us queers are singularly focused on 'gay rights,' an institution which has historically left out trans folks, people of color, the poor, and a host of other communities which don't jive with the idea of what 'gay' is. We understand that there is no true equality in a state which continues to oppress others. This goes for Israel, the US, and every other nation of the world.

Steve
Steve

Siege Buster: name a border in the world today that is not the result of war? I'm confused what kind of things you expected to happen in the modern day when ALL of the Arab world attacked Israel and she won. Should she open the doors and let the enemies in?

More Palestinians died in a single MONTH in Jordan at the guns of the former king than died in the ENTIRE history of Israel. As for the racial elite: that's like saying that you're upset that the people of NY run NY. Who else would run Israel but Israelis? I guess Israel should import politicians from other countries (oh wait, they do since any Jew can return and there are Arabs serving in the Knesset) to govern them.

Clean the houses of the governments of the Middle East that KILL gays before you demand that the house of the nation that embraces gays be disbanded.

Melinda Jones
Melinda Jones

Siege Buster, your use of the phrase "exclusive rule by a racial elite" reveals you, again, as a promulgator of propagandistic falsehoods. In the first place, Judaism is a religion, not a race. The majority of Jews in Israel today are swarthy-skinned Sephardim. There is a group of very dark skinned Falasha Jews from Ethiopia in Israel. And, furthermore, there are Muslim Arab members of the Israeli parliament. Gaza is ruled by Hamas. The West Bank is ruled by the Palestinian Authority. But here you are, spreading vicious propaganda that the status quo in Israel is "exclusive rule by a racial elite."

Melinda Jones
Melinda Jones

And notice, Siege Buster, in a comment below, you alleged that the status quo in Israel is "exclusive rule by a racial elite." That vicious bit of false propaganda you are promulgating with that phrase is of a type with what you have called "stupid opinions from anonymous supporters of the other side." You are intentionally broadcasting false propaganda and then when people you have brainwashed with that propaganda are mentioned, you claim that those brainwashed person just have "stupid opinions." In this forum, you have been caught out in your deceptions. You intentional spread false propaganda . . which is to say, lies . . . (i.e. saying that the status quo in Israel is "exclusive rule by a racial elite") but where you have had success spreading such hateful lies, you then dismiss the hateful lies you spread as "stupid opinions." You are a propagandist.

Melinda Jones
Melinda Jones

Siege Buster, when alleged "stupid opinions" are actually propagandistic falsehoods intentionally promulgated, reporting that those propagandistic falsehoods are garnering supporters for the group spreading them is totally valid. I notice, you had no answer to my first comment above.

Steve
Steve

DougJosh, my reasoning is never thin. Opposition to the ONLY country in the Middle East where gays are equal to every other citizen. Only in Israel can you do things without fearing that you will lose you already limited freedom because you person you love farewell in an airport or holding their hand in a long car ride.

Palestinians (I refuse to use the word queer) voted for a terrorist group to represent them. What did they think was going to happen when they went to the polling place and cast their vote for the Hamas? Freedom? Liberty? A lack of violence? The ENTIRE Western World is opposed to the Hamas, yet the Palestinians chose them to represent them - so bad are the conditions in Gaza that they are begging for the Hamas to leave (there were rallies just this week), but they won't. You seem to lack control of the facts about Israel and her policies.

One can seek to go to Israel from Gaza and the West Bank. Arabs and Jews live side-by-side all over Israel and enjoy the same freedoms. Palestinians were given Gaza - not a single Jew is there - they were forcibly removed to give the Palestinians a chance and they chose to vote in a government hell-bent on the destruction of the only safe place gays have in the entire Middle East.

Finally, YES - SIEGE BUSTERS is calling for the destruction of Israel in their support for the organizations that are supported by individuals and governments that want to ram themselves through a security perimeter around Gaza. A ship full of weapons was intercepted by the IDF just last week. I guess the weapons were trying to get into Gaza with weapons (not baby formula, diapers, or Tylenol; rather, bombs, rockets, and explosives was the cargo of choice) and the former is NOT a symbol of oppression. It is a symbol of the danger a terrorist group voted into power by the people of a region poses to the neighbor it SAYS it will destroy.

You want to protest Israel, fine. There are places for that. Go to the Center to protest the beheading of gays in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the "stans" and fix those problems before you take on a nation that offers equality for everyone that is not bent on her destruction.

My reasoning is simple: Israel is a safe-haven for Jews, non-Jews; gays, and non-gays. To protest their treatment of what you believe (wrongly) is fine, but to do it at the Center - where many gay Jews and Israelis want safe-haven from the failings we all share is wrong. This is not a real cause. It is a misunderstood attempt to squat at the Center when you can meet for free at the Saudi embassy to speak of Jewish and Israeli destruction. They'd be happy to oblige.

Melinda Jones
Melinda Jones

Well, yes, you are attempting to spread vicious propaganda; the phrase is appropriate. Yes, it is possible for a person from a Jewish family to be atheist and yet still identify as Jewish. However, that is not race specific. A black Jewish person just as well as an olive-skinned Jewish person or a white Jewish person may be atheist and still identify as Jewish. Ergo, your phrase asserting that the status quo in Israel is "exclusive rule by a racial elite" is, by any objective assessment of that phrase, vicious propaganda, a lie told with malicious intent.

Siege Buster
Siege Buster

"Judaism is a religion, not a race"

You are aware that Michael Lucas (like any number of other Jews) is an atheist, no?

"Gaza is ruled by Hamas. The West Bank is ruled by the Palestinian Authority."

You are aware that 59% of the West Bank (Area C) is under direct Israeli administration, no? Or that only 17% (Area A) is controlled directly by the PA? And that both territories are recognized by every international power (including both the US and the UN) as occupied?

"spreading vicious propaganda"

Oh, Christ. Come up with a new line of bile, will you?

Melinda Jones
Melinda Jones

@Siege Buster - You say that I have failed miserably in exposing your propagandistic lie as a propagandistic lie, but, in fact, what I said was a very clearly-worded debunking of the lie. Your stating that I have "failed miserably" in debunking your propagandistic lie does not present any convincing evidence or argument for why I was, as you allege, incorrect in what I said. Were you in a formal debate situation, saying "you have failed miserably" would not be taken seriously as a rebuttal. Additionally, while I was consistently respectful and decorous in my responses to your comments, you are flippant against me, saying "Sorry, sweetheart." I am not your sweetheart. Fatuous flippant sarcasm will of course appeal to those who agree with you but is not part of an intelligent argument that would demonstrate validity to the points you are making. This attitude on your part is an example of a part of why Siege Busters are blocked from the gay community center. You are not arguing from any balanced point of view, you have a propagandistic aim, you dismiss a valid point I made with an insult that does not substantiate any rebuttal of substance you might have, and, furthermore, you have still not addressed at all the very solid arguments I made in my first comment on this thread. The Siege Busters event originally scheduled at the center was not even any sort of presentation of ideas, or debate forum - it was a fund raiser for a planned military action against a US ally. It would not be appropriate for the gay center to provide you with space to raise funds for a planned military action against a US ally.

Siege Buster
Siege Buster

Well, I see I hit a nerve here! Sorry, sweetheart, but when you're going to accuse others of "propagandistic falsehoods intentionally promulgated," it would do you well to present some evidence. For example, there are literally thousands of Palestine solidarity organizations Web sites on this great big Internet of ours. Can you point us towards a single one stating that "the West Bank is ... in Israel proper"? Bueller? Bueller? ...

Oh, and when you accuse others of "intentionally broadcasting false propaganda," it's customary to point out exactly how. You certainly fail miserably in your feeble attempt below.

Melinda Jones
Melinda Jones

To clarify the point, the commentor identified as "Siege Busters" 1) intentionally broadcasts hateful lies; 2) is happy to have support from people brainwashed by those lies but 3) when criticized because his/her supporters are repeating those lies, to deflect criticism of the ongoing promulgating of those lies, dismisses the lies as "stupid opinions," as though he/she, "Siege Busters," didn't have every intention of turning right around and repeating those same lies to others.

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