'Party to End Israeli Apartheid!' Still On at Gay Center, Activists Vow, But With Picketing, Not Dancing
The fuss over Israeli Apartheid Week won't end. Still steaming about the LGBT Center's cancellation late last month of tomorrow night's "Party to End Apartheid!," organizers still plan to descend on the center en masse tomorrow night in protest.
Meanwhile, another Israeli Apartheid Week event at another venue — a panel discussion Monday night at NYU's Kimmel Center — went off without a hitch.
But the NYU event has sparked no controversy. Wolf, an NYU professor, and an NYU student rather calmly laid out a case for the three-pronged boycott-divestment-sanctions movement against Israel. Panelists were particularly interested in getting TIAA-CREF, which handles many NYU employees' retirement portfolios, to stop investing in five companies that do business with Israel. Wolf mentioned the LGBT Center controversy during the event, but it wasn't the main focus of the conversation.
The Center's officials, smarting from criticism, have announced a March 13 "Community Forum," saying, "Recent events have led us to build on our process for providing space."
Meanwhile, Siege Busters, the group ejected from the LGBT Center, gathered 1,500 signatures (including that of gay hero Cleve Jones) on a petition asking the Center to reinstate their event and the right to hold future meetings.
Around town this week in the LGBT community, the issue of how Glennda Testone, just one year into her tenure as the center's executive director, would navigate through this crisis has been a hot topic.
The Siege Busters folks are not impressed so far. After a week of silent treatment from the Center following their ejection, they say, Testone finally agreed to meet with them, but with tight restrictions on what could even be discussed.
Under the rules she proposed, says activist Brad Taylor, "the issue of the [Party to End Apartheid] cancellation should not be on the table — that it should not be discussed. Instead, the subject should be the center's policies and access."
Taylor says that Siege Busters had no interest in a meeting in which "only one side decided in advance what was going to be discussed, but that we were going to the Center to present our petition anyway, and we'd be happy to meet with Glennda then without any preconditions."
When they arrived at the Center, Taylor and two others were escorted to meet with Testone and two members of her staff. As Taylor recalls it, "We basically said, 'We're here to help you handle the fact that you've made a terrible mistake. A terrible PR mistake, and a terrible political mistake. We'd like to discuss the way that we can, in a facesaving manner, reinstate this event and allow Siege Busters to meet at the Center again. We don't want to rub your nose in it, we don't want to attack the Center or you personally. The only thing we want is for the Center to rescind the decision.' "
Taylor says they also demanded an answer as to why they had been kicked out, and they were told "that our event had generated too much controversy from both sides, and it wasn't 'queer enough.'"
He says the Center asked them to consider hosting a town hall discussion, but the Center wanted to be able to set the agenda and wanted it closed to the press. Siege Busters wanted it to be open to the press, and insisted that it still be a benefit to support their effort to send a relief boat to Gaza.
Ultimately, Siege Busters decided the Center's offer was too little, too late. The group says it plans to meet as originally scheduled at the Center tomorrow night, when the original "party" was set to happen. They will be holding picket signs, though, instead of dancing.