Pauline Park Q&A: LGBT Center 'Gave the Community the Finger' in 'Israeli Apartheid Week' Dispute

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​Veteran transgender activist Pauline Park — responsible for adding the "T" to Manhattan's LGBT Center — blasts the center's controversial decision in March to cave to pressure from pro-Zionist gay-porn impresario Michael Lucas and ban an "Israeli Apartheid Week" event sponsored by Siege Busters. The Queens Pride House, of which she is board president, hosted Siege Busters' screening of Arna's Children (a documentary sympathetic to Palestinians) last weekend in Jackson Heights. We spoke with Park about why she thinks the Manhattan LGBT Center has "basically given the community the finger" and has said to other gays — in her words — "Fuck you, drop dead, we only care about the bottom line."

Officials at the Manhattan LGBT Center, the city's major gay community center, will no longer talk about the controversy, telling the Voice, "At this time, we are not doing any further interviews on the topic."

Others are more than willing to speak about the Center. Here's our (edited) conversation with Pauline Park:

How did the screening go last weekend with Siege Busters?

It went quite well. There were 20 or 25 people. It was a very good discussion afterwards. The film, Arna's Children, is by director Juliano Mer-Khamis. His mother founded the Jenin Children's Theater, which is in the West Bank. Quite tragically, he was shot and killed in April. He was only in his forties.

The Manhattan LGBT Center conducted a "forum" about its cancellation of the Siege Busters event. At the Center's forum, you said you had "no dog in the fight." How did Siege Busters come about having an event at Queens Pride House?

I ran into Bob Lederer and Naomi Brussel and Brad Taylor from Siege Busters, and they were going out for a drink [after the forum] and asked me if I'd like to join them. And we talked about the forum and compared notes, and talked about our reactions, and they filled me in on the background.

I decided to raise this issue with my colleagues at Queens Pride House. Out of that conversation came the idea to invite the Siege Busters to hold an event at the Queens Pride House. And I extended the invitation, and they were very appreciative of it. They suggested that they show this film, which was very powerful and gave insight into what's going on in the Occupied Territories.

Did the film have an LGBT focus?

No, no. But most of the members of the Siege Busters were LGBT or queer. And I might add, by the way, at least half of the members are Jewish, as well, which I think is an interesting and important fact.

I felt the Center's expulsion of Siege Busters — not just the March event, but the banning of Siege Busters outright — was completely unjustified, and a completely unjustified act of the Center's own rules and policies. I blogged about this, and I've said in public and in private with my colleagues that I was quite outraged. And the fact is that [the Center seems] quite intent on dismissing the whole affair and regarding it as some past incident. It would be one thing if they lifted the ban. It was clearly an endorsement of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory. They [Center officials] claim neutrality, but that is simply not true.

What did you make of the flap with Tony Kushner at CUNY?

This is another example frankly of right-wing ultra-Zionism. Just by way of background, I consider myself very pro-Israel. I support the right of Israel to exist within its own boundaries. I should make clear that Queens Pride House takes no stand on the underlying Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, we do take a position on what community centers ought to be, And we would never engage in censorship based on political content, or exclude or expel or ban an organization on of its position on the Israel-Palestine issue. We believe that community centers, and LGBT community centers above all, should be places for those excluded by society. They should be open for people who've been left by families and should be open to everyone. Controversy, far from being the reason for banning groups, should be viewed as an opportunity to engage the LGBT community around debate. Centers should be open to discussion and debate of the important issues of the day.

You hear [the Manhattan LGBT Center's] Tom Kirdahy, Mario Palumbo and [executive director] Glennda Testone say it's the controversy — that's why they're canceling it. Our lives are controversial! My existence as a transgender person is controversial!

What do you make of the Center's claim that the reason Siege Busters was evicted was because its event was not "LGBT-focused"?

That's preposterous. If [the Center's officials] were sincere in that — and clearly, they were not — they would have put out an invitation to [the newly formed] Queers for an Open LGBT Center or to Siege Busters to host an event that was LGBT-focused. If they'd done that, then maybe I would believe them. That's just an excuse. That's just bullshit. That's baloney. They caved and they capitulated to blackmail.

As the President of Queens Pride House, I would never capitulate to blackmail. And if Michael Lucas or anyone of his ilk had come after us that way, not only would we go public, we'd make a very clear statement of what was going on. And we'd engage in a transparent process. I might add, I'm a member of whole bunch of [queer] organizations. Glennda reached out to none of them. And so the very idea that there was wide consultation with various groups, well, Glennda told a very big fib there. She didn't even "consult" with Siege Busters, she told them the decision.

And if we'd had a community forum at Queens Pride House, we'd have required everyone to be there. The fact that only two of the Center's board members were at that forum [out of 19] shows that it was all for show. They had no intention of engaging the community. They haven't had a single meeting with everyone — not with Siege Busters, not with Queers for an Open LGBT Center, or with queer Asian Pacific Island groups, not with queer groups of color — not that I've been aware of. The idea that they engaged with a wide-ranging group of people before making a decision is not credible. It's false. I have lost confidence in Glennda's leadership. I've known her for years and I like her personally. And I think she's nice and, whatever.

But when you look at the board, this is not a board of activists. It's a board of mostly money people. That's why they're on the board. And frankly, it's dishonest that they did not make clear that Michael Lucas is the boyfriend or lover of Richard Winger, the past president of the board. Technically, it may not be a conflict of interest. But if I were the president of the Board or the executive director, I would put that out there. They need to be upfront about these relationships. When the partner of the immediate past president of the board is threatening blackmail against the Center, it's relevant. There was a lack of candor there, and there's no question in my mind that Michael Lucas has access to the board in a way most of us do not.

When Tom Kirdahy of the Manhattan LGBT Center's board said, in essence, that Siege Busters shouldn't meet in the center because it could harm LGBT people in recovery programs, what did you make of that?

Yes, he was saying that people would be threatened if they knew such people would use the Center too, which was bizarre. There was a gay Arab society which used to meet there for years. Also, Siege Busters had been meeting there for months. Dance parties happen there all the time. So either members of Siege Busters are dangerous, which is absurd, or dance parties are dangerous, which is patently ridiculous. None of it makes sense.

I went out to dinner with someone who found that offensive on two accounts. First [this person] said it gives the implicit idea that Palestinians or Arabs or Muslims are dangerous people. Also, in this person's view, it was a very manipulative way for Tom to paint himself in a sympathetic light, by divulging his addiction and struggle with recovery.

What Mario [Palumbo] focused on was the apartheid word. I understand the significance of that word. I lived through the South African divestment movement under Reagan. I understand why it may be off-putting to some people. But since when has the center's mission been to exclude anything controversial? Same-sex marriage is controversial, even within the community. Are we going to exclude any controversy at the Center? It's bizarre and absurd. None of this is real. It's all BS. It has nothing to do with the word apartheid. It had nothing to do with anyone's sense of safety and security. It had to do with the Center's board and executive director caving to the blackmail of a really despicable character.

Michael Lucas, of all people, should not be dictating policy to the center. He's just a right-wing guy. He's just a god-awful person who has no scruples or ethics. He's a bully.

Were you concerned about losing any big donors when you hosted Siege Busters at Queen Pride House?

No. We don't have any to lose! (Laughing) But we'd do it anyway. Our goal is openness and inclusion.

sthrasher@villagevoice.com / @steven_thrasher

Previously:

Gay Center Axes Israeli Apartheid Week Event After Boycott Threat by Porn Activist

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

Michael Lucas: The Zionist Porn Impresario Waves His Political Muscle in the Left's Face

'Party to End Israeli Apartheid!' Still On at Gay Center, Activists Vow, But With Picketing, Not Dancing

More Sniping in the Gay Center's Battle of Zion

Gay Center's Feud Over Middle Eastern Politics Flares Up Again

Tony Kushner Finds Protesters at His New Play Opening Last Night


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60 comments
Masha
Masha

Lafemme,  Ooops!  You didn't know about the 500,000 Arab Jewish  Refugees of 1948.  I guess you also didn't know about the 14,000 Ethiopian Jews ( since you seem to be obsessed with race, I can you that they were black) who have been settled in Israel when drought and persecution was killing them in Ethiopia.

Given that you didn't know some fairly major elements in Israel's makeup, ya think you might try reading some reputable history books before you start up the righteous indignation thing?

As far as this fig leaf of Apartheid you so desperately cling to:  You have not added facts that establish "Apartheid."  The source you quote states

" Non-Jews - including native-born Palestinians - must prove residency and pass other tests; citizenship is granted at the discretion of the Minister of the Interior."

This is exactly how I described the policy and what I experienced first hand while in Israel.  Have you ever tried to immigrate or even just work in another country??  Do you know what it's like to try to immigrate to any other country on this planet??  Do you know the kind of blockades get thrown in front of would-be immigrants ALL OVER THIS PLANET?  Sure, non-Jews trying to become immigrants have to take some tests.  Boo hoo hoo.  Citizens in Israel are eligible for welfare, socialized medicine, and free schooling.   There's a reason Israel like every other nation on the world has to screen would-be immigrants.

The unusual thing is the exemption for Jews.  But so what?  After the history of the Jews world leaders like Winston Churchill agreed that it was reasonable to create a safe haven.

As for appropriation of property of Arabs who fled (or were told by their leaders to leave homes) in Palestine during 1948.  Again, so what?  The Arabs were the aggressors in a war of attempted genocide against the Jews (known, prior to '48 as Palestinian Jews.)

I guess the Arab nations had counted on winning.  They lost.  This means they don't get everything back the way it was before they started the war.   It is highly unusual for the aggressor in a war to demand reparations from the people he tried to wipe out.  If you visited Israel you'd see it is the farthest thing from apartheid you can imagine.  It's a completely racially mixed, diverse, free wheeling place.

Lafemmerompue
Lafemmerompue

Hey Masha,

     People that are from Palestine should not have to take a fucking test to become a citizen in their own land.  Why is that so hard for you to grasp?  Some white colonizer bangs on your door - tells you they have a "divine right" to your house -  takes your house - throws you in a refugee camp - then makes you apply to be a citizen in your own land. FUCK THAT!  I love that you just can't see why this a problem.  And please don't even try to pull in the Ethiopian jews.  My understanding is that are horribly discriminated against in Israel. 

  The Arabs were the aggressors?  Really? Do you know that the Hagana and Stern gangs began to cleanse Palestine in December of 1947 - 5 months before Israel was declared a state - again, by a foreign body (the UN) without the consent of the indigenous population?  231 villages were burned to the ground and 250,000 Palstinians were removed BEFORE ISRAEL WAS DECLARED A STATE.  The Arab nations "attacked" in May of 948 in an attempt to save the rest of the Palestinians in the soon to be "Jewish State" from the same fate.   You are reading an Israeli version of historical facts.

    And you're wrong again - according to International Law, any lands confiscated through acts of war must be returned.  So Israel has been in direct violation of International Law since 1967 by not withdrawing from the Occupied Territories.  Again - a fact.  But I'm sure you have some way to argue.  UN Resolution 242.  I can't wait to see how you try to ague with this FACT.

Masha
Masha

Re "having to take a test to become a citizen in their own land."  This land never belonged to a people named the Palestinians, not Jewish Palestinians or Arab Palestinians.  Again, Lafemme, at some point your going to have to buckle down and crack a generally accepted history book -- a book, not some website.  I don't even know what you're citing here.  Some I recognize to be true.  Some could be out right gibberish and I have no way of knowing if you don't provide citations.  You've so far provided the name of one website with the very suspect name of "Tel Aviv is Burning."

Here is some of what you'd find in an respected history book.  The land now known as Palestine and Israel, was occupied by the Romans 3,000 years ago.  Then it became part of the Ottoman empire, then it was occupied by the British.  A people named the Palestinians never had a state there; they -- Jews and Arabs -- were living on land claimed by others.

In 1947, the British cleared out and handed the land over to the UN, which divided the land along existing demographic patterns.  I am now quoting from "The Six Day War" by Randolph S. and Winston S. Churchill (the grandson and son of the first Winston Churchill.):

"The Jews accepted the partition plan but the Palestine Arabs and Arab states denounced the handing over even of the small areas concerned to the Jews....The creation of the state of Israel on 14 May 1948 was followed immediately by a general Arab attack."

As far as cleansing, again, you are a babe in the woods.  There was a lot of cleansing on both sides.  Did you know that the mayor or leader of Arab Jerusalem was an ally of Adolph Hitler?  That he met with Hitler and asked him how to further his cause of extermination of the Jews?  Did you know about the Hebron massacre of 1929?  Didn't think so.  So here from Wikipedia, which I find generally reliable, is a summary:

The Hebron massacre refers to the killing of sixty-seven Jews on 23 and 24 August 1929 in Hebron, then part of the British Mandate of Palestine, by Arabs incited to violence by rumors that Jews were massacring Arabs[1] in Jerusalem and seizing control of Muslim holy places. This massacre, together with that of Safed, sent shock waves through Jewish communities in Palestine and across the world.

67 Jews were killed and Jewish homes and synagogues were ransacked; nineteen local Arab families saved 435 Jews by hiding them in their houses at great risk to themselves.[2][3] The survivors were evacuated from Hebron by the British authorities. Many returned in 1931, but almost all left again during 1936–1939.[4] It also led to the re-organization and development of the Jewish paramilitary organization, the Haganah, which later became the nucleus of the Israel Defense Forces.

Anyway, this is all waaaay more complicated than you seem to think.  I've been reading, and studying, and observing and writing about this much of my adult life and I still don't think I've cracked the surface.  I'd show a little more humility around a complicated history if I were you.

MarshasNightmare
MarshasNightmare

Masha, You sound like an idiot. Ryan is not I and Lafemme or whoever that is not I....nor am I them. I am the one who said look up "Tel Aviv is on Fire" - its a youtube video and thats the name of the clip....I never said it was a his-story book. I look at real shit like real footage. I go there and visit, since Im Palestinian. Im just wondering where you get off saying there was no Palestine...so all the pre 48 maps are incorrect? So all the Palestinian Passports under the british mandate that say Palestine are not real? ao all the Palestinian money prior to the creation of Israel is not real? Address the real issues here. Brainwashing and Zionism. Dont speak in the name of a religion your zionist beliefs have no respect for whatsoever. 

Lafemme
Lafemme

 So the Palestinians "never had a state there" did they?.  So in order for you not run up in someone's village and take their shit, they have to be part of a "state"?  You're a colonizer through and  through. Same excuse given by Christopher Columbus and all the slave drivers who stole the African's from Africa. It;s all the same shit.  At least you're up front about it.

And if you're interested in research, you should read a book called "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine".  It's by an Israeli historian - who was condemned by the Knesset for writing this book.  That should be a red flag to everyone that it is spot on.

And that wasn't me who posted the Tel Aviv on Fire comment.  All though I have seen the video and it's quite disturbing. 

Mashasnightmare
Mashasnightmare

 Masha,Arab Israelis who live in Israel are PALESTINIANS who refused to leave their homeland. The Arab Jews from around the Middle east are also NOT Palestinian and also are Occupiers. The Ethiopian Jews that you refer to in Israel - would they be the ones Israel forces Birth control drugs on? Or are we referring to the blacks in Demona who Israel claims "are not Jews - we do not know what they are"....or are we talking about the black jews who live in South Tel Aviv who are subjected to racial harassment stating "your kind bring diseases and highten our crime rates"??? ALL of which available on the net - go and search "Tel Aviv is on Fire" and kiss my ass. 

Masha
Masha

All of you.  Leave your computers.  Go to a library.  Do you know what those are?  Find a genuine history book  (no, watching the YouTube video doesn't count) and replace the lurid propaganda in your head with some book learnin'. 

And that's my last word.  I don't want to waste any more time with hate-mongering, uneducated, potty mouthed idiots.

Masha
Masha

Lafemme,

yeah, "Tel Aviv is on Fire"  That sounds like a really objective website.  Is that youri dea of research?  Your first grade teacher would be very proud that you've learned to type words into Google, but you're supposed to have learned how to do real research by the time you're an adult.

BTW:  EVERYBODY in the area prior to 1948 was a Palestinian.  The British, who occupied the territories prior to '48, used to refer to "Jewish Palestinians" and "Arab Palestinians" for convenience sake sometimes.  After 1948, the Arabs who wisely remained in their homes within the borders of the new country became Israelis.  That's what it says on their passports.

Masha
Masha

Lafeeme,  this is addressed to you:

I've had it with this Apartheid garbage.  Palestinians are currently citizens of Israel and if they are not now they may become citizens by applying like anyone else.  As someone of non-Jewish parentage I applied for Israeli citizenship and was granted it within one year -- considerably faster than in most countries, especially the U.S. where it typically takes new immigrants many years to get legal. 

The point about Israel that you have muddled up, Lefemme, is that Jews have **priority** over other applicants.  In other words, if you can show up at the Ministry of the Interior with a birth cert. or other papers that establish your Jewish parentage you are awarded papers virtually the same day.

As someone who had to wait a year in limbo, I have absolutely no problem with this.  This policy was forged in 1948, less than ten years after Jews all over the world had been expelled from their homes and were seeking a safe haven.  Considering the long history of pogroms and genocide against Jews, it is appropriate that Jews are given "first dibs" to their ancestral home that had to flee, chased out by the Romans, 3,000 years ago.

The general apartheid charge is also complete nonsense:  What apartheid nation includes members of the minority ethnic group as MPs in their Congress and has members of the minority serving as judges in the Supreme Court?  Arab-Israelis work in media, fashion, medicine, virtually all fields Israelis do.  An Arab **woman** has far more rights -- and is safer -- than in any of the Palestinian territories

Lafemmerompue
Lafemmerompue

Hey Masha,    To me, this is a colonial issue.  White people have time and time again employed religion as a rationale for their colonization of brown people's land. As we see, the colonists living in Israel largely come from Europe, Eastern Europe and Brooklyn.  I'm not sure what "ancestral home" you are talking about.  Is this a biblical reference?  Sounds like religious extremist talk. As a radical faggot, I don't subscribe to your religion - or anyone else's for that matter.  The 3000 years and the Romans have nothing to do with the Palstinians, many of whom still have the deeds and keys to their homes.   The Holocaust has nothing to do with them either.

The Apartheid charge is not nonsense.  Facts are facts.  Here are examples of just some of the laws, although the Law of Return, which I referenced above, is enough evidence. 

Law of Return (1950)Grants right of immigration to Jews born anywhere in the world. Amended in 1970 to extend this right to "a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew." A "Jew" is defined as "a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion." Non-Jewish native-born Palestinians - most importantly those who fled during the Zionist massacres in 1947 and 1948 - are in most cases prevented from returning.

Nationality (/Citizenship) Law (1952)Confers automatic citizenship upon all who immigrate under the Law of Return. Non-Jews - including native-born Palestinians - must prove residency and pass other tests; citizenship is granted at the discretion of the Minister of the Interior.Under the new interim policy for "family unification" passed by the Israeli Cabinet in 2002, and made part of the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law by the Knesset in 2003, a discriminatory system has been put in place preventing applications for residency or citizenship from Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens.Absentee Property Law (1950)Classifies the personal property of Palestinians who fled during the Zionist terror campaign of 1947/48 as "absentee property" and places it within the power of the Custodian of Absentee Property. According to the law, even the property of Palestinians who are present within the newly created state of Israel, but are not physically present on their property ("internal refugees"), becomes "absentee property." This creates the category of "present absentees."

Land Acquisition (Validity of Acts and Compensation) Law (1953)Confiscates the land of more than 400 Palestinian villages; "validates" retroactively their use for military purposes and for Jewish settlements.

There are more if you care to research the subject for yourself.

Masha
Masha

Once again, Lafemmme, you don't know what you're talking about.  Black people?  White people?  WTF?  Many Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs are from the same genetic stock.  20% of Israel's population is ethnically Arab.  50% of Israeli's Jewish population are either recent immigrants or descended from immigrants from Arab countries like **Morrocco, Libya, Iraq, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Syria.**  Yes, some of Israel's population is of European descent but in 1948 when the UN created Israel about 500,000 Arab Jews were chased out of Arab countries.  Israel is therefore to use your crude categorization, half "black."

Yes, the ancestral home.  You don't have to be a Christian fundamentalist to know that there was a thriving Jewish state in what is now called Israel.  There was this guy named Jesus, "King of the Jews", who spent his time around the Sea of Galilee.  You don't have to take the bible literally to understand that a man named Jesus probably existed.  Much of the bible's physical descriptions (of places and buildings) is confirmed by archeological finds.  

The bottom line, Lafemme, is that you seem utterly determined to believe what you believe.  Facts be damned.  Why?  What's the motivation for all this spleen directed at the Jewish state?

Lafemmerompue
Lafemmerompue

I was waiting for that (referring to your last sentence). Sounds like an antisemitism charge.  Whatever.  I'm not determined to believe what I believe.  Was unaware of the immigrants from Arab countries you were talking about above.  But if you are so concerned with facts, why are you denying that there is apartheid in Israel? The laws are right there for you to read. And again, I don't believe that bible stories are historical - sorry.  In my opinion (and I admit that I have a lot to learn still) is that this is about colonization.  It can not be justified by religious differences, persecution or a Jewish monopoly on suffering.  Completely ridiculous.

NightRaven
NightRaven

Pauline has lost confidence in Glennda Testone's leadership? Yawn. Glennda has proven her chops as one of our community's most dynamic and effective leaders. Pauline's backbiting comments attacking Glennda are not only unproductive, but petty and show Pauline's complete lack of professionalism. Shame on you.

Brad
Brad

The Center has been represented by its "leader"ship in this embroglio as a non-transparent, anti-liberationist shell of its prior embodiment as a progressive community stronghold.  If this is "dynamic and effective", the direction of the dynamism must be the complete undermining of the credibility of the Center.  The community leadership on display here equates taking a "neutral" position on Palestine/Israel with censoring the discussion and banning the queer/allied organization that brings it up.  Unless they bring it up from the right side.  Center leadership has shown either indefensible bias or complete non-familiarity with the issues at play.  And no respect for dialogue whatsoever.  I don't think it benefits Glennda to compare her to the authentic and politically knowledgeable Pauline Park.

Scott Piro
Scott Piro

I’m an out, proud, gay, Jewish man, who spent a lot of time at The Center during my years in New York City (1992-2009).· I rehearsed Monday nights with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus for five years.· I attended High Noon AA meetings on Sunday mornings and MA meetings on Wednesday nights for years.· I collaborated with Ector Simpson, programming events at The Center like a screening of HIV is Still a Big Deal, the film Abomination for The Center’s Lesbian Cinema Arts series.· I attended Date Bait events.

I always felt The Center was *my* center – a place I could feel safe and loved, be with friends and enrich myself spiritually and socially. Nowadays I live in Israel.  I moved here two years ago.  When I heard The Center very nearly held an Israeli Apartheid Week event, I was shocked.  I felt saddened, abandoned, betrayed and angry.  I strongly questioned The Center's judgment to hold the event in the first place and inject divisive politics into what should be a safe space for all LGBTIs.  The Center eventually acknowledged it had not screened its room rental applications carefully enough, and it had made a mistake by granting Siege Busters permission to hold their pro-flotilla fundraiser there.  The Center's leadership made the right decision to revoke Siege Busters' permission, and I support The Center's decision 100%.

It is an absurd stretch to claim The Center should support all groups that claim to be excluded by society.  The Siege Busters event was not LGBTI focused in any way.  Its purpose was to support a political and illegal act which would attempt to embarrass and isolate Israel politically, with the ultimate goal of Israel's destruction.  Siege Busters supports the destruction of my country.  I would have felt extremely threatened by their event happening at The Center, and I could never support activity like this happening there.

I emailed Glennda Testone about the incident, and she was kind and responsible enough to call me back.  We discussed the whole affair, and I feel very secure in Glennda's leadership and that The Center will remain a safe space for all LGBTIs and not stray from that goal.

Michael Lucas is a hero to me for being the catalyst to prevent this event from happening at The Center.

Lafemmerompue
Lafemmerompue

Oh my God I'm going nuts reading your comment.  Michael Lucas is your hero.  Really?  Ok. So if Michael Lucas were on the board at CUNY and voted, along with Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld to revoke Tony Kushner's award, would he still be your hero.  Because right now, in the public eye, and on principal Michael Lucas = Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld.  I don't know why I keep posting these comments.  This is why the Boycott movement is so successful.  No more discussions with racists - no more normalization - just BOYCOTT DIVEST AND SANCTION! 

Scott Piro
Scott Piro

My feelings don't need validation from anyone.  Your reaction to them bores me.

Sarah Swindell
Sarah Swindell

 You said you moved there 2 years ago....so which country do you refer to as "your country"? 

Scott Piro
Scott Piro

I have two homes, Sarah.  I cannot stop being American, the same as I cannot change being gay.  But Israel is my only residence now, and I love it enough to have moved here at age 39 with no family here.

Lafemmerompue
Lafemmerompue

I'm sorry to keep ranting, Scott but every time I read your comment it just makes me want to puke.  You felt "saddened, abandoned, betrayed..."  Grow up, please.  Write a journal entry - make a cappucino - and get over it.  Sorry that people excercising freedom of speech makes you feel "saddened, abandoned, betrayed" as you live in one of the last settler colonies in the world.  Of course you disagree with the term "Israeli Apartheid".  But you know what - I felt supported and excited over the center's decision to move forward with the event.  So who's feelings are more valid?  Neither of us, in my opinion.  The Center is a place where all sorts of events and groups meet - and all that diversity is what makes the Center great - and its not up to you or I to tell other people what is and is not appropriate.   Although I find it offesive and arrogant when white people express "abandon" and "betrayel" over the use of the word "apartheid".  Pretty ironic.  And if you've paid any attention to the news, you'll see that CUNY has tried to pull an award for Tony Kushner for these same reasons - is opinion on Israel.  As a gay person, Scott, you really need to ask yourself whose side you are on.  If you, as a minority and an oppressed person can't relate to the struggles of other oppressed people - THE PALESTINIANS (including LGBT PALESTINIANS) then I really just don't get it. 

Lafemmeropue
Lafemmeropue

Hey Scott.  I'm just wondering if you have Israeli citizenship.  If you do, I'm assuming it's because you are Jewish and applied for it through the "Law of Return" which is a racist - apartheid law which grants citizenship to Jews who have never before lived in Israel, and denies it to Palestinians - the indigenous population.    

Masha
Masha

And your point is, Sarah?

Sammer
Sammer

It is wonderful to see so many comments on this piece, especially the desperately pro-Israel ones.  Anyone whose mind has yet to be made up will surely notice that just about all of the pro-Israel posts rely on islamophobia and/or anti-Arab racism to make their point while the pro-Palestinian posts make no comparable racist attacks on the Jewish population.  It's hard to blame zionists for using these tactics as they have worked for decades, but change is in the air and everyone concerned with the occupation knows it.

Anyone with a memory of this issue spanning more than a few years understands how much the ground has shifted and why stories such as this one are important.  Israel's brutality has been on open display thanks, in part, to the proliferation of independent media.  The racist language that has for so long worked to sway Americans in support of the occupation, now only underlines the brutal inhumanity with which the state treats it's Palestinian citizens, prisoners, and occupied populations.  The comments to this story are a remarkably typical soup of racial and religious hatred, character assassination, and false accusations.  What I find exciting is that this is what every racist regime and mindset looks like in it's waning moments... a totem of bigotry teetering on it's own rotting foundation.  Justice for Palestine is on the way... it's in the air and even zionists know it  :)

Masha
Masha

StephenG.  I lived in Israel for five years, including during the second intifada, and have spent much time in the West Bank.  I wrote a book about the conflict which was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal and the Jerusalem Post and have written about the conflict for many other publications, including, most recently, London's Daily Telegraph.

So, yes, I know about the Corrie case, the James Miller case,  all the "martyrs" of your cause.  I met James Miller at a checkpoint in the West Point.  He was extremely unpleasant -- arrogant, ordering people around.  I saw immediately the behavior which must have contributed to his death.

And how did he die.  He was killed while approaching an isolated checkpoint in the middle of the night.  If you have ever visited a checkpoint in the Palestinian territories at night you might have some empathy for soldiers who do this duty.  There is pitch dark around these isolated checkpoints and sometimes things explode out of the darkness -- sometimes the approaches are rapid, like a car making a Kami-kazi run, or stealthy like a lone gunmen trying to get close enough to dump a grenade.  In any case, it is tense duty.

Miller's cohorts claim they approached the checkpoint waving white flags and yelling "we are journalists."  The soldier in the checkpoint, deep in enemy territory, in the dead of night, only knew that he was being approached by people who wouldn't stop advancing, and, given his rules of engagement (identical to those observed by soldiers all over the world), he shot at the group, hitting one, James Miller. 

As we saw last week with the deaths of Chris Hondros et al, combat photography is a dangerous business.  So, as me old da' likes to say, "You pays your money and make your choice."  If you want to be celebrated the world over for your daring, close-up photos of war you have to take the risks the average soldier takes everyday.  Those risks include death by friendly fire, death by accident, and just plain death.

It is a great mistake to elevate James Miller as some kind of martyr.  He was a combat photographer attempting to make a living -- and doing quite well -- off of a conflict inflicted on others.  He could get away anytime he liked and be toasted in the capitals of Europe.  Young Israeli soldiers can't.

By the way, are you lot going to bring lawsuits against the government of Libya for the death of Chris Hondros?  Hmmmmmm, why not? @Clemence.  Siegebusters are organizing support for another "blockade busting" "Peace Flotilla" ship to Gaza, are they not?  If I misread the flyer they were handing out a recent event, I'm glad to hear it!

Clap Hammer
Clap Hammer

I find it quite abhorrent that any US gay organization can be anti Israel and pro Palestinian in the conflict between Israel and the Arabs. I can understand being pro Palestinian in the sense that Palestinians are victims of their Islamic culture as are all the Muslim states but to hear of a gay hate Israel organization beggars belief.

A cold shower might be of benefit.

Golly
Golly

Palestinians are not all Muslim...clapper.  

Ryan
Ryan

 Thanks to Queens Pride House!  Free speech is where it's at!!!  

scottrose
scottrose

This is really not so complicated.  Leave your personal opinion of Israel and/or Hamas and/or the Palestinian Authority out of it.  Look at it purely from a LGBT rights point of view.  Hamas is in control in Gaza.  If it's true that Hamas won one election, it's also true that it subsequently violently squelched its political opposition with in Gaza.  Hamas is profoundly and irreversibly anti-gay.  Stacey Campfield's "Don't Say Gay" measure in Tennessee, really, is nothing compared to how Hamas treats gay people.  Now once again, *apart* from your personal opinion of Israel, it is documentably true that Israel today is more accepting and open towards LGBTers than is Hamas.  It is also documentably true that Hamas has the stated aim of eliminating Israel and replacing it with a strict Islamic theocracy.  Israel’s blockade of Gaza has the aim of not allowing Hamas to achieve that goal.  To contribute towards breaking the blockade, so that Hamas could receive weaponry to use towards its goal of eliminating Israel and establishing in the territory now Israel and Islamic theocracy is TOTALLY at odds with advancements in LGBT rights in the Middle East.  THAT is why the Gay Center should not permit Siege Busters to hold fund raisers on its property.  Siege Busters appears to have found other venues for their deluded lunacy.  Fine.  Go ahead.  Work towards establishing a Islamic theocracy in the area now Israel.  You are simply deluded if you think your efforts will persuade the Hamas leadership to renounce their theocratic goals.  Give it a rest already with the Gay Center.  Let it help  . .. of all things one might never have imagined it helping . . . gay people.  Siege Busters do not need the center, and vice-verse.  Give it a rest!

Barry Youngerman
Barry Youngerman

To answer the headline's question, "Did the Center give the Community the Finger?", it depends on who "the Community" is.

If "the Community" means left-wing gay activists, then perhaps the Center's decision to rescind the invitation was giving them the finger, although surely not intentionally. But if "Community" means ordinary LGBT people, including most of the people who use the Center, the answer is a resounding No.

Most Americans, including the large majority of both Democrats and Republicans, are strongly pro-Israel. That is true for just about every non-Muslim ethnic group, and in my experience it's true of most ordinary gay people-- especially those who have had the privilege of visiting Israel, which is one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world, let alone the Middle East.

I have been part of the gay movement nearly all my life. In all that time (since around 1974), it was obvious that the leftists represented a tiny minority in the community. It didn't help that they were pro-Castro when that SOB was running repeated terror campaigns against Cuban gays. In my experience, they were all bitterly opposed to American anti-Communism, although the Soviet Union was the worst oppressor of gays in modern times-- a great deal worse than the Nazis.

Now that Communism is dead the leftists have been forced to find new foreign allies. Surprise, surprise! This time it's the Muslim "resistance" against US imperialism, in this case the Palestinian movement. Never mind the PLO, which is bad enough on gay issues. These people are supporting Hamas, an Islamist regime that seized Gaza in a murderous coup, and went on to oppress women, Christians, gays, and anyone with a mind of their own.

When Israel withdrew from Gaza unconditionally, so that Palestinian Arabs could rule their own territory for the first time in history, Hamas responded by lobbing tens of thousands of rockets and missiles into Israel. Any country in the world would have responded as Israel did-- launched a war to protect its people -- and in fact the rocket attacks almost disappeared as a result.

Still, there's nothing about being lesbian, gay, or transgendered that would make someone side with Israel or with Hamas; the very idea is ludicrous. But the last thing the Center needs is to be torn apart by bitter ideological fights. The leadership made the wise decision in this case-- and also the decision that most of the Community can identify with.

gazalady
gazalady

As gay lwomen in gaza strip I wan like say that peaple comment under no not thing what it like. hamas no do nothing no stopping us meet and go cafe. if you no be gaza no speak.

Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton

Hahaha I am Bill Clinton. does anyone believe that? Gaza Lady, a gay women that loves Hamas! Are you talking about Hummus?

StephenG
StephenG

 Oh and who are you to judge Mr. Clinton? Have you been to Gaza? 

Jeremy
Jeremy

Ms Park claims “I consider myself very pro-Israel. I support the right of Israel to exist within its own boundaries.” That is very generous of her. I consider myself very pro-France. I support the right of France to exist within its own boundaries.The Center expelled a hateful anti-gay group from the building. Any group that would single out pro-gay Israel as a country to be marked for destruction is anti-gay, Siegebusters and their Hamas allies do just that. The Center should not support such activities in any way. The forces of good and justice prevailed, thanks to Glennda and the Board. Ms. Park comes across as a sore loser.

Heidi
Heidi

Pauline, what an amazing interview. Thank you. Thank you for allowing people into your center on Saturday to watch that amazing documentary. I think the humanizing of Palestinians really worries the terror state of Israel and this is coming from Jew whos family were exterminated.

Masha
Masha

um, Pauline, you might consider getting some balanced coverage before you decide Israel is a "terror state." You obviously don't have the faintest clue of what life in Israel is like. The population of Israel is 20% Arab (i.e.Palestinians who decided to stay in Israel after the state was created in 1948.) Some Palestinians work in Israel, Some Israelis work for Palestinians. There are many joint Palestinian/Israeli ventures -- schools, clubs and the like. Did you ever consider you've been fed hard-core, hateful propaganda?

StephenG
StephenG

 Well Masha, we can see that you pay attention to detail. The lady above is not called Pauline. It's Heidi and actually Arabs that stayed in their homeland when it was stolen stayed because they refused to leave their homes. Palestinians or "Arab Israelis" have a different number on their driving licenses to Jews, they have different numbers on their blue ID's than the Jews and when i was there with my Arab friend in Haifa he was refused entry to a Jewish owned bar and I shall quote "we dont have arabs here" (said with a thick accent). I highly suggest you also visit and if you have or if you live there open your eyes.

Sarah Swindell
Sarah Swindell

 Jasmine, Arabs have the same 2 digit ending number on their id's and drivers licenses which is different to the Jewish populations 2 digit ending number....sorry to be the one to break the news....Same as the airport "colors" (red for Arabs, yellow for foreigners and green for Jews) which are now numbers ranging from 1-6....Racist as racism can get...but I guess they learnt from the best. ) which are now numbers ranging from 1-6....Racist as racism can get...but I guess they learnt from the best. 

Jasmine
Jasmine

I just love your liberal attitudes  "(said with a thick accent)". And everybody has a different ID number according to when and where it was issued and the same number is shown on their driving licences. "(said with a thick accent)". And everybody has a different ID number according to when and where it was issued and the same number is shown on their driving licences.

Richard Ryan
Richard Ryan

I do not know why the Village Voice is so intent on supporting Siegebusters, a blatantly anti-Israeli, anti-semitic group that has no place in the LGBT Center. It is nothing more than a hate group dedicated to destroying the one democratic nation in the Middle East and the only one to afford civil rights to its LGBT citizens. Kudos to the Center for rejecting this despicable group of hate-mongers.

Stefan Hensel
Stefan Hensel

Wejust don't want any people of hate in our centres! The Anti-Israel groups donothing to help Arab or Palestinian GLBT people who suffer from terror organisationssuch as Hamas as well as from as from domestic violence within their societies.

Allthey do is blame Israel, a state that guarantees full equalrights to all its citizens including gay rights and protection from harassment.In the Israeli military is not such a thing as “Don’t ask. Don’t tell!”

Acentre that allows hate groups in their space should be ashamed of what the doto their Arab GLBT brothers and sisters.

Adam Levick
Adam Levick

If this controversy really had anything to do with the value of "inclusion" then those on this thread would immediately understand that Israel is the most "inclusive" nation in the Middle East by far for the LGBT community and condemn those bigoted few who seek to demonize the region's lone progressive democracy. Tel Aviv's annual gay pride isn't even remotely controversial here in Israel, but would be simply inconceivable in any other nation in the Mid East. And, yet, there are those who claim the mantle of liberalism who single out Israel for condemnation. The hypocrisy is simply astounding.

Masha
Masha

Thank God the LGBT Center disallowed a Siegebusters Event. Having made the right decision they should stick with it. By demonizing Israel over the reasonable precautions it tries to take against Hamas' terrorism, Siegebusters is objectively pro-Hamas. Hamas is rapidly turning the Gaza strip into a Sharia-run mini-Iran. They've already cracked down on women, disallowing a whole raft of "offenses" including smoking water pipes, laughing in public, and riding motorcycles. What does that mean for gay men who are already forced to live in the shadows in the Palestinian territories? Iran is famous for its persecution of gays. Does anyone need a reminder that Iran recently hung two twelve year old boys "suspected" of being gay? This is the sort of culture the useful idiots of Siegebusters are facilitating. I'm glad that the LGBT Center board took the high road on this question.

Udi Gal
Udi Gal

Masha - do you live on Mars? So now anyone who doesn't agree with Israels occupational, murderous ways is "Pro Hamas" - where did you get that fact from? I would like to see where seigebusters has said they are pro hamas - not that I think you know a single thing about Hamas except what it says in your "Pro Israeli propaganda transcript of lies". To the Gay Community "You will be hung in the Arab countries but not in Israel!" to the rest of the world "Palestine never existed" to the United Nations "F$%! You"!....spare us your spewing of hatred

Masha
Masha

Goodness gracious, Udi. Get a grip on yourself! Your thought processes are quite garbled. No, not everyone who disagrees with what you call "Israel's occupational, murderous ways" is pro-Hamas. But whether they know it or not Siegebusters is doing Hamas a big favor, and in my book that's enough to be, as they used to say in the sixties, "objectively" pro-Hamas -- meaning their actions benefit Hamas whether or not they state they are pro-Hamas.

Who do you think Siegebusters have to coordinate with when they deliver their precious cargo (not!) of out-of-date medications, broken appliances, and stuffed animals? Who runs Gaza's ports?

There is no need for humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza. International entities like the Red Cross have certified there is absolutely no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, no need for emergency deliveries of food and medicine. Shops and markets are full. Thus flotillas like the ones Siegebusters participates in are nothing but publicity stunts intended to deliver a message right out of the Hamas playbook: that Israel is killing the people of Gaza, that Gaza is a big prison and blah blah blah.

Well, Gaza is becoming a big prison, but that's because the guys in charge are Iran-style totalitarians who couldn't care less about the rank and file. If you -- or Siegebusters -- cared anything for the people of Gaza you'd be figuring out how to unseat this bunch of thugs.

Clemence
Clemence

Who ever said Seigebusters was going to or planning on going to Gaza...? lol what are you on about??? When did supporting Palestine become a Pro-Hamas-Aid Delivering deed?

Ethan
Ethan

Remember when the Iranian government hung two gay teens? Lady Bunny blogged on it: http://ladybunny.net/blog/uplo...

There is no ideological difference between Hamas, which leads Gaza, and Iran. Remind me how Seige Busters is in the best interest of the LGBT community in New York?

Tom
Tom

The LGBT center is, first and foremost, an organization dedicated to the needs of the LGBT community. It is one thing for the center to provide an open door to organizations representing those who are excluded by society, but an entirely different matter for it to provide an open door to those like Siege Busters, who rail against Israel -- the only country in the region offering members of the LGBT community full rights, while promoting governments who repress and kill their LGBT population.

Brian of London
Brian of London

I do so enjoy it when lefties without a clue attack! I'm so glad I can sit here in Israel in relative peace while waiting for Dana International to represent Israel again at the Eurovision Song Contest tonight. Only the qualifying heat unfortunately and, unless the country commits suicide tonight and grants our belligerent, violent neighbors all their desires tonight, she'll not make it any further. Israel only does well (as in 1993 when Dana took the title) at the height of a suicidal one way peace initiatives directed from generous, peace loving Jews toward Islam.

Well f*** that: we'll send our transgender representative while the Imams ratchet up the intolerance all over the Muslim world and hang a few more filthy queers while they're at it. Meanwhile, in other lunatic dimensions, lets all rush out and watch crude propaganda that paints freedom loving, tolerant Jews as if they were exactly what Islam IS: dark and demented lunacy.

Sarahg
Sarahg

Brian, are you not from London? Oh wait - I guess you feel you have rights because the British are of course the ones who gave Palestine away.....

Nathan
Nathan

Really? Do we need more conflict in our community? Do we not have enough groups in our own community that can use space at the center that we have to go fishing for groups with nothing LGBT in their mission to bring us more conflict? The center made the right decision. They should stick by it. I know I would feel less comfortable in the center if it became a hotbed of activism on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

JoelUSA
JoelUSA

Nathan, I understand where you are coming from but you are either for ALL EQUAL rights or you are not. You can not pick and choose which rights you want to support.

Nathan
Nathan

It's not a question of choosing rights, Ms. Leigh (although I don't think support of LGBT rights demands that I support the right to smoke in restaurants or the right of fundamentalists to refuse to treat people with HIV).

It is a question of mission - and the mission of the center is to be a home for, to celebrate, and to nurture the LGBT community - not every cause that people rally around or against.

And it is especially a question of context. There are many groups that do important advocacy for the rights of the Palestinian people to a state that also recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian state. Seigebusters does not. The groups that work alongside Siegebusters also do not have positions in favor of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state - just positions in favor of a Palestinian state. Peace will not come by denying a people their national existence - Israeli or Palestinian. It will come through reconciliation. Not more division. And certainly not from bringing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the LGBT community center in New York. Look at what a distraction this is. Aren't there enough forums where people fight out the Middle East conflict?

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