U.S. LGBTQ Task Force cancels event with Israeli gay leaders

(JTA) – An event scheduled to be held at the national conference of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer activists hosted by a U.S. organization that works to build connections with LGBTQ individuals and groups in Israel has been cancelled.

A Wider Bridge alleges that the National LGBTQ Task Force cancelled the reception with leaders of the Israeli gay organization, Jerusalem’s Open House, scheduled to be held at the Creating Change conference in Chicago, due to pressure from anti-Israel activists.  The conference will be held Jan. 20-22.

The organization announced over the weekend that it would move the reception scheduled for Jan. 22 to a new location outside the conference venue.

A Wider Bridge called in a take action email and statement on its website for the event to be included on the conference’s program, and for an apology from the National LGBTQ Task Force.

“We are saddened by what appears to be capitulation to the intimidation of a small number of anti-Israel extremists who want to shut down the voices of those who don’t adhere to their rigid and exclusive party line.  As LGBTQ people, we are all too familiar with being oppressed through shaming, the closet, and imposed silence, and we see great danger in allowing this kind of censorship and blatant double standard to become the norm in our community,” said Arthur Slepian, executive director of A Wider Bridge, in the statement.

“A Wider Bridge is one of the leading LGBTQ organizations in the country, an advocate for LGBTQ rights here in North America, in Israel and around the world, and it is both sad and disgraceful that the organizers of Creating Change decided that there is no place for us in this significant gathering of LGBTQ leaders from around the U.S. and the world. We work to promote honest dialogue and collaboration and to present Israel to our program participants in all of its complexity. Our trips include visits to the West Bank, and our participants engage with Palestinians, Israeli Ethiopians, transgender leaders, and LGBTQ leaders from Israel’s religious communities,” he said.

A Wider Bridge said it sought to bring speakers from the Jerusalem Open House to talk about its Jerusalem March for Pride, where last summer a teenage girl was killed and six other wounded by a Haredi Orthodox attacker, and its aftermath.

“The National LGBTQ Task Force is an organization whose work and mission we support and admire. On most issues, we are on the same side. But they have the power to decide which voices get heard at the nation’s largest LGBTQ gathering, and in this instance, they have used that power in a misguided and irresponsible way. We will not let them define A Wider Bridge as ‘outside the tent,’ censor our voices, or blacklist us and our work as ‘unkosher’ for Creating Change,” the organization said in a statement.

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