Last week, The Center, New York City’s LGBT community centre, cancelled the March 5th “Party to End Apartheid” to be held as part of Israeli Apartheid Week, after The Center was targeted for a defunding campaign by Israel lobbyists and self-promoting homo-socialites. Led by extremist Israeli-supporter and porn mogul Michael Lucas, who has done porn shoots in ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages, this bullying campaign threatened The Center’s funding and put at risk all those who depend on the The Center’s services.
This is only the latest instance of Israel lobby groups threatening the funding of LGBT organizations who allow speech that is critical of Israeli policies. Here in Toronto, Supporting Our Youth and Pride Toronto have also been targeted by similar bullying campaigns. Last year, Toronto’s queer communities fought back and forced Pride Toronto to reverse its decision when it caved to ban Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) from the Pride parade.
Anti-censorship campaigns have been at the heart of many queer struggles: censorship has always been the tool of those who would keep us silenced. Queer struggles for justice must be founded on solidarity. The majority of those who continue to struggle against homophobia, transphobia, and gendered violence cannot do so without also struggling against the intolerable conditions of racism, colonialism, economic oppression and state violence they live under. We cannot base our measure of justice on the comfort of the most privileged. By censoring the “Party to End Apartheid” over threats from major donors, the Center is allowing those with the most power to censor the voices of the queers who continue to face these injustices.
It’s past time for queers to call out Michael Lucas for his years of virulent anti-Arab racism and Islamophobic commentary, the most recent example of which is his column opposing democracy for Arab countries in The Advocate. Are these the values that should be influencing the programming decisions at a major LGBTQ Centre?
If our queer institutions are to remain relevant to any but a handful of elites, we need to come together and battle this censorship. We did it in Toronto, and we can do it in New York.
QuAIA calls on The Center to stay true to its values, and to reverse its decision and allow the event to continue as scheduled. We know that IAW events have been held at The Center in the past, with great success.
QuAIA also offers its full support to the Siegebusters Working Group, Existence is Resistance and all Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) organizers fighting back against bullies like Lucas. As queers, we’re here to say that the party must ALWAYS go on.
Judith Butler, Sherry Wolf, Cleve Jones, and Sarah Schulman wrote a petition to save The Center, which we encourage you to sign: