January 26, 2016 at 10:43 am EDT | by guest columnist
Readers respond to Creating Change controversy
Creating Change, gay news, Washington Blade

Protesters on Jan. 23, 2016, gather outside reception at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s annual Creating Change Conference in Chicago that was to have featured two LGBT rights advocates from Israel. (Photo courtesy of Andy Thayer/Gay Liberation Network)

Re: “Creating Shame,” op-ed by Kevin Naff:

You could not have said it better.  These were not protesters, they were a mob.  I was there. A private Jewish guest going to a private reception when set upon by the Creating Change mob. I have been an activist with a decades-long pedigree of working in large and small ways working for social justice. I have faced down Jerry Falwell, debated on TV with top spokespeople from Family Research Council and Focus on the Family. I have sat on a plane surrounded by fundamentalist anti-gay PromiseKeepers. I have NEVER faced such a mob of indiscriminate hate. ALL of us were called “motherfucking racists”, compared to the Ku Klux Klan and when in the room, several of them broke in and were screaming that we weren’t really queer and queer activists, that we were killing babies in Israel.

It was assault in that we were surrounded, denied passage, verbally abused and we saw what happened if someone shouted back. The gentleman who is described as “grabbing a Palestinian flag” was in fact attacked by that protester. He was wearing a Yarmulke, and the protester wrapped the flag over his face, covering his eyes, nose and face and jerked his head back.

I personally know many of the attendees, who have given much of their lives and treasure to multiple social justice causes, including that of people of color and to supporting organizations like Jerusalem Open House. We were all tarred with this brush of hate, indiscriminately. Jerusalem Open House was founded about 20 years ago as a community center for Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. These were brave LGBT activists in the middle east who have created real, true, positive change. Yet this event to welcome and help raise money for them to continue their activities was shut down hatefully not by the religious right, not by ISIS, but by other LGBT activists.

Respectfully I ask:
How many protests were there against LGBT Muslims — as clearly they must represent the totalitarian regimes in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries where the laws prescribe execution for LGBT people? Oh, they don’t represent those governments any more than we did? Why did we catch double-barreled verbal violence?

How many protests were there against LGBT Russian Orthodox? That church in Russia supports more yet more vile oppressive anti-gay legislation currently in there parliament?

How many protests were there against LGBT Nigerians, Ugandans and other African nations that now have laws on the books that imprison LGBT people?

How many “Pinkwashing” protests were there against every American city that solicits LGBT tourism while maintaining police forces and neighborhoods that oppress people of color?

How would any of the mob (not protesters) feel if every conference they went to people would equate them as representative partners of the Chicago Police Department and run them out of town?

No, in fact, there was only one of this scale. We were not allowed to pass to our “safe space” — and in fact one of the protesters inside our reception screamed in my face that we did not deserve safe space. A website called the Electronic Intifada posted video of the event with the note “No peace! No justice!” Featured in the video was a leading Rabbi of Chicago – an incredibly gentle, yet strong consistent voice for kindness and justice in our community, including justice for people of color, for workers, for interfaith respect and dialogue. He has been a force of humanity and care at our congregation for people in crisis.

Doesn’t matter. You see, the protesters had no interest in our decades of fight here and Israel for inclusion and justice. They had no interest in what we thought about the situation and whether we had any views in common with them or how we could fight together to improve the situation.

In fact, Israel is the only country in that area with a working free press, a rule of law judiciary, with government funding for art that criticizes the government, a true multiparty system. It has an equivalent of the ACLU, the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, feminist and environmental organizations and those that work for peace.

Had they really wanted dialogue, they might actually have engaged the activists on the front lines of serving both Israeli Jews and Palestinians. I bet they don’t agree with the government either. However, they might have shared what actually works in that complicated area of the world to actually “create change.”

They could have joined with them and us to support a stronger, better Israel and celebrate the works of LGBT activists who risked a lot to build a true safe space for Israelis and Palestinians.

But no indeed…

I have been violated and my friends and co-religionists have been attacked and libeled. I am physically sick from the violence and anti-Semitism that clearly singled us out and turned every one of us from Jews with long accomplished records of commitment to justice into demons worthy of their verbal and physical violence. And how they crow on their websites about how wonderful they were!

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force should be called to account for this violent, aggressive action — for the failure to provide us safe passage and peace within our own event — for the failure to meet their own purposes of using dialogue, safe space and respect for others to build bridges and “create change.”

I have no illusions that the self-righteous mob will ever look in the mirror and see the very hate that they detest in others. But the leaders of this event must.

Alan Amberg

Chicago

Re: “Protesters disrupt reception with Israeli activists,” by Michael K. Lavers:

It is shocking that activists shut down a Shabbat service and meeting because it included Israeli LGBT leaders and U.S. supporters. Jerusalem Open House is a cross-community group that serves both Jews and Arabs, including many gay men from the West Bank. It is part of the solution. The “pinkwashing” protesters could learn about the conflict by talking to these individuals who live with it every day.

Israel is not a racist, apartheid, or colonialist country. The Israeli-Arab conflict is an extremely complex regional conflict. Israel has very real security concerns, as evidenced by the half dozen wars since its founding and the recent knife and car attacks on Jewish civilians and Israeli soldiers. Jews have always lived in Palestine and in the Middle East, and have a right to national self-determination, as do Palestinians, Kurds and others. Israelis and their American supporters should have the right to convene at a U.S. LGBT activist conference. Respect for diversity includes respect for differences of opinion regarding a complicated geopolitical and historical conflict.

Sean Cahill

Boston

4 Comments
  • No matter what Kevin Naff states you can laud Israel for its very Western ideals of human rights towards the LGBT community. However, what if the LGBT person is Palestinian? I guess then their rights are void by default of their culture and nationality. There are many reasons that Zionist are compared to the KKK. Because often enough both are groups who feel they are granted a God given right to be superior while trampling those who they view as inferior.

    You can’t defend Zionism and keep the moral high-ground. Anyone who criticizes the government of Israel for its very harsh treatment of Palestinians and now Ethiopian Jews have a ground for their views. Criticism of the Israeli government doesn’t come from a vacuum nor are all people who criticize the state anti-Semites. The whole charge of antisemitism is a farce to keep from having to face the truth of the bigotry that is going on!

    • You need to shut your Jew-hating mouth.

      You are despicable for lambasting Israel for supposed abuses of Ethiopian Jews.

      Israel RESCUED the black Ethiopian Jews from persecution in Ethiopia.

      The arriving Ethiopians immediately received free medical care including dentistry. Many had chronic untreated health conditions and Israeli medicine restored them to far better health.

      In a recent year, Miss Israel was a young black Ethiopian Jew.

      Ethiopian Jews work in the professions in Israel and many very popular entertainers in Israel are Ethiopian.

      You are a know-nothing. You heard one or two anecdotes and then falsely allege that those anecdotes represent the entirety of the Ethiopian Jewish experience in Israel.

      Shame on you, bigot.

      • You tell that to the reports coming out of Israel right now regarding the abuses aimed at African Jews. Google it. Just because someone criticizes the government of Israel doesn’t make them a bigot. You Zionist are all the same. You fall back on that accusatory tone of thinking because the truth is you believe Jews should be able to abuse anyone because God condones it. You are the bigot.

      • Daniel,

        Thanks for putting this issue in better perspective because a lot of the essays criticizing people against A Wider Change’s pink-washing activities are completely missing the point about this criticism. And I for one, am getting tired of seeing criticisms of Israeli government policy painted in broad strokes as anti-Semitic. It is not anti-Semitic to question Israeli government policy, and the treatment of Palestinians (including queer Palestinians) is most definitely a form of Apartheid that needs a quality environment for discussion without getting muddled by propagandizing.

        That being said, I wish we could have these discussions on here without getting defensive by using statements like ‘you’ which ends up personalizing the issue in a way that distracts from the conversation.

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