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Sarah Schulman barred from appearance at NYC LGBT centre

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — A Gay City News report says author Sarah Schulman has been barred from an appearance at New York's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center because she planned to discuss her new book, which deals with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to the report, a member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) submitted an application last month to rent space at the centre for an event in March featuring a reading by Schulman. The reading was to coincide with Israeli Apartheid Week, which organizers say would include discussions of Israel’s “apartheid policies” toward Palestinians and promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

QuAIA member John Francis Mulligan was reportedly told by email that the centre couldn't "accommodate your request." 

Schulman told Gay City News by email that she is surprised that she would be "refused a platform to present a queer book" entitled Israel/Palestine and the Queer International.

According to Buzzfeed, the centre says it wants to "keep the divisive issue out as part of an effort to maintain a 'safe space' for Jews and
Arabs alike, and LGBT people on all sides of the conflict."  

Asked in an interview with BuzzFeed why she believes the centre barred her appearance, Schulman says, "It's hard to
understand the logic of the LGBT Center." 

She continued, "At the failed [2011] community meeting
with their director, Glennda Testone and her board, there were no Jews
on staff, yet they kept telling us that this censorship would make the
Center a 'safe space" for Jews! It was bizarre, especially considering
that Jews like myself, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Judith Butler, Joan
Nestle etc were among the 1500 people who signed a petition for an open
center. It seems that they hold cliched and stereotyped beliefs about
punitive rich Jews who will pull out their Jew-money if anyone
criticizes Israel, and it was this misguided prejudice that lead them to
defensively ban any criticism of Israel. I know it sounds insane, but I
honestly think that that is what happened. A weird kind of
anti-semitism combined with a profound lack of intelligence and

Schulman says she "believes in equal
rights for all human beings. If there is a Jewish Right of Return, there
can also be a Palestinian Right of Return. I do not support different
levels of rights based on religion." Schulman was responding to two questions: one of which asked whether the BDS position on the Palestinian right of return is too radical, and another which asked if she personally feels that Israel should continue to exist as a Jewish state.

The report quotes Schulman as saying that queer people should be "incensed by Israel's treatment of the Palestinians" and that Israel "pinkwashes" its record by using events like gay pride parades "as signs of modernity."

The LGBT Community Center has in place an indefinite moratorium on "renting to groups that organized around the 'Israeli-Palestinian conflict,'" Gay City News notes. The moratorium was instituted after the centre banned QuAIA and another group called Seige Busters Working Group, which opposed Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and which wanted to hold a party last year to mark Israel Apartheid Week. 

Testone told the town-hall meeting that Siege Busters was banned because the party was “an incredibly controversial and contentious event” and "not LGBT-focused."

Read BuzzFeed's interview with Schulman. 


Landing image: Shimon Karmel photo

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