BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — In a Feb 15 statement, New York's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center says it is lifting a moratorium on renting to groups that organize around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The lifting of the moratorium comes in the wake of the centre's decision to bar author Sarah Schulman from an appearance in which she planned to discuss her new book, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International, and before that, the banning of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) and the Siege Busters Working Group, an organization that opposed Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Schulman's 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.
There is as yet no confirmation that Schulman's appearance is back on schedule.
Groups wishing to use space at the centre must agree to and sign a pledge of nondiscrimination.
That pledge reads:
"In consideration of the provision of space-for-fee at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, I represent and affirm that our group is non-discriminatory and does and will treat all individuals and groups equally without regard to actual or perceived race; creed; color; national origin; religious background or affiliation; gender; gender expression or gender identity; sex; sexual orientation; pregnancy; age; height or weight; alienage or citizenship status; past, present or future disability or condition, including physical (e.g. HIV/AIDS), intellectual (e.g. learning disability), or psychiatric; veteran or military status, marital or partnership status, or any other protected status in accordance with federal, state or local laws.
"We recognize that respecting individual dignity, achieving equality and promoting intergroup harmony are the responsibilities of all people, including our group. We reject hatred and will not engage in acts or expressions of hatred directed to any person(s) or group(s). Our group will work in good faith to affirm and abide by these principles in all our activities and affairs.
"I understand the Center reserves the right to revoke any use of its facilities by a user group in the event that such group fails to affirm or abide by these principles."
In its statement, the centre also says it "does not endorse the views of any groups to which it rents space. We adamantly believe in and defend free speech and the open exchange of ideas, but we deplore the rhetoric of hate and bigotry."
In a joint statement of their own, NYC council Speaker Christine Quinn, NYS Assembly member Deborah Glick, NYS Senator Brad Hoylman and NYC council member Jimmy Van Bramer say they support the centre's new guidelines.
They say the organization's decision to "allow groups to have open discussion and to create a resolution process to address complaints of potential hate-related speech is the correct approach."
However, they say they reject attempts by any organization to "use the Center to delegitimize Israel and promote an anti-Israel agenda. We adamantly oppose any and all efforts to inappropriately inject the Center into politics that are not the core of their important mission.
"We vehemently oppose the absurd accusations by some groups that Israel is engaged in so-called 'pinkwashing,'" the statement also says.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Schulman accuses the Israeli government of "cynically manipulating the hard-won gains of the LGBT movement in Israel to use them to whitewash or 'pinkwash' the occupation." She says many people "mistakenly see events like gay pride parades as signs of modernity."