Jewschool has published a pro forma summary of the dust-up at Creating Change, but given how many Jews on the left, including several of our editors and contributors, are apparently in support of A Wider Bridge, more needs to be said. Here are the facts:

  • Creating Change participants, both individuals and organizations, did not object to A Wider Bridge purely on the basis that it operates in Israel. Some of them might have considered that grounds enough, but contrary to Jewish press “reporting” on the issue, protesting organizations released a detailed statement explaining exactly what their problem with A Wider Bridge is. Read it here.
  • The key passage in their statement reads as follows: “A Wider Bridge partners with the Israeli Consulate and the right wing Israel advocacy organization Stand With Us to put on pinkwashing events that are boycotted and protested by queer and trans activists across the United States. We understand this reception to be part of a broader Zionist political strategy to “pinkwash” Israel’s complicity in violating Palestinian human rights.”
  • All of these charges are true.

A Wider Bridge regularly partners with StandWithUs, a pro-occupation propaganda outlet that works closely with the Israeli government. (Here is just one example.) The organizations work together to bring LGBTQ Israelis to the United States to curry favor with LGBTQ activists and political bodies, instrumentalizing these Israelis to ease pressure on Israel for its non-stop, racialized oppression of Palestinians. That of course includes LGBTQ Palestinians, who are equally likely as their neighbors to be bombed, beaten, or shot by the IDF, and in fact quite a bit more likely to be arrested, since the Shin Bet is notorious for threatening to out them if they don’t consent to spy for the Israeli government.
A Wider Bridge works with Israeli consulates and the Israeli government to support that government’s worst abuses. Here they are in 2014, during the most recent Gaza “war,” contributing material support to a community pep rally for the IDF. That “war” looked a lot more like a massacre, costing more than 2000 Palestinian lives, including more than 500 children. On its page promoting the rally, A Wider Bridge does helpfully ask that no attendees bring signs wishing violence upon Arabs or Muslims “in general,” leading one to wonder what sort of specific violence participants were allowed to promote.
Finally, A Wider Bridge materially participates in explicit “pinkwashing” campaigns by helping to distribute anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab propaganda masquerading as support for LGBTQ rights. A recent example, from December 2014: they uncritically republished an execrable ad in the New York Times that demanded readers “support Israel” because only there are LGBTQ people safe from oppression. The ad publisher? Shmuley Boteach, America’s worst rabbi–something you could have also found out directly from A Wider Bridge, since they also republished his pack of lies editorial alongside the ad.
No one forced A Wider Bridge to get into bed with the pro-occupation right or with the Israeli government. The organization made these morally bankrupt decisions all on its own. Why should it not pay any price at all for doing so?
The organizations demanding that Creating Change expel A Wider Bridge from its program are telling the truth, and their grievances are utterly reasonable. Many of these progressive, US-based LGBTQ organizations are themselves led by, or support, LGBTQ Arabs and Palestinians. Why should they have to share space with an organization that has shown no qualms whatsoever about directly participating in the oppression of Arabs living in Israel/Palestine?
Perhaps more to the point, at least in this space: what on earth are progressive Jews doing supporting this organization? I’m flummoxed to see good people lining up against SONG, SURJ, BlackLivesMatter, Dream Defenders, and the literally dozens of other organizations doing pathbreaking LGBTQ and racial justice work who have signed this statement.
This blog has lately published some tough talk about how it’s time to get serious about supporting radical anti-oppression work happening in Israel/Palestine, and to take the gloves off when it comes to right-wing NGOs that are doing their best to entrench the occupation. I couldn’t agree more. Let’s start right here and right now, with this opportunity.
No material or moral defense for NGOs in Israel that collaborate with the Israeli government to support, in word or deed, the occupation. It should end right now. If A Wider Bridge wants acceptance in the progressive movement world, let them sever ties with the pro-occupation right. Until then, they should not be welcomed in progressive spaces.
If you’re at Creating Change this weekend, watch this space for rolling updates as several progressive groups oppose or disrupt A Wider Bridge’s presence. As they should.