Israel, Politics

Creating Change was right to cancel on A Wider Bridge

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.

16 thoughts on “Creating Change was right to cancel on A Wider Bridge

  1. FWIW, why is creating change partnering with predatory capitalist Wells Fargo who is being sued for targeting minority communities?

  2. That’s why the hate mongering protestors were chanting “from the river to the sea Palestine will soon be free” against the one Middle East nation that supports Gay Rights. Progressive hate and hypocrisy on full display.

  3. Yes, I support A Wider Bridge, and think they shouldn’t partner with StandWithUs. Certainly think their activists should have been heard at Creating Change. Anyone really concerned with ending the occupation and justice for Palestinians should want to hear from progressive LGBTQ Israeli activists even if we want to challenge some of their organizational choices.

    1. “Anyone really concerned with ending the occupation and justice for Palestinians should…”
      …listen to Palestinians, especially, in this context, LGBT Palestinians.
      And if you still consider A Wider Bridge “progressive” even though they hang around with StandWithUs, I dread to think who they’d have to start partnering with before you’d see them for what they are.

  4. I support A Wider Bridge, and not the silencing that occurred. Change is not going to happen at the exclusion of those who are the front lines. It was disgusting what happened. Those who purport the sanctity of safe spaces certainly do their best to make spaces physically unsafe.

  5. I wonder if, when the author wrote this absurd piece of nonsense, he or she stopped for a moment and thought, “wow, I am really full of shit here.”

  6. The proponents of the moronic Pinkwashing bullshit nonsense simply hate gays and Jews and would prefer they be imprisoned or executed in their future Judenrein state where minorities will be persecuted, gays executed, women oppressed and terror exported.

  7. More to the point, WHAT ON EARTH are progressive Jews doing drinking the Kool Aid like cowards instead of calling out anti-Semitism when they see it? Which this was. BTW, pretty soon you won’t have to be having this “pro-Israeli NGOs” debate at all, if the extreme right in Israeli government gets their way, as their so often do, which sadly so often leads to articles like this one (there is a bill to restrict and/or ban NGO activity in Israel).
    I see no evidence that this organization is in cahoots with the Israeli right wing (and let’s get real–we are talking about right wing politicians, conservatives and religious extremists). Here’s a direct quote from their website:
    “— While our work is focused on building connections with, and support for, Israel’s LGBT communities, we are acutely aware that other human rights struggles exist, both within Israel and in the Palestinian territories. Our pride and celebration of Israel’s progress in LGBT rights does not mean that we endorse all the policies of its government. We hope for a time when Palestinians will live in dignity, free from occupation, and Israelis will no longer live with the daily threat of rocket fire or terrorist attack, or the fear of nuclear war.”
    It is not the job of an organization whose mission has to do with LGBTQ rights to be constantly on the stand, having to convince the world that they are on “the right side” of an entirely different issue going on in their country. If I were to attend an LGBTQ conference in Europe, and wasn’t allowed to speak because I hadn’t come out vociferously enough against our own de facto apartheid here in the USA, I would be highly offended, not to mention feeling hurt and misunderstood, because that is a social and political force larger than myself, but one I patently disagree with and do not claim to represent.
    Progressive Israelis deserve the respect and collaboration of progressive Americans. Surely you’re aware that the far right has linked arms. Why should we on the left be so myopic, self-defeating and idiotic? People of conscience ought to band together to speak out against hatred, repression and extremism. You can’t do that when you’re shutting out and shouting down an entire group, refusing to even give them the opportunity to speak. That is the action of short-sighted cowards. Anti-Semitic short-sighted cowards, in this case.

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