Israel, Politics, Sex & Gender

Zionists at the Social Forum

The pro Israel organization Stand With Us is at the center of a controversy around the participation of Zionists at the US Social Forum. Briefly: A workshop was approved on LGBTQI struggles in the Middle East. Palestine solidarity activists and Arab queers pressed the Social Forum’s National Planning Committee to cancel the workshop.
Indybay has been covering the situation closely.
Yesterday, the Social Forum released a statement confirming that they have cancelled the previously approved workshop:

“…we are grateful for the letters and e-mails from our fellow social justice activists regarding a workshop being put on by the organization Stand With Us. The goals and practices of this organization violate our principles. Far from its claim to represent LGBTQI communities in the Middle East, its purpose is to defend and justify Israeli aparheid. Jewish, Palestine solidarity and queer organizations have witnessed and experienced Stand With Us disrupting events and discussion on Palestinian rights and then claiming censorship when stopped. Their presenter has claimed to speak for the “queer Middle East” when in reality he speaks only for Israel. When asked to include other voices of queers from the region, he has refused.”

[Couldn’t find this online – so no link.]

I’m fine with this outcome. I could see a progressive Zionist presentation on Israel finding it’s way to the program, especially if done together with other voices, so as to educate people and ‘problematize’ the often simplistic dismissal of any and all Zionists.
[Zionists! Zionism! Zionists! Zionism! That got the blood flowing, didn’t it! It’s like verbal aerobics for activists.] It’s also nice to see that the Social Forum leaders took time to explore the situation carefully. They researched the group, talked to people, and even tried to work with the proposer of the event to include Arab queers. For this reasoned stance, they passed through a few days of shrill verbiage from folks who don’t understand why Forum leaders weren’t faster on the draw.
Just look at what Helem, Al-Qaws, ASWAT, and Palestinian Queers for BDS had to say:


We, the undersigned queer Arab organizations, are appalled by the US Social Forum’s decision to allow Stand with Us to utilize the event as a platform to pinkwash Israel’s crimes in the region.

Whoa. Thanks USSF for being thoughtful about this.
And: The way that supporters of Israel use tolerance of gays and lesbians in some parts of Israel as a way to repulse criticism of how Arabs and Palestinians are treated is disgusting. Does San-Francisco excuse the war in Iraq? Pathetic.
A commenter on my previous Social Forum post points out that one of Emily H.’s works is featured on the cover of the Palestine folks booklet. That’s great! A big cheery Detroit hello to any Social Forum folks reading these posts. The weather is fine, the lines are moving, and the downtown area at least looks fantastic. Big ups to everyone that helped put this together.

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