UPDATE: This story was updated at 1:18 p.m. (EST) Tuesday to note the National LGBTQ Task Force reversed its decision to remove the Jerusalem Open House reception from its conference schedule.
(JTA) — Pressure from anti-Israel activists forced the National LGBTQ Task Force to cancel a reception at its national conference with leaders of an Israeli gay organization, a U.S. group charged.
A Wider Bridge, which aims to builds connections with lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and queers in Israel, made the allegation last week about the reception with Jerusalem Open House scheduled for Friday. The three-day Creating Change conference in Chicago begins Wednesday.
(On Tuesday, the National LGBTQ Task Force reversed its decision to remove the Jerusalem Open House reception from its conference schedule.)
Over the weekend, A Wider Bridge said it would move the reception scheduled for Friday to a new location outside the conference venue.
In an email and statement on its website, A Wider Bridge called for the event to be included on the conference’s program and for an apology from the National LGBTQ Task Force, the oldest national LGBTQ advocacy group.
“We are saddened by what appears to be capitulation to the intimidation of a small number of anti-Israel extremists who want to shut down the voices of those who don’t adhere to their rigid and exclusive party line,” said Arthur Slepian, executive director of A Wider Bridge, in the statement. “As LGBTQ people, we are all too familiar with being oppressed through shaming, the closet, and imposed silence, and we see great danger in allowing this kind of censorship and blatant double standard to become the norm in our community.”
He added: “We work to promote honest dialogue and collaboration and to present Israel to our program participants in all of its complexity. Our trips include visits to the West Bank, and our participants engage with Palestinians, Israeli Ethiopians, transgender leaders, and LGBTQ leaders from Israel’s religious communities.”
A Wider Bridge said it sought to bring speakers from the Jerusalem Open House to talk about its Jerusalem March for Pride, where last summer a teenage girl was killed and six others were wounded by a haredi Orthodox attacker, and its aftermath.
“The National LGBTQ Task Force is an organization whose work and mission we support and admire. On most issues, we are on the same side,” A Wider Bridge said in the statement. “But they have the power to decide which voices get heard at the nation’s largest LGBTQ gathering, and in this instance, they have used that power in a misguided and irresponsible way. We will not let them define A Wider Bridge as ‘outside the tent,’ censor our voices, or blacklist us and our work as ‘unkosher’ for Creating Change.”