A gay-rights group, caving to anti-Israel extremists, decides to cancel an ‘intensely divisive’ Jewish event—and then, under opposite pressure, decides to include it. The flawed lesson? The victim who shouts the loudest gets what they want in today’s hyper-politicized cultural climate.
As I write this, ISIS is hunting gay men to toss from the rooftops of Raqaa, and nearly 80 countries proscribe homosexuality. Yet for a 36-hour period earlier this week, the National LGBTQ Task Force chose to ally itself not with the one country in the Middle East that guarantees and protects the human rights of LGBTQ people, but with those who hang them from construction cranes.
On Sunday, the Task Force announced that it had canceled a post-Shabbat service reception at its annual Creating Change conference organized by the San Francisco-based nonprofit A Wider Bridge, which builds connections between LGBT communities in North America and Israel. Headlining the evening were representatives from Jerusalem Open House, an LGBT community center that serves a diverse array of constituencies, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs among them. Caving to pressure from a handful of anti-Israel extremists, the Task Force withdrew its sponsorship and kicked A Wider Bridge off its program.
“We canceled the reception when it became clear to us it would be intensely divisive rather than the community-building, social atmosphere which is the norm for Friday night at the conference,” Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said in an emailed statement. Tyler Gregory, Deputy Director of A Wider Bridge, told the Washington Blade that the Task Force “recommended we either cancel [the] event, or ensure that our event speakers condemn the Israeli government in their remarks,” though which aspects of Israel’s government the Task Force expected A Wider Bridge—which receives no Israeli government funding—to “condemn” were left vague. Refusing to comply with either demand, A Wider Bridge was forced to move its event to a different hotel.
Carey’s contention that the happening—announced months ago—would be “intensely divisive” appears to rest on complaints registered by just three people: Dean Spade, a transgender professor at the Seattle University School of Law and a self-described “trans south Asian performance art duo” named Dark Matter. These, at least, were the only individuals named in the Blade story as having made public statements egging on the Task Force to engage in what is effectively an act of anti-Semitic prejudice and segregation.
And let there be no confusion: A non-compulsory Shabbat dinner and discussion of the Israeli LGBT experience is “divisive” in the way that the presence of a gay man in a locker room is “divisive.” It only “offends” the sensibilities of bigots. When a white person refuses to sit at a lunch counter next to a black person, or a straight football player refuses to play alongside a gay one, we have a word for that: discrimination. Nonetheless, a group ostensibly committed to fighting discrimination and that holds a conference so inclusive of the world’s many diversities that it provides “scent-free” areas for individuals highly sensitive to smell, bowed to those wanting to make it Jew-free as well.
Fortunately, after complaints by grassroots activists and high-profile gay Jews like Congressman Jared Polis and Robbie Kaplan, the lawyer who successfully argued the landmark marriage equality case United States vs. Windsor, the Task Force came to its senses, and announced Tuesday morning that it had reversed its decision to cancel the Israel-themed evening. What she had just hours earlier described as an “intensely divisive” program, Carey now says is integral to “our core value of inclusion.”
This is an edifying moment for gays, Jews, and the broader left. Were they to let this act of blatant discrimination stand, the leaders of the Task Force would have betrayed all these communities by succumbing to the heckler’s veto. In the loftier precincts of progressive journalism, higher education, and the non-profit world, those hecklers tend to be proponents of “intersectionality,” a voguish theory purporting that power is inextricably linked to aspects of identity like race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation, and that an individual’s “marginalization” is thus determined by their accumulation of various traits. Across the country, pseudo-intellectual totalitarians posing as outcasts regularly intimidate earnest but spineless liberals into capitulation. From the Oscar red carpet to Yale University quads, whoever shouts the loudest and claims victimization on account of more facets of their identity can expect to get what they demand, regardless of the quality or even logic of what they have to say.