On Sunday, members of the LGBT community marched in New York City’s Celebrate Israel parade for the first time in the event’s 48-year history.
It’s a big change from 1993, when the LGBT synagogue Congregation Beit Simchat Torah was banned from the parade after school groups threatened a boycott.
More than 100 marchers, including members of CBST and JQ Youth joined the march. “There was no heckling or booing. It just didn’t matter,” says Jayson Littman, the founder of the Jewish gay social group he’bro, who joked the organizers of the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade could learn a lesson. ”The Jewish community has made great strides in understanding the diversity within their community, but at this parade they included us too. That’s history.”
Not everyone at the event was thrilled with the Land of Milk and Honey, though: Members of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) were on hand protesting Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the country’s current pro-LGBT publicity blitz. “The Israeli government’s ‘Brand Israel’ PR campaign tries to sell a twisted message: Israel supports gay rights, so you must support Israel—you can’t oppose Israeli violence against Palestinians,” said QAIA’s Emmaia Gelman. “What a disgusting abuse of the LGBT community.”
There’s no doubt a place for criticism, but there’s also difference between celebrating a community and the actions of their government—a distinction Americans, of all people, are pretty clear on. “I think it would have been more effective for the QAIA to celebrate this inclusionary effort, rather than protesting it,” says Littman.
Photos: Robert J. Saferstein, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid