Seattle LGBT Commission Cancels Israeli Event After Complaint By Anti-Pinkwashing Activist

The Seattle LGBT Commission, the city’s chief queer lobbying group, announced at the 11th hour that it was canceling a planned panel tonight with representatives from Israeli LGBT groups—Israel Gay Youth, Choshen (their version of HRC), and Tehila (the Israeli equivalent of P-FLAG)—who are part of  the Association of Israeli LGBT Educational Organizations (AILO).

A note was posted on the group’s Facebook page:

The Seattle LGBT Commission is hereby canceling the event scheduled for Friday, March 16, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

At this time, the members of the LGBT Commission feel we are not thoroughly prepared to facilitate an event surrounding such complex topics.

We have great respect for those who have shared their comments with us this week on all sides of the issue and are open to ways in which we can support community members in continuing this dialogue while involving all diverse perspectives involved.

It looks like the Commission made its decision to pull the plug after Dean Spade, a trans advocate and law professor at Seattle University, encouraged people protest the event, which he sees as a pinkwashing cover-up for Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Spade (right) posted on Facebook:

A bunch of pinkwashing events are being rolled out in Seattle this week. I am hoping others will join me in responding.  I’m including below the text of a letter I’ve written to the Seattle LGBT Commission about the event it is hosting. I sent a very similar message to QLaw about its event.  I hope others will send messages to organizations you are connected with who are hosting or supporting some of the others listed below, and also please consider attending and speaking your opposition to apartheid and occupation even when its wrapped in a rainbow flag.

Before the cancellation announcement, though, the commission posted:

The Seattle LGBT Commission values the comments of Dean Spade, who recently brought to our attention the concerns of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict and agenda of pinkwashing to cover up said crimes and corruption of the Israeli government. While we believe his concerns are valid, the purpose of the meeting with Israeli LGBT groups is to engage in a dialogue about their successes and progress of LGBTQ people’s rights in Israel and Seattle. While this dialogue is centered on efforts for LGBT equality we acknowledge that there is national and local concern about pink washing campaigns, occupation, and apartheid. Dean Spade’s concerns encompass a much larger issue that the commission is interested in exploring at a later date.

We guess they got cold feet and just nixed the whole thing.

Debate has raged both on Queerty and elsewhere about whether the Israeli government’s efforts to publicize the country’s gay-friendliness are a smokescreen to distract from its mistreatment of Palestinians.

And that’s a valid debate.

But the AILO participants are from nongovernmental groups who might very well have a problem with their leaders’ actions. Are anti-pinkwashers like Spade now saying that all gays from Israel should be silenced in the public arena, lest they accidentally encourage someone to visit their homeland?

Are we calling for the end of civil discourse and kicking Israel’s LGBT off the bus?

It’s a double standard: When Mariela Castro, the heterosexual daughter of Cuba’s president, Raoul Castro, boasts about how progressive her country is on gay issues—despite a proven track record of oppressing LGBTs and political dissidents—she’s embraced with open arms by gay activists.

According to A Wider Bridge, the admittedly pro-Israel group that brought AILO to America, some good work was done so far on its tour of the U.S.:

* In Los Angeles, the delegation met with the leaders of the Trevor Project and shared ideas and practices for helping LGBT teens in crisis and working to reduce teen suicides.

* The delegation met with the Regional Board of P-FLAG, and shared their own unique programs for helping parents deal with their LGBT children.

* The delegation visited the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, where a multitude of strategies related to HIV testing, prevention and care were shared.

* Today in San Francisco the delegation met with a diverse group of LGBT and Jewish leaders, including an LGBT Asian group and those working for LGBT inclusion in a variety of faith-based communities.   Much of the conversation was focused on dealing with the special issues faced by LGBT people in minority communities, both in Israel and the U.S.

If the Seattle event hadn’t been canceled, someone could have legitimately asked these groups if their message wasn’t compromised because they received funding from pro-Israel sources to travel here.

In this instance, silence isn’t golden.