Chanting “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea” about 200 ag-tivist attempted to crash and shut down a religious Shabbat service and reception for Jewish participants organized by A Wider Bridge ( AWB ), an organization that fosters relationships between Israel and the LGBT community, Friday night during the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference in Chicago.
The reception was to feature speakers from the Jerusalem Open House LGBT community center in Israel, and had already created “controversy” after Creating Change organizers initially cancelled the reception in response to online and local protests, but was then reinstated after more protests from members of the Jewish community and other supporters.
Chicago’s Gay Liberation Network summarized the protesters’ objections. “For several years the Israeli government has attempted to use propaganda about the freedoms some LGBTQs in that country have as a cover for their increasingly brutal rule over Palestinians, a process known as ‘pinkwashing,'” the statement said.
“Because of the brutal racism of the country, mimicking South Africa under apartheid—one set of laws for Jews, another for Palestinians—most Palestinian LGBTQs don’t enjoy those freedoms. Instead, they endure the anti-Palestinian racism meted out on a daily basis to gay and non-gay alike
There were reports of altercations between the protestors and the reception guests. Witnesses saw a man get into a scuffle with the protesters and have his yarmulke knocked off his head while others called Jewish participants “kikes”.
Hilton Hotel officials called in Chicago police, maintaining that protesters were impeding fire safety. A Hilton staff member told protesters they would be arrested if they did not leave, and threatened to close the conference which was set to close Sunday.
“We got our guests from Jerusalem out of there very quickly, to ensure their safety,” said AWB Executive Director Arthur Slepian adding, “We came here with a message we wanted to bring, and I think there are lessons to be learned here. What happened tonight was contrary to all the important liberal values our society holds dear. I also felt there was a strong undercurrent of anti-semitism.”
Faith Cheltenham, president of BiNet USA, who is well known in LGBT circles of hi-jacking other conferences for her own agenda took part in the protest said that she saw it as part of a larger effort to get “our movement back.”
“It’s wonderful because we’re seeing people be represented. There are many LGBT people who think treatment of Palestinians is incorrect. Many people. There are very few people who’d say, ‘You know, they’re getting everything they want. … It is cultural apartheid, so much so that the Obama administration recognized that. They actually said recently that this is unjust. So when you come here to the LGBTQIA gender non-conforming queer community and you deal with us, that’s our movement. That’s our intersection.”
Reminiscent of last years Netroots Nations where #BlackLivesMatter protestors disrupted and hijacked a talk with Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley both #BLM and GetEQUAL both took part in in the #CC16 “protest”.
A statement Saturday from A Wider Bridge said protesters had entered the reception and taken over the stage, preventing the visiting Israelis from speaking.
“Last night the values of free speech and respectful communication that we all value and that should be the hallmark of the Creating Change conference were replaced by a disgraceful authoritarian-like action that seeks to silence the voices of anyone the protesters feel don’t adhere to their rigid dogma,” the statement said.
“Lies and gross distortions about A Wider Bridge and Israel were being repeated throughout the conference and at the protest. We look forward to working with the leadership of the Task Force to ensure that Creating Change can be a welcoming and safe space for LGBT people, Jews and non-Jews, who care about Israel.”
It’s well past the time that conferences like Creating Change and Netroots Nation place ZERO tolerance rules regarding protests at conference events and on conference grounds. This protest was not only potentially harmful to its participants, the attendees of A Wider Bridge, but also to our movement as a whole.
Its time to take back the power from the children.
The video below will disgust many. Especially at the 6:30 mark.