Zionist 'gay workshop' cancelled

More news of the workshop on gay liberation in the Middle East which was due to be held in Detroit last Thursday. The hosting body – the US Social Forum (USSF) – cancelled it at the last minute following complaints about the workshop's organisers, a militant Zionist organisation called Stand With Us.

A statement from the forum's planning committee said it had been cancelled "for violating the submission procedure and transparency requirements for all workshops, and for being in violation of the anti-racist principles central to the US Social Forum".

This is a significant success for the various LGBT organisations that had campaigned against it.

statement from Stand With Us says: "The cancellation letter claimed that we had 'masked the true nature' of the workshop and were really trying to 'defend Israel', but this is patently false." It continues: "Apparently, USSF was so afraid that participants might indirectly learn that Israel has an outstanding record on LGBT issues and is a refuge for persecuted gays in the Middle East that they chose to turn their backs on the cries for help from this suffering minority across the region."

Last month, Stand With Us organised a six-boat flotilla in Israel as a counter-demonstration against the flotilla that was trying to deliver aid to Gaza. This week, it was among a group of pro-Israel groups that organised a "real freedom flotilla" opposite the UN building in New York. Supporters of Stand With Us have also been accused of offensive behaviour towards Jews who don't share their militant views.

Though not an LGBT organisation itself, Stand With Us has latched on to the gay rights issue as a way of "pinkwashing" Israel's image.

Brett Cohen, the Midwest regional coordinator for Stand With Us, recently circulated an email saying he is trying to assemble "a speakers bureau of Arab, Israeli, Druze, Phonecian [sic], and Kurdish gay people to tour campuses in the west and talk about gay life in the region," but he appears to be having difficulty recruiting gay Arabs and Kurds. "It's been an uphill battle to say the least," he wrote.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 26 June 2010.