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'The Center Cannot Hold': The Flourishing of Queer Anti-Occupation Activism

'The Center Cannot Hold': The Flourishing of Queer Anti-Occupation Activism

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Michael Lucas, gay Israeli tourism promoter and adult entertainment industry entrepreneur, for threatening to organize a donor boycott of the New York LGBT Center for allocating space to Siege Busters for their fundraiser during Israeli Apartheid Week this past March. Lucas' indiscriminate use of the charge of anti-Semitism, leveled against a mixed-group of Jewish, not-Jewish, secular, queer and not-queer activists raising money to fund a flotilla to Gaza, resulted in the cancellation of the Siege Busters event. The accusation of anti-Semitism, now apparently equivalent to anti-Zionism, has been rendered a rather fast and loose charge, deployed primarily, it now seems, to squash democratic debate about the Israel-Palestine conflict. This rather sorry development undermines the force of decrying anti-Semitism not routed through direct protest against the Israeli state, of which there still exists plenty.

The good news is that New York's queer communities have finally joined those in Toronto, San Francisco, Madrid, Tel Aviv and Berlin, queer communities mired in intense debate over the Israel-Palestine conflict. What is particularly remarkable about the spread of this debate in LGBTQ communities globally is that so few understand what is queer about the Middle East conflict in general and the Israeli occupation of Palestine in particular.

Lucas's tirade came on the heels of the U.S. Palestinian Queer Activist tour, organized by writer and professor Sarah Schulman. The last stop of this six-city delegation was hosted in overflow capacity space at the Audre Lorde Project and co-sponsored by other LGBT POC groups, including fellow residents of 147 24th Street: Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ), the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), and FIERCE!. The Feb. 16 event featured alQwas for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society and ASWAT Palestinian Gay Women, and reflected ALP's nearly 10-year relationship with these activists, as well as ALP's support of Palestinian self-determination. What the touring activists made clear was the near-impossibility of mounting a queer movement without addressing the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

This is to assert something rather obvious that commentators such as Lillian FadermanPhyllis Chesler and Lucas seem unable to comprehend: the occupation is a queer issue. The occupation prevents queer organizing for Palestinian queers negotiating checkpoints, constrained mobility and unequal citizenship status. It makes networks and liaisons between Israeli queers and Palestinian queers rife with power imbalances and missionary savior mentalities. Further, the occupation