As progressives from across the US gather this week in Detroit, Michigan for the 2nd U.S. Social Forum, a coalition of groups calling for the cancellation of a workshop sponsored by the Zionist organization ‘Stand with Us’ applauded the decision of the Social Forum’s steering committee to cancel the workshop.’Stand With Us’ is a group associated with the Zionist Organization of America which uses the questionable research of right-wing zealots like Itamar Marcus to try to demonize Palestinian and Arab culture. In this case, the group had proposed a workshop in which they planned to portray Arab countries and the Palestinian territories as hostile to gay and lesbian individuals, while presenting Israel as a safe haven for lesbians and gay men.
In reality, homophobia is a reality throughout the world – from Africa, where the nation of Zambia has proposed a law to make homosexuality a capital crime, to Israel, where a group of right-wing religious Jews attacked a gay rights march last year, stabbing several participants.
The organizers of the U.S. Social Forum agreed with the coalition of human rights groups that claimed the motive of the proposed workshop was not to challenge homophobia, but to “pinkwash” the Israeli practices of racism and apartheid by attacking Arab culture.
Organizers published a short statement that ‘the workshop ‘LGBTQI [Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer-Inquiring] Liberation in the Middle East’ (Thursday, 24 June 10:00am to 12:00pm) has been canceled 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.’
Some of the stated principles of the U.S. Social Forum include providing a safe space where “the voices of those who are most marginalized and oppressed from indigenous communities can be heard–a place that will recognize Indigenous peoples, their issues and struggles.”
The U.S. Social Forum grew out of the World Social Forum which originated in Brazil. According to organizers, “The World Social Forum (WSF) has become an important symbol of global movement convergence and the development of alternatives to the dominant paradigm. Over the past nine years, the WSF has gathered the world’s workers, peasants, youth, women, and oppressed peoples to construct a counter-vision to the economic and political elites of the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland.”
This year’s forum was preceded by the first-ever conference of the Jewish Anti-Zionist Network in the U.S., in which progressive Jews from around the country came together to challenge, what they call, Israel’s apartheid policies. The theme of challenging Israeli apartheid is a major part of the week-long gathering, which began Tuesday and will continue through the weekend.
Some of the groups that called for the workshop to be canceled were al-Awda NY, Arab American Action Network, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Arab American Union Members Council, Arab Youth Organization, Bay Area Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid, Desis Rising and Moving, Palestine Youth Network, U.S. Palestinian Community Network, Middle East Children’s Alliance, South West Asia North Africa Bay Area Queers, General Union of Palestine Students, Committee for Justice in Palestine (SJP)-UC Berkeley, and the Youngstown Arab Community Center.
The groups said in their statement that they stand behind a call by Palestinian gay and lesbian organizations to cancel the ‘Stand with Us’ workshop, saying “Racist, Zionist, colonialist and Islamophobic politics and actions are as abhorrent as the politics and practices of homophobia and therefore have no place within movements for justice. We agree with this position and stand steadfastly and with unwavering commitment with this just struggle. Likewise, we stand steadfastly and with unwavering commitment to struggles against US and Israeli policies of war against poor and marginalized communities here in the US and that seek to undermine our unity and solidarity.”