The New Israel Fund condemns the cancellation of an event sponsored by “A Wider Bridge” by the National LGBTQ Task Force, the organizers of the Creating Change conference next week in Chicago. The event was designed to feature leaders of Jerusalem Open House (JOH), Jerusalem’s flagship LGBT organization, seed-funded and supported by NIF for many years.
“A Wider Bridge,” in its own words, works to promote honest dialogue and collaboration and to present Israel in all of its complexity. This is the Israel of front-line activists fighting for equality and social justice for everyone, including Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. To shun this organization and this kind of engagement with Israel is morally and pragmatically wrong; it excludes the Israelis who are already most vulnerable to the intolerant and extremist policies of the Israeli government, while empowering those who claim that any criticism of Israel is tantamount to denying Israel’s right to exist.
We urge the organizers of the conference to reconsider this ill-advised decision and welcome Israeli LGBTQ activists. We are frequently critical of Israeli government policy and we are proud that it is the civil society activists whom we and others support who deserve the most credit for LGBTQ progress in Israel. Excluding those who fight for those hard-won victories relinquishes the argument to those for whom resolving Israel’s issues is a zero sum game – and whose actions can only lead to more division, more hatred, and less progress.