Protest shuts down Israel lobby group at Chicago LGBTQ conference

Activists occupied public spaces in the Chicago Hilton on 22 January to protest the presence of an Israel lobby group in the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference.

Alex Shams

On Friday evening, dozens of people occupied public spaces in the Chicago Hilton hotel to protest the presence of an Israel lobby group and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change conference.

Alex Shams, a Palestine solidarity activist and graduate student at the University of Chicago, told The Electronic Intifada that protesters attempted to gain access to the room where a reception for the pro-Israel group A Wider Bridge was being held.

Shams said security personnel pulled a couple of the protesters into the room, but quickly shut the door on the rest.

Shams, citing a protest organizer, said that hotel security personnel shut down the reception.

But the activists marched throughout the hotel’s public areas, which were full of attendees of the Creating Change conference, Shams said.

Earlier, activist groups including Tarab-NYC, Black Lives Matter Chicago and Jewish Voice for Peace had objected to the inclusion of A Wider Bridge because of its role in pinkwashing – using LGBTQ issues to distract from Israel’s occupation and abuses of Palestinians.

The Chicago organization Brown People for Black Power canceled its scheduled workshop at Creating Change.

Shams said that large numbers of Chicago police came to the hotel, but as far as he knew there had been no arrests.

He said that protesters chanted against Israeli apartheid and pinkwashing and against the US government’s policies of mass deportation of immigrants implemented by ICE.

“As far as I could tell the majority of people were curious or receptive,” Shams said of onlookers. “Some joined our march or put up a fist to show support.”

Shams said one of the protesters’ chants was “We want our movement back.”

“This related to a feeling that the mainstream movement has sold out and is based on donor priorities and an NGO model that is not responsive to activists on the ground,” Shams added.

Shams and other activists tweeted images, video and accounts of the protest, often using the hashtag #cancelpinkwashing.

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My understanding is that although some Israelis (and their leaders) are comfortable with LGBTQ people, there are other (and I suspect more vigorous) Israelis who detest, decry, and perhaps act violently against LGBTQ.

Can anyone clarify? Is LGBTQ friendliness in Israel solely a Tel Aviv thing, for example?

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As someone who has actually been living in Israel, and not in Tel Aviv, Israel IS LGBTQ friendly. I live in a pretty conservative area as well. I could be wrong, but I think most od these protesters have never even been to Israel. It's sad to see a group demoralize another when they don't even know what's really happening. Israel for me is a much more open and intellectual community than the US... And I lived in a "liberal" city in the US.

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I was with two queer Jewish Israeli friends in Tel Aviv -- a bisexual woman and a transgendered woman who are a couple -- and both were subjected to rudeness and harassment from a straight guy (whom I'm assuming was also Israeli and Jewish) on a bus. I have many Jewish (as well as Palestinian) Israeli friends who have experienced homophobia, biphobia and transphobia 'even' in Tel Aviv, not to mention Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel. And of course, it was an Orthodox Jewish man who stabbed that poor young woman to death in the pride parade last year. The idea that Israel is a gay paradise is one that only wealthy white Jewish Israeli men who live in North Tel Aviv share. But even if Israel were the gay paradise that Zionists portray it as, that could not possibly justify the illegal occupation of Palestine and the apartheid regime that the Israeli government uses to enforce it.

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It must never be forgotten that Israel treats LGBTQ Palestinians in the same way it treats all Palestinians- as demographic enemies to be robbed of their land, stripped of their rights, tortured, beaten, tear-gassed, shot down in the streets.

Pink-washing is blood-washing. And blood won't wash out.

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A reception for Zionist deception dishonours the gay and lesbian cause!

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As usual the Zionists try to infiltrate a group of people who have always been inclusive. Bringing one's own brand of hatred while masquerading as peaceful people is disgusting. I won't go to the gay and lesbian center in NYC since the Zionists demanded that Palestinian group could have a party there. Such underhanded nasty people who care not about the community. I will refrain from attending any gay or lesbian event that is including the hateful and racist Zionists.

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Israelis love to talk about how gay friendly they are until the subject of Arafat comes up. Then they remember their government told everyone basically "he had AIDS and tee hee doesn't he deserve it."

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Israel doesn't recognize any Palestinians as candidates for political asylum, whether LGBT or not; queer Palestinians are subjected to the same brutal conditions under the illegal occupation of the West Bank as non-LGBT Palestinians. Pinkwashing is nothing more than Zionist propaganda and the Task Force was wrong to invite A Wider Bridge to pinkwash the illegal occupation of Palestine at Creating Change; who can now regard the Task Force as inclusive or progressive now that it's thrown its lot in with the Zionist machine defending Israeli occupation, apartheid and genocide...?