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June 13, 2012 11:24 am

ADL, LGBT Group Slam CUNY for Sponsorship of Anti-Israel ‘Pinkwashing’ Conference

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Street in Tel Aviv prepared for gay pride week and the city's gay pride parade. Photo: www.sizedoesntmatter.com.

The Anti-Defamation League and a Jewish LGBT group have blasted a conference being planned by the The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at City University of New York that intends to accuse Israel of using their strong record on gay rights to detract from the “oppression of Palestinians.”

“This conference is not an academic exercise designed to promote and encourage different points of view on LGBT issues; it is simply a venue to criticize Israel for the most absurd reasons,” Abraham Foxman, the national director of the ADL told The Algemeiner. “The academic community should find the conference abhorrent, because it disregards the key aspects faced by the LGBT community which is global repression in many other countries.”

“The conference smacks of an effort to discredit Israel,” Foxman said.

The “Homonationalism and Pinkwashing” conference, scheduled for April of 2013, will examine what its planners claim is a concerted effort by Israel to market its positive relationship with the gay community to detract from the “oppression of Palestinians”.

The Graduate Center at CUNY defended its hosting of the conference saying it is supportive of providing a platform for students to discuss issues from different perspectives.

“As a diverse and intellectually robust institution, the Graduate Center embraces the academic tradition of providing a forum for discussion across the spectrum of ideas and points of view,” Jane Trombley, Executive Director for Communications at CUNY’s Graduate Center said in an email to The Algemeiner. “With the proposed conference sponsored by The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) still 8-9 months out, it is too early to comment on any specifics concerning the event.”

Foxman called CUNY’s co-sponsorship “inappropriate and abhorrent”. “We will reach out and try to convince them not to sponsor the conference,” he said.

Gay, lesbian, and transgender rights in Israel have been championed by the LGBT community for years now, including Tel Aviv being named the “Best Gay City of 2011” in an American Airlines competition that polled LGBT tourists on their favorite destinations.

Jayson Littman, who leads the organization HE’BRO – a promoter of gay Jewish events throughout New York City -, says a group of LGBT academics who traveled to the Palestinian territories and a New York Times op-ed from late 2011 are the driving forces behind the conference.

“The main reason why everything is happening now is because there was a group of academics who went to the Palestinian territories in January, and those 15 queer academics have toured around the country since then, promoting the idea of Palestinian suffrage,” Littman told The Algemeiner. “That, and the New York Times article from last year.”

Littman is referring to an op-ed written by Sara Schulman, who will reportedly be taking part in CLAGS’ conference, in which she writes that the progress made by gay rights activism is being co-opted by Western European governments, as well as Israel.

“After generations of sacrifice and organization, gay people in parts of the world have won protection from discrimination and relationship recognition. But these changes have given rise to a nefarious phenomenon: the co-opting of white gay people by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political forces in Western Europe and Israel,” she wrote in November of 2011.

“I went to a forum of these American academics,” Littman told The Algemeiner, “and one of them told the crowd they were instructed ‘not to come out as gay’ to their Palestinian hosts because they wouldn’t be okay with it. This is where the real pinkwashing is happening.”

Last week, CUNY Trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld called the conference “disgusting” in an interview with The Algemeiner.

CLAGS has not returned numerous requests for comment made by The Algemeiner.

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