Sherry Wolf: Save New York's Center



COMMENTARY: Why would a gay-porn star and mogul, Michael Lucas, want to squelch the right to free speech at a sanctuary for the oppressed and marginalized, New York City’s LGBT Center?

Lucas’s wealth and fame as an entrepreneur in the gay adult entertainment industry would be inconceivable without the right to free speech, including for those with controversial opinions. Yet on February 22 he used his money and connections to slander groups of social justice activists in order to pressure the center to cancel an Israeli Apartheid Week event and ban a small group of pro-Palestine activists, the Siegebusters Working Group, from ever meeting there again.

This is an outrageous abuse of power and influence that should be opposed by everyone who believes our community centers must remain liberated spaces of democracy and debate. Keep in mind, the LGBT Center has hosted a range of non-LGBT-related groups in its 28-year history — from Overeaters Anonymous to antiwar organizations — so the stated excuse about the political content straying from the “mission of the center” is just a ruse.

Besides, what could be more within the mission of a haven for diversity than groups of Arabs, Jews, blacks, and whites of every sexual orientation gathering to challenge a humanitarian crisis?

Which brings us to the crux of the matter — Lucas’s odious charge that people who argue that Israel is an apartheid state are “anti-Semitic.” Lucas is welcome to his own opinion, but not his own version of the facts.

Please, don’t take my word for it — here is the former Israeli attorney general, Michael Ben-Yair, describing Israel’s history and laws in 2002:

"We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one — progressive, liberal — in Israel; and the other — cruel, injurious — in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That oppressive regime exists to this day."

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