UPDATE: The LGBT Commission has issued an apology. Read it here.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle is disappointed that Seattle's LGBT Commission chose to cancel a planned event with six Israeli LGBTQ activists. These six activists represent a broad cross section of the Israeli LGBT community. Some have been fighting for LGBT civil rights in Israel for more than 30 years. They have challenged law and custom through court challenges, and have built an effective network of supporting organizations that enable children and adults to be supported and live a normal, "out" life in a country with unique challenges.
We are especially disappointed because right here in Washington State, the Jewish Federation and a large portion of the Jewish community has stood shoulder to shoulder with the LGBT community whenever there was a battle to be fought. Through our own advocacy efforts, the Jewish community has supported adding transgender status to Washington's malicious harassment law, fought for the original Anderson-Murray civil rights legislation, stood with families by being an early supporter of Washington's domestic partnership legislation and today twenty-three Jewish organizations have joined the fight for marriage equality.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and Jews from around the world haven't taken up the cause of LGBT civil rights because of political expedience or a desire to re-brand as those who petitioned the LGBT Commission to cancel the event claim. Rather, we take up the challenge because the struggle for acceptance against oppression is intrinsic to the story of the Jewish people.
By choosing to cancel their planned event with LGBTQ activists from Israel, the LGBTQ Commission gave into pressure from a small, but loud community of activists. Nothing was achieved in canceling the event and in fact, much was lost. The struggle for LGBTQ civil rights is global in nature and the perspective of these six Israelis certainly could have informed LGBTQ activism right here in our own community. The activists who petitioned the LGBT Commission decided it is wiser to bring the Israeli and Palestinian conflict to Seattle and divide our community, rather than seek constructive dialogue and action that elevates diverse narratives and leads to a peaceful solution. Ideally, this peaceful solution will include both a Jewish democratic state and a Palestinian state.
Israel's story is ultimately one of people who have overcome enormous odds to create a fair and decent society. Israel has forged a free and tolerant society that provides equal rights and opportunities for all of its citizens. Like all democracies, Israel is not perfect, but it is a work in progress rooted in the foundation of human rights and democratic values. The Jewish Federation hopes that when a new Palestinian State is created, it too will share Israel's commitment to human and equal rights for everyone, including LGBTQ Palestinians.