Organizers had initially cancelled a reception by a U.S. Jewish LGBTQ group following pressure from anti-Israel activists.
Organizers of a major LGBTQ conference in Chicago reversed on Tuesday a previous decision to ban an event by a Jewish group hosting the leaders of an Israeli LGBTQ organization.
“I have decided to reverse our decision to cancel the ‘Beyond the Bridge’ reception hosted by A Wider Bridge with guest speakers from the Jerusalem Open House,” wrote Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force. The Task Force runs this week’s Creating Change conference, which is the largest gathering of LGBTQ activists in the United States and last year drew 3,800 attendees.
A Wider Bridge, an American organization focused on building relationships between the U.S. and Israeli LGBTQ communities, had been scheduled to hold a Friday evening reception at which it planned to introduce leaders of Jerusalem Open House to conference attendees.
That longstanding scheduled session was abruptly canceled last week, after apparent pressure from anti-Israel bloggers and Tweeters, who slammed the Creating Change conference for participating in “pink washing” and “Israeli propaganda.”
There was an outcry in response. A Haaretz article published Monday, as well as a piece by a Wider Bridge board member published on Huffington Post, and a petition on Change.org were widely circulated.
“When faced with choices, we should move towards our core value of inclusion and opportunities for constructive dialogue and canceling the reception was a mistake,” wrote Carey in her statement. “Our decision was made by staff; neither our board members nor the local Host Committee were involved. We are aware that our original decision made it appear we were taking sides in a complex and long-standing conflict, which was not the intention, and that in cancelling the reception we deeply offended many people, and our reversal will offend others.
“In reversing the decision today, we want to make it quite clear that the Creating Change Conference will always be a safe space for inclusion and dialogue for people with often widely different views. It was not at all our intention to censor representatives of the Jerusalem Open House or A Wider Bridge at Creating Change and I apologize that our actions left people feeling silenced.”
Arthur Slepian, executive director of A Wider Bridge, told Haaretz, “We’re very pleased with the statement and the apology.”
“It’s a victory for inclusion and diversity, and ensuring that all voices of the community will be heard at the conference, and that the work of AWB and JOH will be represented as part of the conversation.”