Thousands march for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in Freedom Plaza in D.C. on Jan. 13, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

National LGBTQ Task Force Calls for Gaza Ceasefire

The National LGBTQ Task Force on Tuesday called for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

“The genocide in Gaza and violent attacks in Israel and Palestine must end,” said the group in a series of posts to its Instagram page ahead of its annual Creating Change Conference that is taking place this week in New Orleans.

“As we start Creating Change Conference 2024, we pause to join in solidarity in calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Israel/Palestine,” added the Task Force. “Collectively, #WeAreCreatingChange is a community of folks with shared values and a continued thirst for liberation.”

The Task Force stated its “mission is to build power, take action and create change to achieve freedom, justice and equity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people by organizing people and money in pursuit of liberation for all.”

“The roots of this conflict are based in fascism, white supremacy and colonialism,” it added. “The collective trauma experienced by these oppressive measures keeps us from moving toward liberation for all.”

 

Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, launched a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, 2023.

The Israeli government has said roughly 1,200 people have been killed, including at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in a kibbutz near the border between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli government also says more than 5,000 people have been injured in the country since the war began and Hamas militants kidnapped more than 200 others.

The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says more than 24,000 people have died in the enclave since the war began. Israel after Oct. 7 cut electricity and water to Gaza and stopped most food and fuel shipments.

The International Court of Justice last week heard legal arguments in South Africa’s case that accuses Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has strongly denied the accusations.

“Witnessing reports of Israel and Palestine are weighing on my soul,” said Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson on Oct. 14 during a speech at her organization’s 50th anniversary gala that took place in Miami Beach, Fla. “My heart is with communities in the region who have suffered the pain of terrorism and violence and may continue to do so.”

Johnson said the Task Force “condemns terrorism, violence and harm against civilians.” She also led a moment of silence for the “lives shattered and lost in the terror attack by Hamas in Israel and for all those impacted who continue to suffer.”

A Wider Bridge — a U.S.-based organization that seeks to build “a movement of LGBTQ people and allies with a strong interest in and commitment to supporting Israel and its LGBTQ communities” — in 2016 organized a reception at the Creating Change conference in Chicago with two Israeli activists who worked for Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance. Hundreds of protesters with signs that expressed opposition to “pinkwashing,” which they described as the promotion of Israel’s LGBTQ rights record in an attempt to deflect attention away from its policies toward the Palestinians, and “no pride in apartheid” disrupted the event and forced its cancellation.

“I want to make this crystal clear: The National LGBTQ Task Force wholeheartedly condemns anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic statements made at any Task Force event, including our Creating Change conference,” said then-Executive Director Rea Carey in a statement after the protest. “It is unacceptable.”

A Wider Bridge on Wednesday sharply criticized the Task Force over its ceasefire statement.

“Reducing the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict to caricatures of right and wrong advances neither justice nor peace, and yet that is precisely what the National LGBTQ Task Force has done in an outrageous statement issued before the curtain opens on their annual Creating Change conference,” said A Wider Bridge in a statement to the Washington Blade.

“The Task Force should know better,” it adds.

A Wider Bridge in its statement said there is “an unfortunate history of allowing the Creating Change conference to become an unsafe space for some members of the LGBTQ community who are Jewish or who feel a connection to Israel.”

“The same is true today,” it added. “By using the harshest language to describe Israeli actions, such as genocide, the Task Force essentially disallows this segment to participate in constructive conversations about what is happening in Gaza today. A more helpful statement might have also noted that the Hamas charter calls for genocide of the Jewish people, and even mentioned the massacre of civilians and rape of Israeli women and men that Hamas militants committed just a few months ago.”

“The Task Force inappropriately applies a Western intersectional lens and declares that this Middle Eastern conflict is grounded in white supremacy,” the statement continues. “This demonstrates a distorted understanding of Israelis, a majority of whom are non-white, or the reality that both parties have long-standing indigenous roots in the land.”

A Wider Bridge in its statement acknowledged Johnson “made a positive statement three months ago, leading a moment of silence at their national gala (in Miami Beach) for the ‘lives shattered and lost in the terror attack by Hamas in Israel and for all those impacted who continue to suffer’” and “said her heart is with the communities in the region who have suffered the pain of terrorism and violence and may continue to do so.”

“We hope this recent misstep can be corrected, and that the Task Force will take measures to make Creating Change a safe space for diverse viewpoints on a contentious and complex issue — and not reduce it to simplistic binaries that incite rather than inform,” said A Wider Bridge.

Johnson on Wednesday during her speech at the conference’s opening plenary said “white supremacy will have us believe that we cannot simultaneously grieve the loss of Israeli lives and call for the end of genocide and demand for Palestinian liberation.”

Some of those in the room applauded her comment.

“It is perfectly human to hold complexity,” said Johnson.

Johnson also said to applause that “Jews, Muslims, Palestinians, Arabs and Israelis are welcome (at the conference) and encouraged to fully be proud of who you are.” Johnson further noted the Task Force has an anti-bullying policy.

“Any forms of violence, intimidation and discrimination violates that policy and will not be tolerated,” she said. “All of you deserved to be protected, respected and celebrated throughout this conference.”

(Creating Change opening plenary)

The Task Force’s Instagram posts also contained links to organizations with which it is working and information designed to “create spaces for ongoing conversations about principled struggle and the dismantling of the systems that oppress us.”

Story courtesy of the Washington Blade via the National LGBTQ Media Association. The National LGBTQ Media Association represents 13 legacy publications in major markets across the country with a collective readership of more than 400K in print and more than 1 million + online. Learn more here: https://nationallgbtmediaassociation.com/