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Palestinians fail in bid to cancel international gay youth conference

Ilan Lior, Haaretz
June 17, 2011

Palestinian gay groups nearly achieved the cancelation of a large international gay youth conference scheduled to take place here in December, but ultimately, their pressure failed to get the gathering's organizer to change its plans.

The conference is being sponsored by the Brussels-based IGLYO, an umbrella organization of 80 gay youth associations worldwide. It is being supported by the Foreign Ministry, the Education Ministry and the Tel Aviv municipality, and Israel's gay youth organization, IGY, is helping to organize it.

Most of the conference is scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv, though there may be some activities in Jerusalem. Some 100 gay youth leaders are expected to attend.

Recently, however, three Palestinian groups began urging IGLYO to boycott Israel, and various other groups exerted pressure on IGLYO to comply.

As a result, in an unprecedented move, IGLYO held another vote among its member organizations this week on whether to hold the conference here. The outcome was that a narrow majority agreed to proceed with the conference in Israel as planned.

Haneen Maikey, an activist in the Palestinian gay group Al-Qaws and the Palestinian Queer BDS movement, said she would continue to agitate for the conference's cancelation.

"The holding of an international conference in Tel Aviv that is funded by the Israeli Foreign Ministry makes a clear statement that takes the side of the oppressor," she said.

She said the battle for gay rights cannot be artificially separated from other battles for social justice, including the end of the occupation.

"The decision by IGLYO and its member organizations makes them active partners in the effort to cynically use homosexual rights as a fig leaf for the ongoing institutionalized violations of human rights that the Israeli government has been perpetrating against the Palestinian people for the past 63 years," Maikey said.

Open dialogue

In an effort to calm things down, IGLYO's board issued a statement on its website saying that the organization is "sticking to [its] unwavering commitment to universal human rights, a culture of open dialogue and a constructive resolution of conflicts."

It also said that a conference the group is holding in Amsterdam in October will include an in-depth debate about human rights in Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But IGY director Avner Dafni is still not calm.

"IGLYO is very scared about this whole thing; they're afraid there's going to be a campaign against them," Dafni said. "This is just the beginning of the battle to bring this important conference to Israel."

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