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Anti-boycott law scores own goal: int’l LGBT youth group takes its gen’l assembly out of Israel

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The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Youth and Student Organization (IGLYO) have released a joint Statement with Israel Gay Youth (IGY) on the former’s decision to withdraw this year’s General Assembly (GA) from Israel.

In June, Palestinian Queer organizations had called on IGLYO Member Organizations (MO) to vote “NO to IGLYO in Israel”. In spite of the fact that the majority of MO voted ‘Yes’, it appears that the latest in a number of anti-democratic laws passed by the Israeli Knesset proved too much even for IGLYO, which had previously blamed Palestinian organisations for discrediting them with their ”IGLYO out of Israel” campaign.

IGLYO had hoped to somehow offset its violation of the Palestinian boycott (BDS) call by “joining the annual Human Rights Parade in Tel Aviv, held by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), a close friend and partner of IGY and other LGBTQ organizations in Israel.” IGY receives Israeli government money and works with the Israeli Defense Forces.

In their intentionally vague statement, the Board of IGLYO explain that “recent legal changes in Israel raised some concerns”.

There is a whole raft of discriminatory bills and laws they could pick from, but the following sentence makes it clear they are referring to the most high-profile piece of legislation of 2011: “In robust discussions between IGLYO and IGY following the passage of the new law and following the decision of the Board of IGLYO to open a new round of consultation with member organisations. IGY subsequently decided on July 24th to withdraw its proposal to host the 2011 General Assembly.” [emphasis my own]

As explained in the JNews article, Israel’s anti-boycott law – basic information
Israeli human rights organisations see the law as a double attack:

1. On democratic values and the rule of law – because it restricts freedom of expression and association and threatens Human Rights Defenders. Boycotts, even if unpopular as a tactic, are a non-violent and legitimate form of public protest.

2. On respect for international law and the chances for peace – because for the first time it provides official legal protection for the illegal settlement project in the West Bank, and conflates the status of the state of Israel with that of the settlements.

It is not only local and international HR organisations that have challenged the bill – Israel loyalists and apologists, even in the U.S., have also reacted with disgust, principally alarmed that Israel’s alleged liberal democracy was being undermined, and this would give succour to is ‘delegitimizers’.

In their  statement, Victory: IGLYO moves out of Israel! PQBDS remind us that “These laws, however, are but a part of a 63-year old policy of systematic discrimination against the Palestinian people. It isn’t just recent laws that should raise ‘concerns,’ but all the patently racist laws that have been passed by the Israeli Knesset throughout the last 63 years aiming to maintain a system of domination of one racial group over another.”

This was a hard-won victory, and all the sweeter for it. Congratulations to Palestinian Queers for BDS (PQBDS), and others who advocated for the GA to be moved out of Israel!

Eleanor Kilroy

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