Gay friendly center cancels talk on gay oppression in Iran when they realize Jewish group was going to co-sponsor it

Hillel Stavis reports on the dustup between Spontaneous Celebrations in Jamaica Plain and the Jewish Community Relations Council.



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These spontaneous celebration guys define the basis of their philosophy as follows:

The strength, enjoyment, and learning that comes from discovering and interacting with the many cultural and ethnic traditions that exist side-by-side in our neighborhoods.
The belief that involving as many different groups as possible in the creation of our community center and festivals is an effective way to eradicate racism and increase communication, trust, and a shared sense of belonging.

Hard to understand how excluding the largest Jewish organization lives up to that philosophy.

Human Rights = Death to Israel ??

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The problem is that for many pro-Israeli groups it's a you're with us 100% even when Israel does very bad things or you're against us and want to destroy Israel and all Jews for that matter.

Anyone who has any record of covering human rights abuses is especially fair game.

Look at how Hilel Stavis which Adam linked loves to bash Amy Goodman, Amnesty International, etc.

And even in this article they say:
In its inexcusable funding practices (via a CJP Donor Advised Fund grant to the virulently anti-Israel organization, The Haymarket Peoples' Fund) in 2007, the door was opened for cooperation between the two groups.
Of course if you look at The Haymarket Peoples' Fund:
Haymarket envisions a world free of racism and other oppressions:
Where peace and cooperation flourish
Where people are valued and respected for their gifts and able to bring their whole selves to humanity
Where vibrant communities thrive and different cultures are celebrated
Where abundant resources and opportunities are equally shared and distributed while honoring the earth and all within it.

Yes, but

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I agree that some pro-Israel groups are too eager to equate legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-semitism but I don't think it's productive to cancel any event that has an Israeli or Jewish connection as happened hear.

human rights advocacy as propaganda for invasion and war

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It is appropriate to cancel such an event when the so called gay rights advocacy against Iran comes on the heels of the "U.S." and "Israel's" sabre rattling against that country. The only purpose that such an event would serve would be to help build a war friendly climate against Iran. It wasn't that long ago that so called human rights concerns were used as a pretext for the u.s's criminal invasion of Iraq - - an invasion which has brought nothing but misery and devastation to the Iraqi people. It is appropriate to cancel such an event, when the sponsors support a "state" which has committed multiple crimes of ethnic "cleansing" and theft against the people of Palestine. It is appropriate for people in the progressive community to refrain from basing their actions or positions against another country on the lies and/or exagerations of forces interested in military action against the country in question Furthermore, people in the "U.S" have no moral currency to intervene on whatever they might deem as matters of internal repression in Iran, given that it was the "U.s" who had the audacity to topple an elected government in that country in order to misappropriate its oil resources, and imposed decades of generalized repression via the late shah.

Lame spam deleted

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I didn't zap the comment, however, because that would take deselby's comment below with it.

War Propaganda from a foreign power

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Spontaneous Celebrations was right to cancel the event.

It appears that one of the two speakers, Yehuda Ya'akov, is a U.S.-born official of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs specifically charged with "special projects" with regard to preparing the U.S. information environment for Israeli actions against Iran.

See this link for further background on Mr. Ya'akov (if he is the same person):

Iran Expert Yehuda Yaakov, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, meets with faculty at The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs to discuss "Iran Nuclear Ambitions & Political Unrest". . .
Yehuda Yaakov is currently responsible for special projects in the strategic affairs division of the foreign ministry, after having spent the previous year at the Israeli defense college completing his masters thesis on the subject: "The implementation of Coercive Diplomacy in the International Nuclear Crisis with Iran, 2003-2004."

From 2004-2007 Mr. Yaakov served as department director for non-proliferation and counterterrorism in the strategic affairs division, after establishing and running the counterterrorism desk between 2001 and 2004.

So Mr. Yaakov has a lot more background on non-proliferation and "Coercive Diplomacy" than on gay rights.

This forum appears to be an Israeli government information operation or one of the "special projects in the strategic affairs division of the foreign ministry," with the end to shaping U.S. public opinion against Iran, so as to justify an Israeli air strike against Iran.

Who knows whether this Sohrab Ahmari knows about the Israeli government involvement.

The Israelis really are losing their touch - this is as sloppy in its own small and obvious way as the Dubai assassination was. Maybe it's because they elect extremists and put former club bouncers in charge of their Foreign Ministry. You have to feel nostalgic for the old days of the Labor Party, who were competent and moderate.

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has repeatedly warned against an attack on Iran, in part because of the tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Qatar and Bahrain who would be vulnerable to Iranian reprisal for "our ally's" actions.

The wretched situation of gay people in Iran will not be improved by an Israeli bombing strike on Iranian nuclear facilities and the resulting release of radiation. Such a bombing attack will be a calamity to the U.S.A., as we are blamed for Israel's action (as General Petraeus has noted we often are), the price of oil reaches $200 a barrel, and our forces in the region are attacked.

Spontaneous Celebrations should be commended for seeing this forum for what it was. I hope they will stand their ground and not be intimidated by the false charge of anti-semitism.

Is that a good reason to *cancel* an event?

You could have attended the event and brought up the information that you provided here. That would have resulted in real conversation and debate. How does cancelling the event advance the discussion?

Another better approach would be to request that the sponsor replace the speaker in question, or go ahead with only the Iranian speaker.


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You're making an assumption about the guy based on his nationality and a bio for an event about "Iran's nuclear ambitions", which would, of course, emphasize his interest in that subject. How do you know that he hasn't studied Iran's treatment of homosexuals?

Even if he has a specific agenda to push, which is an assumption, it doesn't seem right for an organization dedicated to listening to multiple perspectives to cancel the event. A better response would be to challenge what the guy has to say.

And even if this guy does have an agenda, the event may still be valuable as a means of raising awareness to a real problem - Iran's abhorrent treatment of homosexuals. I remember Ahmadinejad getting a laugh during his speech at Columbia when he said that "homosexuality is not a phenomenon that exists in Iran".

What happened to the question of Iran's murder of gays?

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Even if you accept the premise that an Israeli government official would use the event to "push Israeli propaganda", then why would an organization like Spontaneous Celebrations, one of whose central missions is to defend the rights of LGBT, refuse to hold a discussion - without Israelis or Jews - on the a regime that is arguably, the most egregious abuser of gays in the world today. Their refusal to hold such an event (devoid of any Jewish presence, presumably, because it's always possible that a Jew might have something positive to say about Israel) betrays the group's schizophrenic agenda: No criticism of Iran. And why? Precisely because Iran despises and has threatened the U.S. and Israel. Spontaneous Celebrations is a walking, talking example of such hypocrisy that it needs no parody. They will turn a blind eye to the torture and murder of gays so long as the Mullahs threaten to exterminate Israel. Now that's "Progressivism!"

What about Bostonians murders of Bostonians?

I really don't care all too much about Israel or Iran as much as I care about Greater Boston. Can we keep the Iran / Israel posts to Universal Realpolitik boards? I am not Jewish, I am not Persian, I am a Bostonian. People are getting clipped in this city all the time and somehow people on this board are more concerned with what is going on in Qom or Tel Aviv.

So don't read them

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Other Bostonians are Jewish and/or Iranian and/or Israeli, have relatives in those places, have lived in those places. Do you want the local articles about Haiti to go away too?

Realizing how different places in the world affect one another doesn't mean we don't care about the atrocities right here.

We've got you covered

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Scan the homepage if you need a dose of murder and mayhem in the streets of Boston. Before I started this reply, I posted about the arrest in one murder, updated another murder post with the victim's name and posted something about five gun-related arrests on or near a main street in Mattapan. And I'm working on a longish post for tomorrow about a murder victim.

You're right: This is not Universal Everything In the World. I don't normally post about Iran. I posted about this particular issue because it involves two local organizations. That people are commenting on it doesn't mean they don't care about other local issues, simply that they have strong views on this.

This happened in Boston

unless you don't consider Jamaica Plain part of Boston.

Also, plenty of Iranians live in or near Boston.

Not really

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It's sort of like Queens only without the culture. Come on now.

So you would have an entire country bombed to "promote rights?"

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One has to wonder if the defenders of "Israel's" "pro lgbt" campaign against Iran actually think that the LGBT community in that country would be spared if the "U.S." or "Israel" were to bomb Iran. How exactly do they think LGBT rights will be served by promoting a climate of war that will bring death and destruction to large segments of the Iranian population, LGBT and non-LGBT alike? One has to wonder how "Israel's" supporters can be so vocal about LGBT rights in one place, as they support that settler regime's crimes of genocide and torture against entire Arab populations in Palestine and Lebanon, and are willing to dismiss its murderous intentions against the Iranian population at large. Do they think that the torture of Palestinian prisoners, the cowardly mass bombings of people in Gaza and Lebanon, the zionist settler destruction of Palestinian orchards in the West Bank, the demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and elsewhere for the benefit of Jewish settlers, and the starving and denial of basic necessities to the Palestinians of Gaza is fine if it's all delivered with a slogan of support for LGBT rights? And how can they be so arrogant and self-righteous to make claims about "repression" in Iran, when both "Israel" and the "U.S" imposed decades of it on the entire Iranian population by installing and militarily supporting the Shah, whom the Iranians hated? This is what's at issue regarding the event the JCRC tried to hoodwink Spontaneous Celebrations into sponsoring. Spontaneous Celebrations was right to cancel this event. Progressive spaces should not serve as venues for the military black ops of colonizing genocidal regimes like the "U.S" and "Israel."

I used to respect Spontaneous Celebrations

I used to go to some of their events and events friends of mine put on in their hall in JP.

In this case, it seems like they just wimped out. As Ron Newman said, it doesn't advance debate. And I've seen more obstruction of the free exchange of ideas and free speech from the left than I have from the right. I personally lean left, but I won't budge on free speech - no matter how dis-agreeable or polarizing it may be.

And as a Jewish person, I've often felt alienated by left-leaning organizations when they confuse their disagreements with the actions of the Israeli government with Jewish people. It often borders on anti-semitism, and sometimes crosses the line. Besides, as the old saying goes, ask two Jews and you'll get three opinions! :)

Spontaneous Celebrations might not want War With Iran

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Spontaneous Celebrations has a right to control their own forum and message - that's their free speech.

The forum and theme were likely chosen by the organizers as a place which would attract people not otherwise in favor of bombing Iran. A "soft" setting for a human rights topic.

Spontaneous Celebrations have most likely determined that the event was a front for Israeli war propaganda. Does anyone really believe that the Israeli government dispatches a senior diplomat experienced in public communications and knowledgeable on Iranian nuclear matters out of concern for gay people in Iran? C'mon . .

SC neither wished to provide a forum for the propaganda nor be associated with it, seeing how the end result of a successful PR campaign for war may be thousands of deaths.

That's their free speech.

that's the tricky thing about free speech...

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people might actually infer a message from it.

and the message that i can infer from this is that maybe spontaneous celebrations has a wee problem with the jews.

i personally hope it's not true. but just flat out canceling an event instead of, as others have suggested, using it to spark some actual debate, can lead one to think otherwise.

I agree - this would have changed to subject to something else

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I mean, the subject was supposed to be about LGBT life in Iran. And I would imagine that the discussion would focus on how groups were working on improving it, methods that were working/not working, how they viewed life in Iran, etc.

How would a weapons/military expert on Iran or a group committed to destabilizing Iran really add to the discussion the organizers wanted to have, which is helping people improve their day-to-day life? I'm having a hard time imagining an Iranian who would think "You know what would really help? Getting bombs dropped on us from the air and having the country invaded. Life would rock after that."

needlessly inflammatory headline, Adam

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"Jews" seems a little vague now that the details on the speaker & his funding are out.

"Gay friendly center" is also pretty vague when applied to Spontaneous -- they're pretty damn friendly to every group I can think of, including (off the top of my head) black and hispanic teenagers, Brazilian immigrants, and middle aged whites.


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I used "gay friendly" because of the context and what I thought was the irony of the situation. As for the Jewish part, the talk was sponsored by a fairly well known local Jewish group.

Credibility or Propaganda? Your choice . . .

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AG, you should change the headline, which misleadingly imputes anti-semitism to the extremely benign Spontaneous Celebrations, merely because they had doubts about participating in possible "special projects in the strategic affairs division of the [Israeli] foreign ministry."

Whether you knew the whole truth before, because the speaker's affiliation was perhaps not disclosed to you, you know it now. Semi-covert propaganda from foreign countries is not something most Americans approve of.

Nothing wrong with Ya'akov promoting the foreign policy objectives of his country (since he has apparently renounced the USA, the country of his birth by serving as an Israeli diplomat), but your readers should know all the facts and Spontaneous Celebrations should not be smeared so.

I disagree

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Based on the Spontaneous Celebration leaders email, the reason for canceling the event was the involvement of the Jewish Community Relations Council, not the job description of one of the speakers. In keeping with the blog's style, the headline is a little edgier than strictly necessary ("Jewish group" would be more accurate) but given that Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJPs parent) is considered the de facto representative of the Jewish community it isn't unfair.

Regardless of context, the headline goes too far

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It's important to remember that we're still only getting second-hand theories about why SC canceled this event. Calling them anti-semitic (which is what this headline is doing) is over the top.


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I will bookmark and continue reading your blog in the future! Thanks alot for the informative post!

'Friendly to everyone' except Jews

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Apparently, they're 'friendly' to all sorts of people except Jews. And I very much doubt they'd be 'friendly' to Nonie Darwish (an Arab who supports Israel), Walid Shoebad (same), Christians giving a talk about their faith, a group of African-American Republicans (or Republicans of any color), etc. Basically, they're 'friendly' only to those who espouse a particular political agenda. As demonstrated, they certainly don't welcome "everyone", no matter how odious or illegal that discrimination might be.

Still not illegal

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As I explained to you before when you erroneously invoked "discrimination," it isn't like Spontaneous Celebrations has a "no Jews" policy at the door or anything. There's no law saying that a group has to agree to partner with or to host every group that asks. An organization is allowed to choose which activities or organizations they feel are in line with their mission. The human services agency I work for isn't going to agree to host a group of Republicans who want to talk about how human services funding should be cut, and we're perfectly allowed to do so under the law. We just can't refuse services to someone strictly on the basis of being a Republican, nor can we refuse to hire someone strictly on the basis of being a Republican. (We can, however, refuse to hire someone whose political or religious or ethnic or personal beliefs involve not providing services according to our mission.) Likewise, we can also decide that we just don't have the time or the staffing to host a group that contacts us and wishes to partner with us. Or that we're plain not interested in their event. Freedom of expression does not mean that others have to give someone a forum for such expression.

(We can, however, refuse to

(We can, however, refuse to hire someone whose political or religious or ethnic or personal beliefs involve not providing services according to our mission.)

Kind of like the Boy Scouts. Or the Catholic church and its hospitals and adoption referral services. Quite right.


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That they risk their nonprofit status when they refuse to provide services to LGBT folks. And violate employment discrimination laws in the few localities that are correct-thinking enough to have them.

We have as a job requirement that people must work openly and respectfully with LGBT families, people with disabilities, immigrants, people of all ethnicities and religions etc. If people won't fulfill this job requirement, it doesn't matter why -- we don't hire them. In our work, essential job functions include learning all about the culture and community and family structure of the people we work with, spending time with them in the community at places relevant to them, finding out about places that are relevant for their family and introducing them to these places, and advocating for the needs of the different groups of people we work with.

If you can find me a committed homophobe who is willing to hang out in the home of an LGBT family several hours a week, listen to them and validate their concerns including those about how discrimination affects them, seek out resources in the community for LGBT families, take the family to these, and communicate with the family's schools and hospitals about how they can better serve LGBT families using valid scientific and medical positions to back this up, then I'm sure we would be happy to hire such a person. Otherwise, if they can't do the job, they can't do the job.

The law does not require employers to make accommodations (for disability, religion, personal beliefs, etc.) for essential job functions.

My religion says not to touch dead pigs; I'm not about to take a job at a pig slaughterhouse and then refuse to do my job.

Similarly, I'm not physically able to lift heavy things or do things that require much balance. Is it discrimination if I take a job at a roofing firm and then refuse to do the job?

Ah... so your discrimination

Ah... so your discrimination is good discrimination, and their discrimination is bad discrimination.

Perfectly clear.


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Who's the "their" you cite?

Wait what?

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My discrimination against whom? Putting aside the cognitive process of "discrimination" which I'm doing right now to determine which keys are the correct ones to hit to form the words I want, I didn't advocate for denying anything to anyone. Where are you getting discrimination out of that?


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I often read your blog and always find it very interesting. Thought it was about time i let you know…Keep up the great work

Yes it does have a "no Jews" policy

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SC is refusing to host a JCRC event at least in part because it is a Jewish organization, and is rejecting a speaker due to national origin and possibly religion. These groups, unlike Republicans, are a protected class. Google some cases or read recent Wall Street Journal articles on this very subject. SC may try to backtrack but they have said enough about their reasons. It is manifestly illegal. I am an attorney who has done civil rights law and I know what I am talking about.


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Yes, Jews are a protected class. And since SC hosts events all the time run by Jews and/or Israelis, they clearly don't have a "no-Jews" policy. They apparently have a preference not to host a pro-war speaker. They aren't required to host every speaker who contacts them and wishes to have an event there; they're an organization with a mission that works collaboratively with the groups who come there, not just an event hall that is legally required to rent its space to pretty much anyone who abides by the contract.

This is illegal

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Discrimination based on religion and national origin is illegal, folks. The Attorney General's office should take notice and SC will probably lose whatever public funding it receives.

What planet are you living on?

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No, discrimination in jobs, housing, provision of social services etc. is illegal if a person is otherwise eligible but denied (or treated differently) because of religion or national origin. There's no law saying that an organization is required to work with every other organization. That would be silly.

If a Jewish and/or Israeli group offers to present at public schools in the area, and most are already full in terms of speakers for the year, it's not religious discrimination whatsoever. Nor would it be if they just plain didn't want to host the group for wtf ever reason.

Also, freedom of speech and expression refer to freedom from government censorship, not to a guaranteed venue for such speech. Just because a place receives public funding (and I'm not sure whether SC does, aside from tax breaks) doesn't mean it's government censorship if they just plain don't want to host a particular event. It's only legitimate to pull public funding if a group has a policy where they won't work with any Jewish group, any LGBT group, any senior group, etc. They are certainly allowed to decide on an individual basis that a particular view doesn't mesh with their mission, provided their mission isn't inherently discriminatory.

The social services agency where I work is almost entirely government funded, and we're free to decide on an individual basis whether we wish to participate in or host various programs and events based on whether they work with our mission and our structure. We also would cancel something that we found out wasn't as in line with our mission as we had thought. I'm not saying you or I have to agree with the decision here, but from the facts presented here, there's not any illegal discrimination.

You are wrong

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States have long used the fact that even 'private' organizations which utilize public funds or public services, including water and electric, to invoke anti-discrimination laws. That's why you don't see organizations which bar African-Americans any more. Even if a club is specifically to promote the interests of one particular group, they have to let members of other groups join or attend meetings (so long as they are not disruptive).

In this case, JCRC was excluded because it was a ostensibly 'pro-Israel' organization and the speaker was excluded because of national origin. SC receives funds from the City of Boston and is subject to anti-discrimination laws. Even if it was privately funded, its actions are still illegal.

Next time, before using an obnoxious headline, you might consider whether you know what you are talking about. I am an attorney who has prosecuted civil rights cases and do know the law. You obviously don't.

water or eletric?

Im not so sure about that one. I'm willing to bet the official American Nazi Party headquarters has some sort of public hook up for electricity or water.

I'm just trying to play devil's advocate here a little, but if I own a piece of property, I can invite or exclude whomever I want to come in can't I?

Men can't join womens health clubs can they? Can a man attend Wellesley College?

Can a man attend Wellesley College?

Yes, if he's an MIT student, as there is a cross-registration program between the two schools. Many MIT (and Wellesley) students take advantage of this program.


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whoa 'Artist' - you sneak in the accusation that SC's actions are wrong, care to tell us how exactly?

It seems you assume they excluded the speaker b/c of his national origin when, quite possibly, it was because of his pro-right extremist views. What if they excluded a Iranian nationalist who was also formerly affiliated with the former Ayatollah? I bet your stance would change real fast on stating their actions are illegal in that scenario.

What's your next accusation? That they are jew-hating Nazis?

Oh, and by the way - you come off all high and mighty being a lawyer who 'know's the law' so I'll do you a favor and remind you that lawyers are a dime-a-dozen in this town - especially the ones who have an ego bigger than their actual position in life....

Just because you are a lawyer doesn't mean that you are the only one who 'knows the law'... it just means you owe ~80k in student loans to claim that you know it and are relegated to pro-bono work to keep your resume fresh till the legal market gets better

If you were, you wouldn't use an anonymous logon

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...or be so off-base with your assertions.

Barring African-Americans from attending an event is entirely different from deciding not to host an event that happens to involve people of a different demographic than oneself.

The people excluded weren't Israeli; they were people who support Israel's invasions of Iran, and SC didn't wish to give them a forum to discuss such a thing. The agency I work for, if contacted by JCRC and offered a presentation, would also decline to host it, because it doesn't do anything to advance our mission. We turn down plenty of speakers who want to come hold events with us, for any number of reasons. We cannot refuse to employ or provide services to people who are otherwise qualified, but we can absolutely decline to host speakers for just about any reason we want.

JP's famed 'openness' takes a hit

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Does Spontaneous Celebrations have the right to renege? Yes. Does that make them look good? No. Shame on you, Spontaneous Celebrations. We want openness and transparency from all sides. And you have the ability to keep the participants on-topic. Right?

israel does not equal jews: jews do not equal israel

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Yes, that's right everyone: Israel is a state/country, even a THEOCRACY in many people's perspective.
If an organization doesn't want to be associated with a association (i.e., JCRC) that has clear bias on the country (i.e., Iran) being discussed then that is their freedom to do so.

AND... just cause that association supports israel doesn't mean that SC is anti-jew... GIVE ME A BREAK.

Playing the Anti-Semitism card/accusation gets old when you use it too often.... Remember the boy who cried wolf?

If this fellow is the hawkish propagandist some

are portraying him as, I support their decision fully. It would be like finding out that an organization you were originally hoping to partner with (for instance, a gay rights organization, a Presbytarian group, or whatever) wanted to invite Dick Cheney to speak at a joint event, then telling them "Thanks, but no thanks."
It's a political difference of opinion, not bigotry or discrimination.


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+1 - agree totally...

It seems like some people are erroneously claiming right off the cuff that their decision was because of anti-semitic views....

Transparency? Openness? What a joke.

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To me, the essential fact is the undisclosed identification of the Israeli speaker as an official of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, even though googling his name brought it up. And what his "Special Projects" might include.

Whatever the merits of his argument about gays in Iran might be, it would be impossible to ignore things like the reported Israeli rehearsal for a strike on Iran in placing them in context.

There is a strong suggestion that this is more about making Iran bomb-worthy for a strike on nuclear facilities than gays in Iran.

If he was responsible, not disclosing his affiliation is a breach of diplomatic protocol. All diplomatic services run public diplomacy/information sections. Public Diplomacy officers are supposed to be upfront about who they are. Planting messages covertly is the job of Other Government Agencies.

Of course, many intelligence officers operate under diplomatic cover, but again are supposed to play their diplomatic "role" straight.