Peter Tatchell under fire for gay meeting attack

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has been accused of "stirring up antisemitic rhetoric" after he condemned a gay organisation for hosting a meeting in Israel.

Mr Tatchell, a founding member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, described the decision by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth and Student Organisation (IGLYO) to host its general assembly in Tel Aviv this December as "divisive, exclusionist, mistaken and regrettable".

Despite recognising Israel's progressive attitude, he appealed to the IGLYO and Israeli Gay Youth movements to take a stand against "the Israeli occupation" in the same way the international gay and lesbian movement took a stand against South African apartheid.

He said the meeting could "inflame homophobia" in the Arab world by giving the impression that gay and lesbian groups endorsed Israel.

Jack Gilbert, the former president of the World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Jews, said: "These statements are deeply flawed and are bound to stir up antisemitic rhetoric.

"It is fundamentally wrong to ask a Jewish or Israeli organisation what their position is and treat them differently from other organisations.

"I don't believe they need to prove themselves. There is a danger that people will use what he has said to boycott Jewish or Israeli organisations and that leads to antisemitism."

But Mr Tatchell responded: "I have a long record opposing antisemitism."

"My statement defended the right of Israelis to live in peace and security. It condemned attacks on Jewish civilians and was critical of the neighbouring Arab dictatorships and Iran.

"I made a point of praising the equality achievements of Israeli lesbian and gay groups, mentioning that Israel has the best gay rights policies of any country in the region. I don't see how what I said could contribute to antisemitism.

"I was criticising the Israeli government, not the Jewish people. Together with many Jews, I disagree with Israeli policies towards the Palestinians and believe Israel's hard-line stance is jeopardising the long-term future and security of the Jewish people."

The IGLYO board said it "looks forward" to hosting the general assembly in Israel, both as a means to encourage debate on human rights issues and to raise awareness to the needs of gay groups in conflict regions.

"IGLYO have always supported member organisations regardless of the politics within their state," it said in a statement.

    Last updated: 2:43pm, June 23 2011