LGBT Rights in the Middle East event postponed

A free public panel discussion on “LGBT Rights in the Middle East” that was set to take place on Dec. 5 has been postponed.

The event, which had originally included only Jewish speakers, has been put off until an as-yet-unnamed date in 2013 so it can include a broader spectrum of panelists, according to a statement issued by the City of West Hollywood.

“In recent days, the City of West Hollywood has received requests from a diverse spectrum of people regarding the planned Human Rights Speakers Series event on ‘LGBT Rights in the Middle East’ that was scheduled this week.  In an effort to ensure that we are able to discuss the issue from all perspectives, we have decided to postpone the event to re-evaluate the panel participants and focus of the discussion,” said an e-mailed statement by Tamara White, public information officer at the City of West Hollywood.

Rabbi Denise Eger, leader of West Hollywood’s Congregation Kol Ami; Yossi Herzog, an Israel LGBT rights educator; and Karmel Melamed, an Iranian-American attorney and contributor to the Journal; had been scheduled to appear on the panel.

In an interview on Dec. 4, Eger said that the event was cancelled so that it could include speakers representing more Middle Eastern cultures. Eger said she has offered to help with the planning of the panel, in particular to help find an appropriate Arab speaker.

Although the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles and the City of West Hollywood were partners in organizing the event, the consulate declined to comment on the postponement, referring questions to the City of West Hollywood.

If the panel’s problem was that there wasn’t an Arab speaker on it, it wasn’t for lack of people representing the Arab world locally who can speak on the topic of LGBT rights in the Middle East, according to Jordan Elgrably. He is executive director of the Levantine Cultural Center, a Los Angeles nonprofit that presents arts and cultural events about the Middle East and North Africa. Organizers of the LGBT event did not contact the Levantine Cultural Center for help organizing the panel, Elgrably said. 

“We would have been happy to give them recommendations,” Elgrably said,

Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles David Siegel and the West Hollywood mayor had been set to deliver remarks, and Brad Sears, executive director of the Williams Institute, a national think tank at the UCLA School of Law, was set to moderate, according to the event flier.