National LGBTQ Task Force executive director mourns Israeli, Palestinian war victims

National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson at the organization’s 50th anniversary gala in Miami Beach on Oct. 14. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. | The executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force on Oct. 14 paid tribute to the civilians killed during the war between Israel and Hamas.

“Witnessing reports of Israel and Palestine are weighing on my soul,” said Kierra Johnson during her speech at the Task Force’s 50th anniversary gala that took place at the Miami Beach Convention Center. “My heart is with communities in the region who have suffered the pain of terrorism and violence and may continue to do so.”

Johnson added that while she does “not have many answers about the conflict, I do know many people I love, many members of the Task Force family and many in this room are deeply impacted.”

“The Task Force condemns terrorism, violence and harm against civilians,” she said.

Johnson also led a moment of silence for the “lives shattered and lost in the terror attack by Hamas in Israel and for all those impacted who continue to suffer.”

Hamas, which the U.S. and Israel have designated a terrorist organization, on Oct. 6 launched a surprise attack against communities in southern Israel from the Gaza Strip.

More than 1,300 Israelis have been killed since the war began. This figure includes at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in Re’im, a kibbutz that is near the border between Israel and Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces on its website also says more than 3,200 Israelis have been injured and Hamas militants kidnapped at least 150 others. 

Hamas rockets have reached Beersheba, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ben Gurion Airport and other locations throughout central and southern Israel.

Palestinian officials say Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 2,000 people in Gaza and injured thousands of others in the enclave.

The Israeli government’s decision to cut electricity, water and food and fuel shipments to Gaza has made the humanitarian crisis in the territory even worse. (National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Sunday said Israeli officials have told him they have restored water to southern Gaza.) The IDF has also told the 1.1 million people who live in northern Gaza to evacuate to the southern part of the enclave ahead of an expected ground incursion.

A Wider Bridge — a U.S.-based organization that seeks to build “a movement of LGBTQ people and allies with a strong interest in and commitment to supporting Israel and its LGBTQ communities” — in 2016 organized a reception at the Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference with two Israeli activists who worked for Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance. Hundreds of protesters with signs that expressed opposition to “pinkwashing,” which they described as the promotion of Israel’s LGBTQ rights record in an attempt to deflect attention away from its policies toward the Palestinians, and “no pride in apartheid” disrupted the event and forced its cancellation.

“I want to make this crystal clear: The National LGBTQ Task Force wholeheartedly condemns anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic statements made at any Task Force event, including our Creating Change Conference,” said then-Executive Director Rea Carey in a statement after the protest. “It is unacceptable.”

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