An anti Israel group is calling on the British lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to boycott this summer’s WorldPride in Jerusalem, prompting outrage from campaigners and local charities.

The Coalition to Boycott World Pride Jerusalem claims the LGBT community should not attend the international gay parade in protest of the way Israel has “illegally occupied Jerusalem for decades, and has functionally annexed the city.”

A statement from the group said: “As individuals and groups working for the liberation of all oppressed peoples, we join in the call to boycott travel to World Pride Jerusalem in 2006 as part of the international boycott of Israel.

“Although the event is named, “Love Without Borders,” Israel has illegally occupied Jerusalem for decades, and has functionally annexed the city. Jerusalem is a city with borders that are constantly enforced by the Israeli army. These borders, including militarised checkpoints and towering concrete walls, are often impenetrable to Palestinians and other Arab people.

The boycott is supported by Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT) and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Diane Langford, Women’s Officer for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said: “Jerusalem is such an appalling choice of venue, exactly the kind of endorsement the colonial power seeks, end the occupation, justice for Palestine, peace and justice and civil rights for LGBT Palestinians!”

But gay group Outrage’s Peter Tatchell called the idea a “a tragic betrayal,” he told the Jewish Chronicle, “For all its faults, the Israeli state does not jail and torture [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people] because of their sexuality.

“The Palestinian state does. We find it shocking that much of the left is silent about this violent victimisation of Palestinian queers.”

Jack Gilbert, former president of the World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgender Jews, told the paper: “The boycotters aren’t interested in the violent and degrading homophobia in the Palestinian Authority, or in creating understanding between cultures. They’re interested in bashing Israel. Their campaign is anti-Semitic in content and homophobic in effect.”

A spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association said: “You can’t boycott events which are purely cultural on the grounds of objections to Israeli policy.”

Hagai El-Ad, exectuive director of Jerusalem Open House, one of the event organisers, said support far outweighed the opposition.

Jason Caplin, spokesperson for the British Friends of the Hebrew University, a British charity encouraging people to travel and study in Jerusalem, told PinkNews.co.uk: “In a city where gay Jews, Muslims and Christians live side by side why should we be creating new barriers.

“The Hebrew University and the city of Jerusalem has always been open to all sexualities, including gay and straight Palestinians.”

Alan Bolchover, executive director of the New Israel Fund, who are arranging gay tours to the city this summer, told PinkNews.co.uk the stance is “totally out of context.”

“They are condemning this without thinking, the whole point of World Pride is to break down borders, but they are more interested in the conflict.

“In the Palestinian Authority, gay Palestinians are beaten, curtailed and murdered, they have to get this into context,” he said.

The UK Coordinator of World Pride, told PinkNews.co.uk, “World Pride is disappointed to learn of this call to boycott the event in Jerusalem, when it is a event that is dedicated to being as inclusive as possible.

“World Pride 2006 is a call for freedom, freedom of expression, freedom to be different, and tolerance. It seeks to embrace diversity, and is adamant that it will address and raise awareness of all forms of discrimination and injustice.

“We hope other will see their own specific struggles reflected in the struggle of LGBT people around the world and come and participate in this rallying cry for peace.”

Jerusalem WorldPride runs from August 6-12 2006.