On July 4th Toronto will hold it’s 30th annual Pride Parade. Approximately 500,000- 1 million people attend the event to celebrate the many gay and lesbian groups that march through the streets of Toronto in honor of the proud gay community in Toronto. However, this year is not without it’s controversy; one that is forcing the entire city into discussion. The other day Pride Toronto declared that the group “Queers against Israeli Apartheid” cannot march in the parade under this name, although the members themselves are welcome to the event. The decision was made because the Gay Pride committee was pressured by the City of Toronto, who have threatened to cut their funding if QuAIA participate in the festivities. The City believes that the term ‘Israeli apartheid’ amounts to both hate and discrimination against Toronto’s Jews and Israelis. Without this essential funding provided by the city, Gay Pride will not have enough money to run the parade, therefore explaining their decision to exclude the group.
What do I have to say about this?? THANK YOU GAY PRIDE! (and the city of Toronto) Why though? Isn’t my siding with Gay Pride only supporting the censorship of free speech and ideas?? Is it best to allow such a group, despite disagreeing with their ideas, only to defend our core values of democracy? I have struggled with this question, however after doing research on the group and spending hours angrily sifting through QuAIA’s website and thinking about the point of the parade, I think that this decision is correct.
It is becoming well known that Israel Apartheid Weeks in Universitys across North America are becoming increasingly popular, and are becoming more of a venue for blatant antisemitism and hatred towards Israel, rather than fair and constructive criticism against state policies and actions. Jews have become more threatened, and feel as though they are outsiders within their own campuses. While Israel Apartheid Week is secluded to University campus, and therefore University students, what makes this incident in Toronto so interesting is that even though QuAIA may appear to concern only a limited number of people, they are staging their politics (rather than their personal sexual orientations) in front of Toronto and Canada’s media, splashing themselves in news stories and newspaper articles. They are gathering protesters, gay and straight, who believe in their cause, rather than the gay issues. While they attempt to explain that only with equal rights for Palestinians within the occupied territories (not sure how they believe this should come about) can gay rights be fought for. However, their ties are sloppy and unconvincing. Their website looks more like an advertisement against Israel than it does for advocacy for advancing gay pride or rights. They provide a completely one-sided approach on the conflict in the middle east, with large holes in their “history” section. Forgetting my own knowledge of history and reading their website alone, I too would be outraged at the atrocities Israel has supposedly committed. Their website features a video, Who We Are?, that splashes probably as many Jews as they could find in order to legitimize themselves as a cause against Israel, not Jews. Yet the video also provides no intellectual and reasonable explanation on supposed “apartheid in Israel”. One Jew proclaims that Israel must be an apartheid because she never heard the word Palestinian or occupation in her “Zionist education system”. Others just claim that their visits to the West Bank were similar to South Africa.
I think that University students, above all else, know the atmosphere that these types of groups are attempting to create. QuAIA its trying to inject themselves into the gay pride parade as a large venue to spew their anti-Israel ignorance. If the pride parade wants to be inclusive, it should attempt to include these gay and lesbian members, but not as part of a propagandist group that makes many more people feel attacked and excluded.
If one were to agree that gay rights for Palestinians is of utmost importance for the gay community here in North America, than in my opinion there are many more obstacles than “Israeli apartheid”. Considering that both Fatah and Hamas are Muslim movements, I’m guessing that neither of their platforms would be too friendly towards homosexuals, probably close to how Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia treat homosexuals… not with much acceptance. Is this not a fight worth fighting? Further, why is it that in order to fight for Palestinian gay rights QuAIA decides to politically attack Israel (through it’s bias and uninformed doctrines) through it’s labeling it an apartheid. The word screams with a certain heaviness that motivates the uninformed bystander to side against Israel. (THE POINT) Wouldn’t it be more constructive to name the group, “Queers for Palestinian gay rights”? I suppose I just don’t understand that if one opposes the status-qua of Israel today, as many Zionist do, would we not ask how can we go about to improve the situation? Should we not be searching for a solution to this conflict, whether that means supporting the 2 state or 1 state solutions, or engineering a creative new answer. However, QuAIA are satisfied enough with spreading lies and hatred against Israel rather than seeking or supporting a solution. And I thought we Canadians were supposed to be the polite ones?