OA_show('Leaderboard - Xx90');
Choose your edition:

Search form

Minor tension at Toronto Pride parade over Queers Against Israeli Apartheid


Minor tension at Toronto Pride parade over Queers Against Israeli Apartheid

Police ask people wearing Jewish Defense League T-shirts to get back to their group
The chief controversy at this year's Toronto Pride parade, about the presence of Queers Against Israeli Aparthied (QuAIA) and Pride Toronto's initial effort to ban the group, did not go entirely unnoticed.

The Kulanu (Jewish gay group) contingent and the QuAIA contingent were staged only about 75 metres apart on Bloor St. Each group was much larger than last year. There was some shouting and posturing back and forth, and police stepped in briefly. They asked a small group of people wearing Jewish Defense League T-shirts to get back to their group.

In the end, everything worked out just fine.

>> Free speech at Pride: All of Xtra's coverage in one place

Watch our video report:

OA_show('Text Ad - #1');
OA_show('Text Ad - #2');


Thanks J.B.
Thanks, J.B. and I agree this has been a productive discussion and I appreciate your vote of confidence (I don't get an awful lot of those on here - most people are only moved to post pro- or anti- something and see moderates as fence-sitters, for me it's more about finding some humility - a work in progress!; I do like finding a thread where there's give and take and some honest listening). I do have very strong opinions about a good many issues, but there are times (maybe this is about getting older) when the right question for me to ask myself is not "which side should I take so I can go and shout on their behalf" - but something else. I have come to know that all the finely honed arguments in the world don't convince someone of the righteousness of my cause if their innate sympathies lie elsewhere. I do find this a very difficult issue to take sides on, if only because when a conflict has gone on long enough both sides have legitimate claims on our sympathy, both have dead innocents, both have agents who have acted violently and dishonourably. So, planting yourself firmly on one side means necessarily ignoring the very valid points made by the other when those are inconvenient, and explaining away your own malicious behaviours determined by your opponents actions. I'd rather save my certitude and opinions for something about which I can clearly see that one side is that of goodness and light and the other is the something akin to Darth Vader. I just don't get that here. I don't think there's a solution to this that will please everyone, but I do think that a compromise can be reached LOCALLY that allows freedom of political expression while honouring the fear (historically justified) that speech bordering on hate can cross that border. My science is rusty - I'll have to look up bromide in scientific terms; I only know it as a figurative term. Now biology, that I get! Chemistry, physics, not so much....cheers.
a bitter pill
(That day, I had to swallow a very bitter pill. However, years later, not only am I vindicated and justified, but I stayed true to myself. Sometimes progress is also painful. In striving for our rights and integrity, we can end up scarring ourselves. Sometimes the scar tissue is too deep and we are no longer able to remain unbiased. So admittedly I do have a disdain for Pentecostal churches and their congregations as I do find them to be narrow-minded and opinionated but I can live with that, so long as they don't come knocking on my door.) ----->In our New World, we'll have to demonstrate by example that Old World politics can be mollified and a suitable solution can be found which suits all interested parties. I guess I have high hopes.<----- *** N.B. This is a far more productive discussion lately with Martin and Alex than previously on this site. Previous posts were unproductive since they were dogmatic. The whole forum descended into pettiness. Hopefully, more open minds are reading the recent posts and understanding them. However, I fear that may not be the case. {Thanks Alex...the word for the day: bromide. And I thought that was just an ion. (also a science teacher)}
education not censorship
So instead of censoring, we should be educating. We also need to take into consideration other people's emotions and realize that progress can only be made when all parties are cooperating. There is no gain in inflaming or offending your opponent. Compromise is necessary. So, for instance, the Danish caricatures of Islam should not be banned but the citizens of Denmark should have objected. I agree that QuAIA should be more appropriately named Queers for a free Palestine...their other offensive name gets them more media attention but, in the end, no net political results, and they risk the legitimacy of their group and their purpose. Most Canadians, on the whole, are very passive and very ignorant of world issues. They prefer the comfort of their microcosm which doesn't extend very far out of their homes or even their local communities. Perhaps we're victims of geography: a large land mass with a small population dispersed throughout and a strong American influence. Education and the amelioration of the individual's critical thinking skills is a very slow process and progress is barely perceptible but we're making progress, I think. I teach in a rural bible belt east of the GTA. Just recently, our school had its first openly gay student prime minister. Ten years prior to this, I was admonished by administration for bringing up homophobia, gay bashing and teens who are questioning as a writing topic in English. (A group of parents, coincidentally all from the same local Pentecostal church took issue with the curriculum I presented - they thought it immoral. I was told to humour the few students, their offspring, as they wrote their "gay-bashing" treatises. Probably illegal, even back then in Ontario. As vulgar as it was, I was told to accept the following: "Brandon C. is a sick-in-the-head queer who deserves to be shot." and mark this introductory sentence and the ensuing polemic only for grammar and style. This still burns me a bi
thorny issue
I empathize greatly with Martin`s points; the centuries of persecution and the Holocaust of the last century has caused irreparable damage to the Jewish psyche and the undeniable need for a Jewish homeland which should be protected at all costs. No other country would do differently. We all want to protect our borders and our citizens from malice. However, Alex's global perspective also has validity. The judgement of what is offensive and what is hateful is very subjective depending on how close to home it hits. There is no black and white; only shades of gray (which I have said before in a post.) Alex has a point that many groups are targeted during the pride parade and perhaps we should look at this more closely. There should be some official guidelines (which can be made malleable) as a "point de depart." Do we sanitize Pride? Perhaps we need to. We all have choices though. If we find it too offensive, we need state our point and then be able to walk away or shut it off. (e.g. My two younger daughters love Russel Peter's comedy routine. I find it to be utterly offensive. At these moments, I wonder where this spawn comes from; these can't be my children. So I take the opportunity to educate them. I'll sit there and listen but there is no laughter from my voice. I do not and can not find him funny. Eventually, I walk away. Racism can never be made funny, even if it comes from a visible minority. I make this message clear to them.) I'm definitely against censorship. My mother told me of all the book burnings in Nazi times. It wasn't only the suppression of free thought and questioning but a witch-hunt. All the German families that my mother knew (including her own) burned or disposed of their Stammbuch -- a book akin to a family tree...telling you of your origins and ancestors. Everybody was afraid that a Jewish relative would be discovered -- hence an unclean blood line. History destroyed out of fear.
Can we ditch the 'focus' argument for now?
Martin, I don't think there's any doubt that the term 'Israeli Apartheid' is hurtful and hateful to many people in the Jewish community, still reeling from the hell that was 20th century (not to mention the previous eight or so). I'm not Jewish, but I find it bellicose. It certainly does nothing to warm me to their cause. Quite the opposite. However, please consider this: many Muslims found the Danish cartoons of Mohammad hateful and hurtful. Should they be banned? I'm sure many fundamentalist Christians are offended by the essentialist and one-dimensional caricature of them as hateful homophobes all, and the Pope has been a very popular target at Pride which offends many Catholics (and others). Should that stop on the basis it is offensive and hurtful? During the G20, even the legitimacy of Canada was questioned on the basis it was on 'stolen native land' - legitimate if bombastic political speech. I'm not downplaying your intense reaction to these words - quite reasonable given history but I am asking you to tell us if you really have thought through the implications of banning speech or representation simply because it offends. We have hate speech in the criminal code. I guess I'd rather err on the side of permitting speech that is offensive to the Israeli state or political Islam or Christianity - than to ban it. If it promotes hatred against an identifiable group of people, then it can be prosecuted as such. And if Pride is not the appropriate forum, then there are some pretty thorny issues about who else is inappropriate. I remember the protests against the real apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s/early 90s, and much protest against the Harris government, about AIDS, about women's choice. So it isn't really about 'wrong forum', is it? The hate/offensive speech issue is the one that needs to be settled one way or another. Is it hate speech, or offensive political comment protected by freedom of expression, and bromides about 'free speech' aren't enough.
Why QuAIA is a hate group continued
QuAIA’s message is meant to hurt and marginalize those who support Israel. The name is not “Queers for Palestine” it’s “Queers against Israeli Apartheid”. Think about the name. QuAIA’s message to our community is the same as the message of certain fundamentalist religions to your community that believe that “gays are immoral” and the LGBT community should “repent” from its sins and “convert” to a different way. Such speech is constitutionally protected (maybe) and is meant to delegitimize you and your community. I bet that most members of the LGBT community would consider such messages hurtful and hateful. To me and my community the messages are similar. I hope my short explanation sheds some light on the reasons why I and most members of my community consider QUAIA to be a hate group.
Why QuAIA is a hate group
Just as I would not be so presumptuous to suggest what might be offensive to the LGBT community, I would ask that other communities not suggest what might be hurtful and hateful to the Jewish and Israeli-Canadian community. That is not to say that I have thin skin. Indeed, I do not and as I stated in the previous posts, I do not suggest QuAIA should not protest, I just suggest that the Pride parade is not the appropriate forum. As I do not make those decisions, all I can do is make the request respectfully. As for the offensiveness, as with most “Israeli Apartheid” protest groups, the underlying message of QuAIA is illegitimacy of Israel. Ultimately, these protest groups suggest that Israel is an illegitimate state and should no longer exist. Jewish national aspirations rose from the ashes of death, just as LGBT political aspirations grew from oppression and repression. The suggestion of a fence to protect Israel’s border is somehow akin to apartheid is offensive, as every nation is an apartheid country by that measure. The suggestion is that Israel has no right to control its borders or protect its people. The border was fortified only after numerous suicide bombers killed and maimed thousands of Jews in Israel, with an emphasis on soft targets (women and children). QuAIA’s message is and is meant to be inflammatory and meant to demonize those who support Israel (i.e. Jews and Israeli-Canadians and their supporters). In a Toronto, a City of Tolerance, a message of exclusion and what I consider to be hate for the reasons above, is not appropriate at your Pride parade. The LGBT community must also examine how the embrace of this group by the “LGBT community” might affect Jewish or Israeli members of the LGBT community.
@ Alex M.: critical yet unbiased
Alex, very well said. I couldn't agree with you more. Your comments were critical and yet unbiased. This is the way it should be. We should certainly all try to be this way. You certainly should be sitting on that special PT panel for future decisions. I hope that more people read and understand your post
Proof of incitement to hatred
scepticism. Unbudged from my scepticism. Please, extra, fix this!

And Martin, the charge that QuAIA is a 'hate group' has never been proved to a degree of certitude. I'm not a free speech absolutist (ie yelling fire in a crowded theatre argument) but if political expression is going to be banned, it must be on a basis of proof and integrity - some frame of reference. "This speech is hate because______." Something isn't hate speech just because it is offensive or you don't like it. Many religious adherents are offended when their religions are criticized, to which I say, so what? In the absence of a convincing case, we need to allow them latitude to make their case. The case against them has wandered all over the place: Pride isn't about politics any more, Pride shouldn't be about victim-hood, don't bring your old world problems here, Pride should focus on homophobia, Pride is a celebration/party, the reasons for excluding them are almost as numerous as those who would exclude them. Offensive, yes. I think "Israeli Apartheid" is offensive. But there's also a case to be made for 'enlightenment through controversy.' Offensive is not a reason to ban something. Does it promote hatred against an identifiable group? Okay - how? And as for the Iran argument, I have some sympathy for you. I think there are countries more deserving of our condemnation. But surely the onus is on me or you to organize that, rather than to ban someone from promoting a cause we think less deserving. There's something to be said for the 'marketplace of ideas' approach. The City first raised the charge of discrimination with Pride, and then hid behind them. This needs to be rooted out: prove it, or withdraw it.
Abstractions have their limits
I agree, J.B. that blathering endlessly about 'free speech' in the abstract, especially as a de-contextualized cause célèbre, reminds me of similar campaigns waged for Freedom or Democracy or The Nation. Lovely ideals. But what are we actually talking about, specifially? Do we mean from speech only for those with similar political ideals to ours, or do we also support it for Pamela Anderson's cheeky (sexy, or sexist?) anti-meat chart, "Islamophobic" Danish cartoonists and the Gaza Strip Club organizers? The QuAIA people were strategically smart in linking their cause to one of free speech, and they took an opening created just for them that one could drive a truck through. (I support their right to their political expression, even as I am ambivalent). Kyle Rae first set the dogs of war on them via the City Hall bureaucracy, but when he c/w/ouldn't articulate how this violated the City's anti-discrimination charter and hid behind staff and then Pride, he then switched gears and did the focus argument, then - presto - created a new history for us, right before our eyes. So I understand why in the face of this, QuAIA expediently embraced the free speech argument. The onus is on those making the charge of discrimination to back it up, but it has never been met. Freedom of speech is a salient historical issue with our communities, and it evokes charmingly. But we need to think through the implications. As a student at York and UT I saw various unpopular causes run off campus over the years, usually the Right to Life , um, losers. But if we are going to rally around free speech, let's really mean it. I think the PTPers, Mills, Popert etc. get this. I am unfortunately less than willing to entirely trust the left/feminist intelligentsia because freedom of expression hasn't always been their highest collective value, though individuals vary in their focus as in any coalition. I sincerely hope to be proved wrong, but I am thus far un-budged from my scept


Sign in or Register to post comments