Friday, June 25, 2010

Israel Bashing Returns to Toronto Gay Pride Parade

The Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) have been a thorn in the side of the Toronto Gay Pride Parade for a number of years. They change the nature of the parade from an expression of unity and celebration of values, to a medium for decisiveness and controversy.

Acting out of self interest and political pressure the organizers of the parade banned the term Israel Apartheid from this years parade effectively banning QuAIA. This caused a grass roots backlash sighting an attack on free speech. In order to keep both sides happy the parade organizers have changed policy again leaving it to the City of Toronto to determine if their parade participants are behaving appropriately. It is a technical loophole that gets the parade off the hook. An ironic decision considering other parades this year, across the country have fallen to heavy criticism for not keeping out unwanted elements.

Putting aside the technical issues, does QuAIA belong in the parade? This can be answered by examining two simple questions. Is the parade an appropriate venue for political protest? Do they represent the values of the community under whose banner they choose to protest?

QuAIA sights two examples as proof that the parade is an appropriate form of protest. The parade originally started as a form of political protest and the Gay community was instrumental in the protest against Apartheid South Africa. While these may be important history lessons, they might as well be ancient history. As Gay rights have changed over the decades, so has the nature of the parade.

The second question takes the form of why single out Israel. Their response is that there are no gay rights without universal human rights. They envision, Israel as a secular democratic state stripped of it's Jewish identity. Any of their criticism of Israel are universal values that would apply anywhere in the world.

There are so many human rights issues around the world including; Arab countries denying Palestinians the rights to livelihood, property and citizenship. President of the Islamic Republic of Iran denies there are gays in his country and violently put down protests of election results, genocide in Darfur, spread of Sharia law in Asia and Africa, Hamas murder of political opponents, 2 cities in Saudi Arabia are banned to non-Muslim visitors, China's human rights record, Turkey's oppression of Armenians, Canadian issues with it's aboriginal population and many more. There are so many issues that no one individual or organization can devote resources to every issue.

Based on QuAIA, criteria in choosing Israel one would expect at least some of these issue to reverberate in the gay community, never mind manifesting into protests at the Gay Pride Parade.

For an activist who has already won their battles at home, Israel represents a low hanging fruit. It is far enough away to limit the damage from the fall out of a social engineering experiment gone wrong. Israel doesn't have the economic or political power to punish it's detractors.

By hooking on to the Gay Pride Parade, QuAIA generates more publicity than their cause could ever generate on it's own merits. They alienate people, who have a as much right to be considered part of the community the parade represents. They don't deserve the privilege of participating.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Remembering the Iran Election

Today marks the one year anniversary of the rigged Iranian election. The democratic protests that followed resulted in 60 dead and thousands of arrests. Everyone remembers the video Neda Agha-Soltan who was shot while walking the streets in peaceful protest. To commemorate the anniversary we will look at what the world has done, to condemn the actions of the Iranian governments gross violations of human rights. Below are the complete texts of both the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution and the report by independent international investigation.

UNHRC Resolution
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Independent International Investigation Report
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Happy International Hypocrisy Day!!!







Friday, June 4, 2010

Defending "Peaceful" Violent Resistance

On Monday morning, the Israeli Navy carried out their part in what should have been a well rehearsed script. Free Gaza sent a flotilla to run the Gaza blockade under the cover of a humanitarian mission. Israel's offer to transfer all the aid through the port of Ashdod under the watch of Free Gaza was turned down because it avoided the primary goal of running the blockade. The script was simple. Israel would stop the ships and tow them to Ashdod. The aid would be transferred to Gaza. Free Gaza promised publicly over and over again, that they would abide by their mantra of peaceful resistance.

As dawn approached Israeli commandos armed primarily with paintball guns strapped to their backs, they carried out their part of the script. 5 of the 6 boats cooperated and went off with out a hitch. However the lead boat had decided to change the script. They attempted to kill the soldiers, as they boarded the ship. The soldiers had no choice but to defend themselves, which resulted in the deaths of 9 of the 'peace activists'.

For the first few days Free Gaza claimed that it was not possible that the soldiers were attacked. There was a baby on the ship, plus at the shipped raised the white flag and all activists were trained in non-violent confrontation. When it was proven that the attacks did take place, they should have said the boat was commissioned by the IHH and did not act in accordance with the mission. Instead they have claimed the passengers had a right to attack the soldiers. Israel should have done things differently, they should have landed during the day, they should have sent less soldiers, they should not have been stopped in international waters. Even under attack, the soldiers should not have killed anyone. They can make all the excuses they want but if they had resisted peacefully, as promised, as was done on the other 5 ships nobody would have been hurt. Instead they have declared that IHH is welcome to participate in future flotillas.

As this entire episode was about PR, Free Gaza has won. Israel has rejected, demands from around the world to allow an impartial international investigation into the incident. For those who have already passed judgment this is just further proof that Israel is guilty.

The United States has suggested that Israel appoint a high profile international judge to conduct the investigation. Who would be respected enough by the world, who would consider all the facts before drawing conclusions? The logical choice would be the judge who carried out the independent investigation into the Iran elections. The judge had a lot more to consider. There was vote rigging, demonstrators shot dead in the street, unjustified arrests and beatings all under the watchful eye of the world. There were at least 69 deaths and over 4000 initial arrests. The results of the findings were factual, indisputable and accepted by both sides.

What did you say? There was no investigation. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights addressed the issue on September 14th, 2009.

"The recent elections in Iran and the subsequent protests over the result were a reminder of both the vitality of Iran's civil society and political life, but also of the towering constraints that peaceful activism faces. I call on the Government to release those detained for peaceful protest, to investigate reports of their ill-treatment, and to ensure respect for human rights "

Israeli soldiers kill 9 people, from a mob of 'peaceful' protesters that were trying to kill them. Iran kills 69 people for peacefully marching the streets to protest a rigged election. In one case the UNHRC calls for an internal investigation and the other an international investigation. What could possibly be the mitigating factors that determine who should conduct an investigation?