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.

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