The Israel Lobby’s Smear Campaign and Toronto Gay Pride

Are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities the next battle ground for the struggle over Palestinian equal rights? They certainly are in San Francisco, where this month’s controversial Out in Israel festival seeks in part to erase the occupation by promoting Israel as a gay mecca, and in Toronto, where a nasty smear campaign is being waged to ban a group called Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) from the annual Pride parade.

What’s remarkable about Toronto isn’t that some oppose QuAIA’s presence in the parade–in the classic tradition of LGBT parades, which are by their very nature acts of political resistance, QuAIA’s message is challenging and it’s meant to be.  What’s amazing is that their opponents– who object to the term “apartheid” despite its almost commonplace usage by many Israelis–have resorted to openly duplicitous and unethical means for literally banishing the group and harming the parade to achieve their aims.

Actually, it makes perfect sense. You can’t ban a group for using the word ‘apartheid’, so you have to fabricate evidence to suggest the group is a hate group. And that’s exactly what’s happening to QuAIA, which, surprise surprise, includes a lot of self-loving anti-occupation Jews.

The formation of Canada’s Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) was an inevitable response to Brand Israel efforts to “Pinkwash” Israel. That is, make the occupation disappear and fuel anti-Arab contempt by promoting Israel as a Middle Eastern “modern, Occidental and liberal” mecca in contrast to its “anti-gay”, “darkly exotic” and entirely unsympathetic Oriental neighbors. Yeah, the bigotry is that obvious. (And exactly how are you supposed to organize for LGBT rights when you’re literally fighting for your survival while under a 43 year long occupation?)

But groups like B’nai Brith (which, in Canada, is inexplicably to the right of AIPAC) and the Simon Weisenthal Center, as well as –apparently acting on his own–a lawyer named Martin Gladstone, have been pushing back and demanding that Toronto Pride ban the group from marching in any future parades.

The curiously right-wing Canadian B’nai Brith, which, as Andy Lehrer of Independent Jewish Voices mockingly said, “discovered gay rights this week,” has been complaining about the “hijacking” of gay agenda. So they’ve been going after Pride advertisers.

Gay lawyer Gladstone may be genuinely concerned about what he feels is a hostile anti-Israeli environment at the pride parade, but that wouldn’t explain why he has resorted to a series of unethical actions from possibly trying to stack community focus groups, to creating a propaganda video (see below) with generous footage of anti-Semitic signs from anti-war marches in…. another country! His charges, which have found their way to the mainstream media even after they were debunked, include false claims about a QuAIA chant and transparently false charges that the contingent included anti-Semites who sported swastikas.

QuAIA responds to these false charges here- but Gladstone’s video is still making the rounds, which amusingly asserts that if you march in a gay pride parade you automatically endorse every single group in the parade (tell that to the queer quakers and the LGBT Veterans group.)

Toronto Pride originally yielded to pressure campaign and announced a new “ethics committee” made of community members that would pre-vet all signage for the parade, but a grassroots Facebook-driven rebellion put the kibosh on that. Now it’s being reported that Pride’s public funding may be in danger.

Canada’s gay paper Xtra, which has done an extraordinary job of covering the story, has the details here:

In an email obtained by Xtra dated March 29, Rae
threatened
that the City of Toronto could take action against Pride
Toronto for failing to oust Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) in
advance of the parade.

“The City of Toronto must ascertain if the city’s policies concerning
anti-discrimination are compromised by QuAIA’s rhetoric and messaging,”
Rae wrote.

In 2009, Pride Toronto received close to $175,000 in support from the
City of Toronto, through three separate programs. In 2008, it received
$189,000.

City council’s next meeting is scheduled for March 31, with another for
April 1 — in which the topic of Pride Toronto funding is expected to
come up. Additionally, budget meetings set for April 15 and 16 could
further address funding for the event.

On March 10, Pride Toronto announced that participants would be required
to vet signage with an ethics committee prior to the parade. That
announcement sparked outrage in the queer community and was retracted two weeks later.

A Facebook site, Don’t Sanitize Pride (which attracted more than 1600
members), applauded the move, while a March 24 Toronto Sun
article questioned whether city grants recipients (like Pride Toronto)
should be “held accountable” for the funds they receive. That prompted
speculation about a review of this year’s event funding, worth roughly
$120,000 a year to Pride Toronto.

Of course, if the effort to ban QuAIA is successful, it will likely spur the defiant creation of identical groups marching in LGBT parades all over the world- hardly a victory for Gladstone and company.

This is just one more example of the sad effort at diversion known as Brand Israel. The fact is, Israel’s Foreign Ministry thought it could use easily duped LGBT people as cover for its agenda to make the world forget the occupation and settlement expansion, walls, extra-judicial killings and so on and so forth. But they forgot that many LGBT human rights heroes, many of them Jewish, are already leaders in the Palestinian equality movement and won’t stand for it.

And now, free trips to the Holy Land for LGBT leaders; gay Israeli porn, Israeli LGBT film festivals in Western cities sponsored by the Israeli consulate and more have led to a backlash, and the fight is on!

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