To the Pride Toronto brain-trust


I shall not be returning the calls of your volunteer recruitment team, at least one two of which I’ve already received.

Even if you don’t agree with Desmond Tutu or Jimmy Carter, both of whom use the term “Israeli apartheid”, doesn’t the censorship, the lobbying and the impugning of motives (with the incendiary, inappropriate charge of anti-Semitism) just suck?

You might as well be in the closet. You don’t understand what queer activists have been fighting for in Toronto since well before Pride went commercial, made-for-TV.

It’s disgusting.

World Pride to come? Puh-leeze!

You’re just asking Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to be extra clever as they look ahead to the parade – a challenge I am sure they are up to meeting.

Like any activist groups in the LGBT community they know how to get their message across as well as how to respond to attacks against them.  To wit:

30 years of a censorship-free Pride in Toronto has come to an end

May 23, 2010

For the first time in its 30-year history, Pride Toronto has banned an LGBT community group from the parade. The board of directors voted on Friday to ban the words ‘Israeli Apartheid’ from any Pride events, including the Pride parade, dyke march, and trans march – directly targeting the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

This follows a year of intense pressure from Toronto City Hall (one of Pride’s main funders) and Israel lobbyists, who claim that criticisms of the Israeli government amount to hate and discrimination. By caving to their demands, Pride Toronto has not only silenced the voices of queer Palestinians and human rights activists —they have set a dangerous precedent for free expression in our community.

Whatever your politics, send a message to Pride Toronto that ALL communities deserve to be heard in our Pride.

Call their offices to tell them no censorship at Toronto Pride:

Executive Director Tracey Sandilands: 416 927 7433 ext 222 tracey@pridetoronto.com
Director of Sponsorship & Grants Ryan Lester: 416 927 7433 ext 230 ryan@pridetoronto.com

Co-chairs:
Margaret Ngai:
margaret-ngai@pridetoronto.com
Genevieve D’Iorio: genevieve-diorio@pridetoronto.com
Board member Mark Singh: mark-singh@pridetoronto.com

Sample Email

Dear Pride Toronto,

I am shocked by your reckless decision to censor free speech at Pride. This year is meant to celebrate 30 years of resistance and instead you have decided to make a mockery of our hard-won rights by banning an LGBT human rights group.

The ‘privilege’ to pick and choose who gets into the club is what denied us our rights for much too long.

My Pride is political! I know how I got here and I will not allow you to silence anyone. We are loud, proud and inclusive! That is what  makes our community strong and vibrant.

Sincerely,

I have taken their suggestion and copied the following (wording from my opening lines of this blog) to each of those Pride email addresses:

Even if you don’t agree with Desmond Tutu or Jimmy Carter, both of whom use the term Israeli apartheid, doesn’t the censorship, the lobbying and the impugning of motives (with the incendiary, inappropriate charge of anti-Semitism) just suck?

And, given all the objections that Middle East politics don’t belong in Pride, what’s this then? (see pictures)? Oh, right, Israel has Pride parades (Orthodox Jewish protests notwithstanding) and is, therefore, morally superior to her neighbours.

Some background:

Pride Toronto bans use of ‘Israeli apartheid': Rae

Community member Brad Fraser has also written the following commentary:

Pride without apartheid

While the issue facing the Pride Committee boils down to censorship, due to corporate threats and the substantial influence of the Israel lobby, the matter of Israeli apartheid is at the heart of QuAIA’s focus – the state’s separation of its own peoples and families through nearly impossible checkpoints and long detours within the nation of Israel (and well beyond in its occupation of Palestinian, or disputed, lands with housing developments for radical Israelis).  Like many other organizations within the LGBT community, from churches to bars,  QuAIA represents a queer microcosm of people who share the views of many other similar groups in the wider community.

Whether or not “apartheid” is within a group’s name I believe the calls for boycotts of Israel’s economy (tourism and divestment campaigns for example) are a reality which an intransigent Israel will have to put up with until serious talks and substantial changes are made.