"Once We Have Been Labelled We Can Easily Be Marginalized"

Published: June 16th 2010
in News » Local

scene from "Reclaiming our Pride"
Pic: screenshot

On Sunday, Toronto’s only Reconstructionist synagogue, Darchei Noam, presented “Reclaiming our Pride,” a documentary directed and produced by Jewish and gay rights activist and non-for-profit lawyer, Martin Gladstone.


 The evening began with the showcasing of this documentary that raises the issue of a fringe group called “Queers against Israeli Apartheid” marching in Toronto’s annual Gay Pride Parade. The documentary was followed by an inter panel question and answer segment which involved Jewish community leaders, including Justine Apple (executive director of Kulanu, Toronto’s only Jewish LGBT social and educational group), Rebecca Cherniak (incoming vice-president of Canadian Federation of Jewish students), Len Rudner (Ontario regional director of Canadian Jewish Congress), Avi Benlolo (president and chief executive officer of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust studies) and of course Gladstone, the director of the documentary and the leading activist involved in getting Queers Against Israeli Apartheid banned from this year’s parade.


The topic of the panel discussion – as well as a mass of media coverage regarding the group and its presence at Toronto’s Pride Parade – centred on the blurry line between what can be considered as an issue of free speech and when legitimate criticism of Israel becomes hate speech or a delegitimization of the Jewish state and its people.


The consensus of the panel and by vote of Pride Toronto (4-3) is that the words “Israeli Apartheid” are considered, as panel member Gladstone said, “hateful and odious” and do not belong at this year’s parade.


Members of the panel discussed how these words and the concepts held by the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) group are false and anti-Semitic making counter pro-Israel gay groups like Kulanu, Toronto’s only Jewish LGBT social and educational group, at risk of potential violence. This concern was brought forward by the security forces and Pride Toronto which contacted Apple, ensuring the group’s safety and separating the marching QAIA and Kulanu during last year’s pride parade.


Gladstone, along with other Jewish rights activists like Benlolo, raised their concerns to Pride Toronto who at the time proclaimed themselves to be in “operational crisis” in the board’s statements. Gladstone and Benlolo expressed their difficulties with Pride Toronto during the evening’s Q&A period, with Gladstone saying, “We spoke to the committee of Pride, the board, for over two years and it reached a point where we could no longer tell the difference between QAIA, their politics and the politics of the board itself.” When the board successfully voted against the use of the words “Israeli Apartheid” at this year’s parade in a close vote of 4 to 3 on March 25th, after four days of meeting s and deliberation, criticisms of the board ran high from both sides of the issue.


Related articles: (darchei noam, reclaiming our pride, benlolo, israeli apartheid, Queers against Israeli Apartheid, gay pride parade)
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