Community Leaders: Pride No Longer about Tolerance

Published: June 27th 2010
in News » Local

CJC and Avi Benlolo at Friday press conference regarding Pride Toronto’s decision to go back on their original ban of the phrase “Israeli Apartheid” from Toronto’s Pride Parade.
Pic: Bev Spritzer

A press conference was held Friday morning regarding Pride Toronto’s decision to go back on their original ban of the phrase “Israeli Apartheid” from Toronto’s Pride Parade.


As a result of this decision-making flip-flop, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) intends to march at the July 4th Pride parade after all.


Present at the conference were a panel of representatives ranging from the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), to various city councilors.


Martin Gladstone, a lawyer and member of both the gay and Jewish communities in Toronto, spoke first from the panel, stating that the purpose of Pride is to celebrate tolerance and diversity.


“The parade should not be used as an arena to spread messages that have nothing to do with Pride,” said Gladstone. “Free speech is not absolute – you can’t promote hate in a public square on public money.”


Gladstone said that allowing QAIA to march, as they have in previous years, will turn the Pride Parade into an anti-Israel gong show.


“The conflict in the Middle East has nothing to do with gay rights,” Gladstone emphasized.


The overriding feeling at the conference was that the organizers of the Pride Parade have abandoned their original messages, and that the presence of groups such as QAIA lessens the feelings of security for those who would attend.


Justine Apple, Executive Director of Kulanu Toronto, spoke next. “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and by far the most tolerant in the region towards the gay and lesbian community,” Apple pointed out.


Indeed, as far back as 1993, Israel allowed for gays to openly serve in the military. In 1997, Same sex partners were privy to benefits in both the private and public sectors. In 2000, Israel officially recognized adoption by same sex couples, and in 2006, the country recognized international same sex marriage.


Just a few weeks ago, 100,000 people marched at Israel’s Pride Parade. These are simple facts regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Israel, and yet QAIA continue to use the Pride Parade as a vehicle to condemn a country who stands behind their own human rights.


“We are more determined than ever to galvanize and march at this year’s parade,” said Apple. “Kulanu is Hebrew for ‘all of us’ – we value inclusivity and diversity, everything that Pride used to be.”


Councilor Giorgio Mammoliti admitted that that a resolution was passed by the City to allow Pride board members to make their own decisions without councilor interference. However, Pride then reversed its original decision to ban the term “Israeli Apartheid” from the parade, which is why, as of now, they will still be marching.


“Some of us are wondering if this was done intentionally from the beginning,” said Mammoliti. “We feel they [Pride Toronto] used Toronto in this manner.”


Mammoliti wishes to pass a motion whereby all money paid to the Pride board should be reimbursed retroactively to the city, since Toronto does not support the way in which they are currently using it – as a means to spread hatred.


“Pride should not be bankrolled if it’s going to support hate and intolerance,” added Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.


Mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi, also present at the conference, was appalled that the festival has been politicized.


“Pride is a symbol of peace, love, and tolerance,” he said. “It should never be about hate. I urge Pride to return to its original stand on the issue.”


Moshe Ronen, chair of Canada-Israel Committee, added that it is important to remember that Pride Toronto is on trial here, not the sponsors or participants in the event. “Pride is on trial for allowing this hypocrisy,” he concluded.

Related articles: (CJC, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Gay Pride Parade, Benlolo, Israeli Apartheid, Pride Toronto)

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