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QuAIA Plans to Return to Toronto Pride Parade

Anti-Israel group skipped parade in 2011 after mayor’s threats to cut Pride funding
By: Sammy Hudes
Published: May 16th, 2012 in News » World

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) say they plan to take part in this summer’s Toronto Pride parade, according to the Toronto Star.

Last year, QuAIA decided not to march after Toronto Mayor Rob Ford threatened to defund Pride week should the group participate. Ford has gone on record calling QuAIA’s message, “hate speech.”

“Rob Ford wants to use us as an excuse to cut Pride funding, even though he has always opposed funding the parade, long before we showed up,” QuAIA spokesperson Elle Flanders said last year.

On Tuesday, QuAIA member Tony Souza told The Star, “We decided we didn’t want to be the scapegoat for Pride not getting funding from the city. But this year, we feel, well, it’s time to go back.

“We are a queer group in the city. It so happens that the issue we’re talking about is controversial, but that doesn’t mean that the work that we do, which is basically for justice for people, should not be celebrated.”

QuAIA’s website explains that the organization was formed to “work in solidarity with queers in Palestine and Palestine solidarity movements around the world.

“Today, in response to increasing criticism of its occupation of Palestine, Israel is cultivating an image of itself as an oasis of gay tolerance in the Middle East, a practice that is called pinkwashing. As queers, we recognize that homophobia exists in Israel, Palestine, and across all borders.”

The website states “the struggle for sexual rights cannot come at the price of other rights.

“Queer Palestinians continue to face the challenge of living under occupation and apartheid, subject to Israeli state violence and control, regardless of liberal laws within Israel that allow gays to serve in the military, or recognize same sex marriage and adoption for Israeli citizens.”

The Pride festival, which will be held June 22 to July 1, must publish a list of groups in early June that have registered to participate.

If a complaint about QuAIA’s participation is filed by a resident to the festival’s dispute resolution body, a panel of legal experts will render a final decision on whether it can march in the parade, The Star reports.

City officials have recommended that council give Pride $123,807, which amounts to approximately 8 per cent of the festival’s $1.6 million budget, according to co-chair Francisco Alvarez.

“The funding decision is the city’s itself,” Howard English, senior vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) told The Star. “None of us here at CIJA are members of council. We don’t have a vote.”

In April 2011, council asked city manager Joe Pennachetti to decide whether QuAIA’s participation would violate the city’s anti-discrimination policy.

He concluded that “the phrase ‘Israeli Apartheid’ in and of itself does not violate the City’s anti-discrimination policy as it does not impede the provision of services and employment provided directly by Pride or the City to any group on any grounds provided for in the Policy.”

Pennachetti noted that the term “Israeli Apartheid” had not been found to violate either the Criminal Code of Canada or the Ontario Human Rights Code.

However, English said that the implicit and inaccurate comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa is offensive in itself.

“We certainly hope that in making its decision, council keeps in mind the hateful nature of QuAIA’s messaging and the extent to which it’s divorced from the reality of public opinion among the people of Toronto,” he said.

City councilor James Pasternak told The Star he hopes “Pride says no to bullying and demonization and yes to respect and tolerance.”

Related articles: QuAIA, Toronto, Pride parade, Pride, LGTBQ, LGBQ, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Tony Souza, Rob Ford, Elle Flanders, Israel, Palestine, Howard English, CIJA, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Joe Pennachetti, city council, James Pasternak
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