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QuAIA brings toned-down message to Pride parade, Jewish group’s support boisterous


Signs carried by members and allies of Kulanu Toronto tout the organization and highlight gay rights in Israel. (Photo: Joanne Hill) Signs carried by members and allies of Kulanu Toronto tout the organization and highlight gay rights in Israel. (Photo: Joanne Hill)

 

TORONTO – Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) marched in Sunday’s Pride parade after being given the green light by Pride Toronto’s dispute resolution panel (DRP).

QuAIA brought a toned-down message, just one Palestinian flag and recycled signs to the parade this year. At least within earshot of the Jewish Tribune’s reporter, they refrained from repeating their 2010 call for an intifada; instead, their chants were, “We’re sexy, we’re hot, Israeli apartheid’s not” and, “Free, free Palestine.” As has happened when they’ve marched in previous Pride parades, their militant chants drew mostly silence from the watching crowd. One audience member was overheard commenting, “Why are they doing that here? It doesn’t make sense.”

In contrast, the positive energy from the approximately 100 people who marched with Kulanu Toronto, the Jewish LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) group, including some from the Paul Penna Jewish Day School, Congregation Darchei Noam and Congregation Shir Libeynu, received loud, boisterous whistles and cheers from the crowd. The Kulanu Toronto group carried large bunches of balloons (some a mixture of rainbow colours and some just blue and white), a few Israeli flags and signs with positive messages both about the organization and about gay rights in Israel.

Justine Apple, executive director, Kulanu Toronto, said she and others would like to see an end to QuAIA’s participation in Pride altogether.

“Queers Against Israeli Apartheid uses the Pride parade as a forum to spew their hatred, as a platform to share inflammatory messaging about Israel,” said Apple. “They don’t belong in the parade.... Kulanu Toronto and the greater LGBT community would like for QuAIA to be removed from Pride permanently.”

Last Wednesday, Pride Toronto’s DRP heard a complaint by the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada concerning QuAIA’s registration to march in the parade. On Friday, the panel dismissed the league’s complaint, and QuAIA was free to march.

Despite the ruling in their favour, QuAIA member Sue Goldstein said she wasn’t convinced the dispute resolution process was “a good idea.”

When asked why, she responded, “Why not take it to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario? Let’s make the decision there. Let’s really bring the issue out and let’s have the discussion in the open.... Let’s just try and have a really open discussion with integrity and respect.”

The anti-Zionist group Independent Jewish Voices marched directly in front of QuAIA. Altogether, the anti-Israel contingent seemed about half the size of the Kulanu Toronto group. Just a few of the many other organizations which participated in the Pride parade were the Toronto Area Intactivists, Occupy Toronto, Ismaili Queers, Iranian Queers for Social Justice, T.O. Gay Gamers, the Polyamory Culture Club and Atheist Pride. Unions, churches, banks and businesses, including Viagra, Google and Trojan, had a presence in the parade. Politicians from different levels of government, including Toronto City Council, also took part.

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