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No Pride In Israeli Apartheid

June 24, 2012

Since 2008, the Zionist lobby has tried to ban Queers Against Israeli Apartheid Toronto (QuAIA) from the Pride parade. Amelia Murphy-Beaudoin from Socialist Worker talked to Dianne Moore from QuAIA about standing in solidarity with Palestinian Queers who have no rights under Israel`s apartheid policies.

Why is Israeli Apartheid a Queer issue?

Queers have always been at the vanguard of human rights struggles, as far back as the civil rights and anti-South African apartheid struggles.

The Brand Israel campaign has chosen to use Queers to Pinkwash Israel’s apartheid policies, it is the responsibility of the Queer community to speak against this—we will not be used. Palestinian Queers have no rights under Israel’s brutal occupation…there is no pink door in the apartheid wall.

What is Pinkwashing?

Pinkwashing is covering up unethical practices by using claims of caring for the Queer community or even claiming support for Queer rights. Israel is using Queers to “rebrand” itself, claiming to be an oasis of gay tolerance and “the only democracy in the Middle Eeast”. Israel pinkwashes its apartheid policies by using Queers in its propaganda campaign.

Another example of Pinkwashing is illustrated by the so-called “Ethical Oil” campaign that the Alberta Tar Sands is promoting. They cite the way that Queers in Saudi Arabia, and in other Middle Eastern countries where we have traditionally gone to for our oil, are targeted for abuse and sometimes death, whereas in Alberta and in Canada, Queers have rights. This Pinkwashing is covering up the fact that the Tar Sands are still an environmental catastrophe and even if Alberta and Canada are not as overtly antipathetic to Queers and Queer rights, this does not erase the fact that the Tar Sands are an unethical environmental practice. Nor does it account for the fact that homophobia is everywhere.

What is Israel’s record on Queer rights?

Israel legalized homosexuality in 1988. It is still largely homophobic, with Tel Aviv being an exception and actually called “The Bubble”. When Jerusalem hosted World Pride, Queers needed the Israeli Defence Force to escort them to a stadium where they were isolated and guarded for their own protection.

Recently, the Knesset refused not only to legalize same-sex marriage but has also upheld Israel’s policy of not allowing mixed religions to marry. The only appropriate marriages, according to the Knesset, are those that exclusively join straight Jewish couples together. If an Israeli citizen married a Palestinian they would not be allowed to reside in, work in, or buy property in Israel.

Whatever Queer rights have been gained in some parts of Israel, all of these gains have been made in spite of Israel’s pushback, and none of these rights extend to the occupied territories.

How does QuAIA counter accusations of being hateful and anti-Semitic?

We are criticizing Israel’s apartheid practices. We are not criticizing Jews. Many, many Jews in Israel, around the world and within QuAIA, are appalled by Israel’s cruel and inhuman treatment of Palestinians. There are several activist Jewish groups that are openly opposed to the racist Zionist policies in Israel, including: Not In Our Name—Jewish Voices Opposing Zionism, Jewish Women Against The Occupation, Independent Jewish Voices, and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.

It is an old and tired tactic of the Zionist Lobby to accuse anyone who criticizes Israel of being anti-Semitic. How ironic that these same apologists and ferocious defenders of Israel argue that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, but when it comes to our democratic rights to free speech and the absolute right and duty to speak out against any government that is engaging in illegal practices, suddenly these defenders of Israel are all about silencing dissent.

Recently, Sudanese people who had fled their war torn country and moved to Israel for safety and survival have been forcibly rounded up and are now being forcibly transported out of Israel. These Sudanese refugees are referred to, not as people but as “a cancer” that must be removed. This is racism by any standard. It is also deeply troubling when one reflects on what was done in the late 1930s and early to mid-1940s in Germany to the Jews, the Roma, the Queers, and all the “others” that Hitler’s Nazi Regime also regarded as a cancer on the purity of the Aryan State.

Why is the link to Apartheid an accurate description of Israel’s policies?

The term “Israeli Apartheid” is not a rhetorical slogan. It is a fact on the ground confirmed in a major study by South Africa’s national Human Sciences Research Council.

When you have rights and privileges for one group of people only and these rights and privileges are based on race, ethnicity and religion—this is apartheid. There is a wall intersecting through Palestine that in Israel is called Gadeer Hafrada. Translated, this means Separation Fence. The word for separate in Afrikans is Apartheid.

Jews in Israel have more privileges today than the whites in South Africa had during the Apartheid regime and today the suffering of the Palestinians is far worse than the deplorable racist suffering of South Africa’s black population during that nation’s apartheid regime.

Israel’s Apartheid policies is exemplified by the apartheid wall, the illegal settlements, the illegal check points, the illegal occupation and the terrible abuses that Palestinians are subjected to every day.

Why did QuAIA decide to march in the Pride parade this year, but not last year?

Last year the City Manager completely vindicated QuAIA with his report that clearly admitted QuAIA had never been in violation of the city’s Anti-Discrimination policy and that the term Israeli Apartheid is not hate speech. Mayor Ford was nevertheless still threatening to withhold the funding to Pride Toronto and the in kind services if QuAIA marched. We refused to be a scapegoat for Ford and his homophobic agenda, so we publicly declared that we had decided not to march in the parade and dared Mayor Ford to fund Pride.

This year, having clearly won the battle at City Hall, we will march in the parade. We are a legitimate, Queer, human rights group, and the Queer community wants us to participate.

How has the QuAIA controversy galvanized the community?

When Pride Toronto 2010 initially made the decision to ban the phrase “Israeli Apartheid” and effectively censor QuAIA from participating in any of Pride Toronto’s marches and events, the community rose up in outrage to protest.

Regardless of their position on Israel/Palestine, Queers were united in our outrage over bring censored.

Former grand marshals and honourees returned their awards, and the community came together to protest the decision. These protests pushed Pride Toronto to rescind the ban and QuAIA was allowed to march. The group Pride Coalition for Free Speech (PCFS) grew out of these mobilizations.

The Community Advisory Panel (CAP) was struck to address concerns that Pride Toronto was not properly representing the Queer community. At the end of several months of interviews with various community groups, the CAP Report was released, recommending a process be organized to deal with grievances. Thus, the Dispute Resolution Process was created as an at arms length arbiter that can rule on complaints.

This year, a coalition of Queer political groups and individuals came together to form Queers For Social Justice. The Queer community is re-politicizing, and QuAIA is proud to be a part of that.

What`s next for QuAIA?

We recently held an amazing event called “Queer Dissident Voices” at “The Beautiful And The Damned Poetry Cabaret” at Zelda’s as an official Pride Toronto Affiliated Event. We followed up with an informative and very stimulating panel on Pinkwashing advertised as “What do the Tar Sands, Breast Cancer and Israeli Apartheid have in common? Pinkwashing.”

We are allied with Queers For Social Justice to bring politics to the forefront at Pride. Celebrate! Demonstrate! Agitate!!

QuAIA will continue its work in solidarity with Palestinian Queers, taking our lead from Palestinian Queer groups like Aswat and AlQaws. We continue to support the call for an international Queer boycott of Israel, and we will keep working in our community so that everyone can understand why the name Queers Against Israeli Apartheid is not only accurate, it is morally and ethically paramount because apartheid, wherever it exists, is a crime against humanity. And Queer is our Humanity.


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