Pride Reverses Ban on Israeli Apartheid
CJC: Pride organizers "succumbing to pressure tactics."
Just a week before Pride Toronto’s annual parade, the previous ban on the controversial phrase “Israeli Apartheid” has been lifted.
Tracey Sandilands, Pride Toronto’s executive director, confirmed on Wednesday that the decision was approved. It will require each participating group in the July 4th parade to sign a contract agreeing to abide by the city’s Declaration of a Non-Discrimination Policy.
The resolution came after three respected member of Toronto’s gay and lesbian community proposed the alternative option, after having spoken to Pastor Brent Hawkes of the Metropolitan Community Church, human rights lawyer Doug Elliott, and 519 Church Street Community Centre executive director Maura Lawless.
The proposal was then unanimously voted upon by the board.
“There are a large number of people that are sad at the way the community is currently torn over this issue,” said Pastor Brent Hawkes. “Pride has found itself in the middle of a difficult situation and we felt it was time to step in and see how we could help.”
According to Pride senior co-chair Genevieve D’Iorio, “We are extremely grateful to the community leaders that took the time to work on this proposal and help us examine ways to resolve this impasse. The board’s intention has always been to make the best decision possible to ensure the success of Pride and we believe that this proposal is a really constructive way forward.”
Back on May 21, Pride Toronto’s board of directors had stated that use of the term “Israeli apartheid” went against the city’s anti-discrimination policy, referring to the Ontario legislature’s decision to denounce Israeli Apartheid Week last February.
The group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid then denounced the ban, and threatened to boycott the festival since that time, the parade’s grand marshal has resigned, and other dissidents have threatened to initiate an alternative to Toronto’s Pride Parade.
According to Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, “it’s absolutely astounding that bullying and intimidation seems to be a message that works. In other words, if you want to get something, just bully and intimidate and you’ll get your way. The hateful and violent language from last year is very well-known and I think people as a result, and I’m sad to say this, will stay away.”
The National Post reported that Tim McCaskell, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid spokesman, said he thought the decision to ban the phrase “Israeli apartheid” was about censorship, not hate.
Pride Toronto, which received close to $120,000 in funding from the city last year, said it initially decided to ban the phrase during the parade for fear funding would be pulled from multiple sources. In a statement released June 7, the group said “the use of the words ‘Israeli apartheid’ made participants feel unsafe.”
Nonetheless, however, organizers have caved.
Jordan Kerbel of the Canadian Jewish Congress told Shalom Life: “I can tell you that we think the organizers of the pride parade are now cowering and giving in to bullying and intimidation tactics. What they should have done was stuck to their original statement, which was correct, and stand up against discrimination and hateful messaging that the anti-Israel organization is planning to deliver. They should not have succumbed to the pressure tactics.”
“The whole idea of the pride parade,” Kerbel continued, “is to create a safe and respectful environment, and the groups that bring messages of discrimination and intimidation must not be given license to hijack the parade, and turn it into a propaganda tool for inflammatory anti Israel venom.”