Queers Against Israeli Apartheid – standing proud in the face of threats and intimidation

April 30, 2010

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) is a Toronto-based organization that was formed to work in solidarity with queers in Palestine and Palestinian resistance movements around the world. We support the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law. As queers, we recognize that homophobia exists in Israel, Palestine, and across all borders, but queer Palestinians face the additional challenge of living under occupation, subject to Israeli state violence and control. We also recognize that as part of its Rebranding Campaign, Israel is cultivating an image of itself as an oasis of gay tolerance in the Middle East. QuAIA works to out this ‘pinkwashing’ of Israeli apartheid.

For the past two years, QuAIA has marched in Toronto’s Pride Parade despite attempts by Israel lobby groups to have us banned. In 2009, over 200 people marched under the QuAIA banner at the Pride Parade. The success of QuAIA is seen as a threat to supporters of Israeli apartheid, who have renewed their smear campaign against the group. Israel lobby groups are pressing private sponsors and all levels of government to pull funding from Pride Toronto if QuAIA is allowed to march.

In response to this pressure, in March 2010, Pride Toronto implemented a policy that required all groups to have their slogans pre-approved before marching in the parade. Community outrage forced Pride to remove this condition, but the attacks on QuAIA continue. In April 2010, City of Toronto staff warned Pride Toronto to ban QuAIA from the parade or they could face cuts to its City funding. Mayoral candidates have started to make similar threats to Pride. At this point it is not clear whether Pride will give in to these demands, but QuAIA is prepared to fight any ban that may be imposed. The tremendous outpouring of support we have already received from our allies tells us that we will not be alone in this fight.

The attack on QuAIA takes place in a broader context of attempts by all levels of government to suppress criticism of Israel in Canada. In just over a year, we have seen cuts to the funding of the Canadian Arab Federation, KAIROS and UNRWA, the banning of George Galloway, and a motion in the Ontario legislature condemning Israeli Apartheid Week. These attacks prove that BDS is an increasing threat to Israeli apartheid and have only strengthened our resolve.

QuAIA will not back down in the face of threats and intimidation – we are proud of our commitment to BDS and our solidarity with Palestinians, queer-identified and straight. We will march in Pride Toronto 2010 because we are proud of our politics.