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Queers Against Israeli Apartheid Retiring

February 26, 2015

After seven years of Palestine solidarity work in LGBTQ communities, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid will officially retire at the end of the month.

QuAIA was formed in 2008, after a public forum during Israeli Apartheid Week at the University of Toronto where concerns were raised about “pinkwashing”: Israel’s use of gay rights to divert international attention away from the state’s violation of Palestinian human rights. The small activist group was propelled into international celebrity after the pro-Israel lobby attempted to have Pride Toronto’s funding revoked in order to silence Palestine solidarity voices at the 2010 festival.

Over the last seven years, QuAIA’s accomplishments include:

*Educating Canadians about the conditions of occupation and apartheid policies in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

*Winning rulings under the City of Toronto’s Anti-discrimination Policy, Pride Toronto’s Dispute Resolution Process (under Ontario Arbitration Act), and at an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, that the term Israeli apartheid is a legitimate form of political expression, despite aggressive attempts by the Israel lobby to brand criticism of Israeli government policy and actions as hate speech.

*Making the terms “Israeli apartheid” and “pinkwashing” household words in queer communities in Toronto and around the globe.

*Fighting attacks by several city politicians and lobbyists on Pride funding.

*Sparking a community discussion about freedom of expression, censorship and politics at Pride, which led to a major rejuvenation of the festival and challenged the move to turn Pride into a corporate-driven spectacle geared to tourists.

*Hosting forums, screenings and educational events that built connections and coalitions with other movements for social justice (feminists, anti-Tar Sands activists, First Nations, etc.)

*Inspiring the formation of other QuAIA groups in queer communities around the world, and promoting dialogue and action on transnational queer politics.

Over the past year, however, the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, Canada’s involvement in attempts to suppress the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel and other pressing issues have pulled activist energies in many directions. Most of the original members who came together during QuAIA’s formative years are now working within a variety of fields and organizations within Toronto and internationally, stretching the small group’s resources to continue in its current form.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to make,” explained group member, Tim McCaskell. “But we decided that retiring QuAIA allows us all to develop new strategies for supporting the Palestine solidarity movement and to make new links across oppressions in our communities.”

“QuAIA did exactly what an activist group should do,” said early spokesperson Elle Flanders. “We organized, we shifted public opinion, we raised awareness, we stood in solidarity and created a space for people to talk about Palestine. We did so through targeted campaigns and endless hours of research and outreach.”

“QuAIA has been a trailblazer in building solidarity with Palestine in Canada,” said Ali Abunimah, author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine. “As Israel launched its effort to ‘pinkwash’ its oppression of the Palestinians and falsely market itself as an LGBTQ haven, QuAIA’s work provided an important political analysis that has educated me and many others about what principled solidarity looks like.”

The QuAIA website will be archived and remain on line as a community resource.


Pride Toronto DRP dismisses further complaints against QuAIA

June 6, 2013

The Pride Toronto Dispute Resolution Panel has released reasons for decisions dismissing two additional complaints filed against QuAIA in 2012.

2013-06-06 Clark PTDRP decision

2013-06-06 Berner PTDRP decision



QuAIA members speak

June 5, 2013

The following deputations were delivered by members of QuAIA at the May 28 meeting of the Executive Committee of the City of Toronto on the subject of the new municipal Anti-Discrimination Policy. In the past year, pro-Israel groups such as B’nai Brith have continued their long-standing campaign to exclude QuAIA from the Pride Parade by demanding that the new policy explicitly proscribe any discussion of “Israeli apartheid.” The report on the policy handed to the Executive Committee on April 9, written by municipal staff and lawyers, made clear that such a provision would be inappropriate, but the Executive Committee, chaired by mayor Rob Ford, has refused to approve the policy, instead proposing a series of amendments that could be used to stifle criticism of Israel. City Council will vote on the issue at its upcoming meeting on June 11 and 12.

Elle Flanders

I speak before you today as a member of the Toronto lesbian and gay community; as the former executive director of the lesbian and gay film festival; a former board member of Pride Toronto; as well as a member of the Jewish community. I am also a member of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. I have fought for a good part of my life to obtain equal rights —those that allow me to speak before you as an equal citizen today. As a Jewish woman, I am all too aware of how fragile one’s equality is—and hence I do not only fight for my own rights but the rights of others as well.

Many QuAIA members are Jewish with roots or implications in what takes place in Israel and Palestine. Other members are longtime human rights and social justice activists. On these bases—Pride has always been political and it is not for any one of you, not even councilor Pasternak, to decide which politics can or cannot be at Pride.

My grandparents helped establish the State of Israel councilors. I grew up in Jerusalem. I am neither self-hating nor deluded. I have spent most of my adult life shadowed by and hence making films about the conflict in Israel and Palestine. Israel is a state like any other, with flaws, like many others. Israel is not a sacred cow and is not above critique. There is NOTHING inherently hurtful, hateful, anti- Semitic, or any other words that have been carelessly bandied about in the face of a critique of Israeli state policy.

The words Israeli Apartheid are nothing more than a descriptor of systemic racist policies that one ruling ethnic group has imposed on another in the same land. I grew up in Israel, I think I have some authority and knowledge to tell you a little bit about what is happening there. It saddens me. This was my grandparent’s and parent’s dream, a land they help to build. But in that dream, others were dispossessed. And in that dispossession, much injustice has occurred. I am not afraid to say that, I am not afraid to admit when I and/or my people have erred. And Israel has indeed erred.

In 2009, I lived in the West Bank for a year, yes, a nice Jewish lesbian living in Ramallah. My partner and I traveled every day for six months on a segregated road system; they are known as the apartheid roads because they are segregated by your ethnic identity. Roads for Jewish Israelis, roads for Palestinians. We made a film about these roads that screened at TIFF 2011. Yes, a film about the apartheid roads that thousands of people saw at TIFF. You cannot single out Pride, Councilor Pasternak.

The Israel Supreme Court heard a case arguing that the road systems constituted a state of apartheid—The term is used in Israeli newspapers and by many Israeli politicians. Just in the last few months, countless articles appeared in the Israeli press citing Israeli Apartheid. Are they too creating “atmospheres of discrimination (or hurt)”? Are you suggesting that Toronto knows more about Israeli Apartheid than Israel?

While there are voices from individuals in the Toronto Jewish community who may claim this hurtful, I too am the Toronto Jewish community. And I say otherwise.

Enough is enough. Council’s cannot continue to single Pride out. This must end here and now. Your city staff has said so and Pride’s Dispute Resolution Committee has said so.

Perhaps if councilor Pasternak and those who find the term Israeli Apartheid hurtful, could see the real effects of these insidious policies, perhaps just then, they would help us all move to peace, and not apartheid.

Niko Block

What I’d like to talk about here is the politics of the closet versus the politics of pride, so I’ll begin by coming out of the closet to this committee in a couple of different ways.

The first thing that I’d like to tell you about myself is that I was born in Toronto and raised largely within the queer community of this city.

The second thing I’d like to disclose is that I have been in long-term relationships and casual sexual relationships with both men and women. For several years I was confused as to how to sexually identify, but I eventually came to identify as a queer myself. As an identity, queerness encompasses an expression of human solidarity, as well as a critique of heteronormativity, patriarchy, and other forms of oppression. Queerness is, in fact, the very ideology that has allowed me to feel comfortable exploring my sexual feelings toward other men.

The third thing is that I am Jewish, and half-Israeli. Five years ago, I traveled to Israel and to the West Bank, where I lived for half a year. That experience significantly altered my perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as historical processes of colonialism more generally, and since then I have seldom revealed to an acquaintance that I am Jewish without also adding that I am an anti-Zionist.

What I am saying here is that being a queer who is against Israeli apartheid is a fundamental part of who I am. It sounds incredibly naive to me when I hear anyone assert that Pride is not a political event, because my ability to express my identity as a queer is just as important to me as my ability to express my identity as a Jewish anti-Zionist. The rhetoric of groups such as B’nai Brith purports to encourage us to come out of the closet as non-heterosexuals, but simultaneously refuses to allow us to come out of the closet as members of the left. Those identities to me are inextricable.

Pride became a major institution in Toronto amidst one of the largest health crises our city has ever faced. Between 1993 and 1998, over 7,300 Canadians died as a result of AIDS, and one quarter of those deaths took place here in Toronto.

As this crisis hit, it soon became obvious that the culture of shame that dominated at the time was killing people; it was killing the queer community, it was killing our friends and members of our families. Multiple studies and historical assessments of the AIDS crisis have demonstrated that at an institutional level, homophobia exacerbated the AIDS crisis. The government and the medical establishment were slow to react, and carriers of the infection were stigmatized due to its association with the gay community.

I see that as a relatively straightforward example of how the culture of the closet can kill people, and I’d like to propose to the committee that Pride is not simply about throwing a party in the street, or about bringing money into the city, or about getting wasted and getting laid. To some of us, Pride is also about saving lives.

Since 2005, 3,400 Palestinians have been killed by Israel, while 125 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians. That means that in the past 8 years, over 96% of the deaths in the region have been Palestinian.

I have never met a single soul who has visited West Bank cities like Nablus and Hebron and Jenin and still refuses to believe that Israel’s policies toward Palestinians are responsible for the ongoing death in that region. Indeed, as a result of those policies, Palestinians do not have a state, and they are therefore denied access to the rights of citizenship.

During my time there, I met Palestinian children who have been permanently disabled and disfigured by Israeli bullets; I met multiple young men who had been imprisoned for years simply for demonstrating in the streets. It is well documented that throughout its history, Israel has detained hundreds of thousands of Palestinians without charge or fair trial, and that it continues to use torture systematically against these detainees, some of them as young as 12. Some Palestinians in Israeli prisons have in fact been tortured and beaten to death, and these deaths are ongoing.

That Canada is complicit in these acts of violence is a source of shame and frustration for me, but I do have faith that if enough of us are fully allowed to express ourselves and have the patience to understand each other – if enough of us, in other words, are allowed to come entirely out of the closet – then we might be able to improve the situation there. We are simply demanding that we be allowed to talk freely about the issues that matter to us today, because they are a matter of life and death and because we remain hopeful that things will improve if we express enough understanding toward one another.


City Staff to Toronto Councillors: Don’t Ban “Israeli Apartheid”

April 22, 2013
Report advises City Council not to ban the phrase from city-funded events

April 22, 2013 Toronto City of Toronto staff, directed by right-wing councillors on Council’s Executive Committee to advise on how to ban the phrase “Israeli apartheid” from Toronto’s Pride parade, returned with a defiant response: Don’t do it.

In a nine-page report delivered last week, city staff told councillors that the presence of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid at the annual LGBT festival “has not been found to be in violation of the City’s grants policy or guidelines, corporate anti-discrimination policies, provincial human rights legislation or the Criminal Code (hate provisions).”

“The law is clear to everyone except a handful of right-wing councillors: you can’t ban the phrase ‘Israeli apartheid’,” said Tim McCaskell of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. “We have advice from lawyers, and now city staff, all telling councillors that they must allow free expression at the Pride parade.”

The Executive Committee will vote tomorrow, Tuesday, April 23, whether to accept the staff report. If the recommendations are rejected, they will still go to the full council on May 4 for a vote.

Several other organizations have also expressed their concern on this issue:

CANADIAN CIVIL LIBERTIES ASSOCIATION: “The City currently provides funding grants to Pride, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Toronto International Film Festival…. How will you handle the next demand to defund the AGO or TIFF because a particular exhibit or film highlighting human rights violations was offensive to those whose country was targeted?”

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: “As a public institution dedicated to the freedom of artistic expression, we are committed to this fundamental element of the Canadian Charter of Rights. We are committed to create opportunities for individuals to share and exchange their viewpoints in an environment of mutual respect. We consider freedom of expression to be an essential element of our mandate.”

PEN CANADA: “PEN believes that the City of Toronto and its residents are better served when all are allowed to express their viewpoints freely.”

TORONTO’S MAJOR CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS: “As public institutions dedicated to artistic expression, we consider freedom of expression to be an essential element of our mandate.”

Kevin Garland, National Ballet of Canada

Denise Herrera-Jackson, Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival

Michele Maheux, Toronto International Film Festival

Alexandra Montgomery, Gardiner Museum

Alexander Neef, Canadian Opera Company

Janice Price, Luminato

Matthew Teitelbaum, Art Gallery of Ontario

Grant Troop, National Ballet School of Canada

Andrew Shaw, Toronto Symphony Orchestra

– 30 –

For more information, please contact


Israel/Palestine and the Queer International: A Conversation with Sarah Schulman and Richard Fung

March 5, 2013

Saturday March 23, 2013, 3:00 until 5:00 pm

Glad Day Bookshop, 598 Yonge St, Toronto, Ontario M4Y1Z3

Join University of Toronto Mark S. Bonham Centre Fellows Sarah Schulman and Richard Fung for an engaging conversation about Schulman’s latest book, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International.

Schulman’s new book is a chronicle of her political awakening and involvement in the Palestine liberation movement. In her book, Schulman introduces us to anti-occupation activists in Tel Aviv and queer Palestinian activists in the West Bank. She takes us from New York to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Madrid, Berlin, and Toronto as she explores the developing movement for international LGBTQ support for Palestinians.

Sarah Schulman is the author of 16 books as well as plays and films. She holds a Fulbright in Judaic Studies and is the director of the Homonationalism and Pinkwashing Conference at the City University of NY where she is a Distinguished Professor. She is a Fellow at The Mark S. Bonham Center of the University of Toronto.

Richard Fung is an award winning video artist and writer, and associate professor in the Faculty of Art at OCAD University. He is a Fellow at the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto.

This event is sponsored by Queers Against Israeli Apartheid and the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto.




QuAIA presents Lacan Palestine by Mike Hoolboom (in Person)

November 21, 2012

Saturday, November 24, 7 pm $8/ $5 Members + Students

@ Beit Zatoun House, 612 Markham Street 416-656-5577A co-presentation with Toronto Palestine Film Festival,
Queers Against Israel Apartheid (QuAIA) and Beit Zatoun.

Join us for a post-screening discussion with Richard Fung of QuAIA and Mike Hoolboom.

Fresh from screenings in Vienna, Jihlava, Montreal and Paris, Pleasure Dome presents the Toronto premiere of Mike Hoolboom’s new feature length film Lacan Palestine 
(70 min., 2012).

By adding his distinctive voice to the growing number of artists engaging with the subject of Palestine, Hoolboom skillfully crafts an essay film that collages newsreels, documentary interviews and Hollywood fabulations. As Zionist narratives of Palestine continue to be replayed in the corporate media, it is increasingly important to turn to counter-narratives of resistance. Hoolboom carefully complicates this record, replaying Palestine as the site of imperial projection and ghost protocols. Through an intricate analysis of the role of the father and the question of naming, Lacan Palestine offers an opulent collage that places the still-fledgling nation-state at the crossroads of psychoanalysis and permanent war.

Grand Prize Winner! at the 2012 Festival International Signes de Nuit
“The Grand Prize goes to Lacan Palestine for its immersion in a complex subject that arrives via a montage that is subtle, sensitive and strong. Its great visual richness emerges from impressive iconographic research. In spite of its diversity of images, this fluid work carries an insistent theme of personal history that makes us identify with a fate or destiny, creating a persistent, high wire hum.” (Festival International Signes de Nuit Grand Prize jury statement)

On Lacan Palestine:

“A mind boggling achievement by Canadian artist Mike Hoolboom, who has been called ‘the greatest found-footage master of the era.’ Skilfully assembled from existing film material, Hoolboom conjures visual allegories and cut-up counter-narratives around a notion of Palestine as “a land that is not a land.” Dizzying in its technical and conceptual density, Lacan Palestine is truly incomparable cinema.” (Nick Denes, London Palestine Film Festival)

“This beautiful experiment is as noble as it is absurd, the intractable struggle continues, and in the midst of this fine searching a single certitude emerges. We are really in front of something that we can call cinema. Its striking intelligence and sudden illuminations confront us with a singular and authentic cinema. In the acrobatic editing, in Hoolboom’s control from the beginning of the film to the end, there is something shining, urgent, burning. There is a nearly blinding dimension to this accumulation of fragments that impels the viewer to re-see the movie as soon as it is finished. To observe again its folding parts, to find the hidden meanings, to meditate again and again on its implications.” (Describing the Indescribable by Marcel Jean, 24 Images, no. 159, Oct/Nov 2012)

“The term essay film is sometimes used a bit too easily, but this really is one – and it isn’t an easy one. Skillfully cut and pasted from existing film material, the film provides a complex picture of Palestine. The land that is not a land, but does have inhabitants. An improbable place for love.

The foundation of Palestine has a long and difficult history, characterized by a continuing battle for the right to exist. In this cinematographic essay, entirely composed of found-footage material, the history of a land without land is sketched, with its painful relationship with its neighbour Israel. Epic scenes from features, iconic news footage of historic moments, the ever-changing map of Israel, video art by Velcrow Ripper, Elle Flanders and Dani Leventhal, but also very personal recordings of everyday survival, are linked together by the psychoanalytic reflections of filmmaker Mike Cartmell, based on his own painful personal history. From his background as an adopted child, he wonders when you become someone, and how society can emerge from individuals; he compares the functioning of a complex society with that of John Coltrane’s jazz combo, in which even five super-egos managed to achieve harmony. In Mike Hoolboom’s view of Palestine, love and violence exist side-by-side, as a matter of course.” (Gertjan Zuilhof, International Film Festival Rotterdam)

“Palestine is often described as a place that defies description, and for all the endless footage, a place that cannot be seen. Palestine lies between the imaginary and the real hence ‘imaging Palestine’ becomes perhaps one of the greatest cinematic and political challenges. Who better to take up this challenge than Toronto’s master experimental filmmaker Mike Hoolboom? The fragments that comprise Lacan Palestine are both the public and private languages that interpolate the symbolic sphere that constitute the history of Palestine and therefore the history of the Israel into being. As both a good analyst and a good filmmaker would know, originary myths uncover what lies at the heart of an ongoing conflict. And so Hoolboom takes us through these myths, dreams and canonical cinematic placeholders, presenting us Palestine in fragments—perhaps the only way to tell the story of what may be Palestine.

Hoolboom takes the name the father as a starting point, wherein the subject (here Palestine) comes into being through the law (Israel) and rifles through the deep psychoanalytic rift whose symptom is contemporary Palestine.” (Elle Flanders)

Mike Hoolboom is a Canadian artist working in film and video. He has made over fifty films and videos, though most have been withdrawn from circulation, approximately a dozen remain on view. His work has appeared in over four hundred festivals, garnering thirty awards. He has been granted the Tom Berner Award for community service and two lifetime achievement awards, the first from the city of Toronto, and the second from the Mediawave Festival in Hungary.

He has enjoyed retrospectives of his work at the Images Festival (Toronto), Visions du Reel (Switzerland), Cork International Festival (Ireland), Cinema de Balie (Amsterdam), Mediawave Festival (Hungary), Impakt Festival (Holland), Vila do Conde Festival (Portugal), Jihlava Documentary Festival (Czech Republic), Stuttgarter Filmwinter (Germany), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen (France), Sixpack Film (Vienna), the Buenos Aires International Festival (Argentina), and A Million Different Loves Festival in Poland.

He is a founding member of the Pleasure Dome screening collective and has worked as the artistic director of the Images Festival and as the experimental film co-ordinator at Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre.

Mike Hoolboom has published a pair of interview books with Canadian media artists, Practical Dreamers: Conversations with Media Artists (Coach House Press, 2008) and Inside the Pleasure Dome: Fringe Film in Canada (Coach House Press, 2001). He has edited or co-edited books on Frank Cole, Barbara Sternberg and Philip Hoffman, in addition to publishing electronic books on Deirdre Logue, Dani Leventhal, Al Razutis, Mike Cartmell, Steve Reinke, American Fringe Movies and the Documentary. In 1998 he authored Plague Years (YYZ Books) a tongue-in-chic autobiography. His first novel The Steve Machine was published by Coach House Press in the fall of 2008. He has published more than one hundred articles on fringe media which have appeared in magazines and catalogues around the world.

Since 2004 he has been working on Fringe Online ( ), a web project which makes available the archives of 40 Canadian media artists. This ongoing project currently consists of hundreds of pages of transcripts, reviews, interviews and scripts, and remains the largest publishing project in the Canadian fringe media sector.


ANC International Solidarity Conference supports boycott against Israel

November 21, 2012

BDS South Africa welcomes the position adopted by the African National Congress (ANC) International Solidarity Conference to support the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign.

28 October 2012

There was widespread support from international delegates for the adoption and support of the Palestinian BDS call. However, there was one objection from a delegate from Germany who argued that Israel cannot be compared to Apartheid South Africa and thus an all-out boycott of Israel is ‘ill-informed’. The ANC Chairperson, Baleka Mbete, strongly responded saying that she has been to Palestine herself and that the Israeli regime is not only comparable but ‘far worse than Apartheid South Africa’. Ms Mbete received a resounding round of applause from delegates for articulating this position.

The support given for the BDS call by the ANC International Solidarity Conference follows a statement that former Dutch anti-apartheid activist, Adri Nieuwhof, presented on behalf of over 150 former international anti-apartheid activists to the conference (find full statement here: calling on South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC, to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign. The international statement, presented by Nieuwhof, had the support of signatories from more than 19 countries, belonging to over 35 organizations. It also had the backing of long-time South African supporters such as E.S. Reddy, Alice Walker, Victoria Britain and Prexy Nesbitt. The statement read:

‘We – former international anti-apartheid activists – supported the ANC and the people of South Africa in their fight for liberation and against apartheid by mobilizing support for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the South African apartheid regime. We succeeded to put the crime of apartheid on the agenda of political parties, trade unions, churches…and concerned citizens. We called on people not to buy apartheid products and we discouraged tourism to the country. We campaigned for a weapons embargo, an oil embargo, a Krugerrand boycott, a sports, academic and cultural boycott.’

‘On the occasion of the 3rd ANC International Solidarity Conference, we call on the ANC to support the Palestinian people in their fight for freedom, justice and equality….We call on the ANC to support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as expression of the party’s solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people to enjoy their rights.’

The Palestine Liberation Organization representative who was present at the ANC International Solidarity Conference welcomed the statement by the former international anti-apartheid activists calling on the ANC to support the Palestinian BDS call and further stressed the conditions of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, thus the ANC International Solidarity conference decided to also include a demand for the release of all Palestinian political prisoners into the conference’s declaration.

The Palestinian BDS call, issued in 2005, has come from the largest civil and political gathering of Palestinians. It is a non-violent method, modeled on the successful boycott of Apartheid South Africa, that has been adopted by Palestinians to pressurize the Israeli regime to respect international law and create the conditions to negotiate for a just peace.

Muhammed Desai: +27 (0) 84 211 9988 /
Adri Nieuwhof: +27 (0) 71 182 4642 /

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