Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA)

Theoutcome of a coordinated attack onQuAIA and allies didn’t pan out for the Zionists this year. Despite threateningPride Toronto’s funding and drafting several city council members to aid intheir attempt to keep QuAIA from the Pride marches, an overwhelming responsefrom the broader queer community forced PT to backtrack on both its banning ofthe words “Israeli apartheid” and its proposed vetting of all participatinggroups’ signs and slogans. The ban on those two little words lit a powder kegin a community that has been coming to a slow boil for years. Issues of racism,class, gender, sexism, and the corporatization of Pride mixed with questionsof free speech and censorship in meetings and events.

A new group formed: thePride Coalition for Free Speech (PCFS). While not part of the Palestine solidarity movement, the confluenceof the banning of QuAIA and the brutal attack on the Mavi Marmara brought withit some openings. A number of new queer faces showed up at several of thedemonstrations against Israel’sattack on the flotilla. Together with the PCFS, QuAIA organized severalprotests and events, including a demonstration at PT’s lackluster pressconference where they tried to justify the ban, and a public return ofhonourifics and awards by 23 people, including this year’s grand marshall andhonoured dyke. The annual human rights event during Pride week was cancelled inprotest against PT’s banning of QuAIA. A brief letter to the board fromscheduled speakers for the program stated, “With their voices go ours. P.S.‘Israeli Apartheid’.”[1] Just days before the marches and parade, PT reversedthe ban. And we marched, with over 300 people. Together with the PCFS, many ofwhom sported QuAIA stickers, we were close to 1000. Subsequently, queers marchedopenly against Israeli apartheid in pride marches in Edmonton,Vancouver, and Montreal.

These successes did not come without opposition. Kulanu (a local queer and pro-IsraeliJewish organization) also reached out to their supporters: the Canadian JewishCongress, B’Nai Brith, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, United JewishAppeal, and the Jewish Defense League (JDL). In fact, while groups gathered intheir assigned spots for the parade, the JDL continuously harassed the QuAIAand PCFS contingent. Several cops marched directly behind the QuAIA contingent.PT’s idea of security. In the wake of the G-20, it wasn’t comforting. In themeantime, QuAIA has many new members and we are working on plans for the nextyear of work.

For more in depth coverage of the whole bloody affair and to see what isforthcoming for QuAIA, go to QuAIA’s website at: queersagainstapartheid.org – and –Xtra!’s (the local queer rag in Toronto)complete archive of coverage of the Pride debacle at: http://www.xtra.ca/public/national/staticontent/367.aspx

[1] http://twitpic.com/1vjcfi

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