The decision today to ban a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from Toronto’s Gay Pride parade is drawing fire from some gay activists for “censorship” – but has earned praise for “censoring a hateful message” from the Canadian B’nai Brith.
At a raucous press conference earlier — interrupted by cries of “Shame!” and “Resign!” from QAIA activists — Pride Toronto officials announced the group’s exclusion.
Pride co-chair Genevieve D’Iorio told the Toronto Star that the long-running controversy around the organization had put the festival, North America’s largest Gay Pride march, “in jeopardy.”
“To not have a celebration is unacceptable and would be detrimental to the experience of millions and to the existence of this organization. As we celebrate 30 years of Pride in 2010, this will not be the year we see our festival cancelled because of any one specific message,” she told the paper. A Toronto City Council member had threatened to withhold city funding and accommodation if QAIA was allowed to march.
After news of a possible ban was leaked last week, Canada’s Bnai Brith issued a press release applauding Pride organizers. “We wish to commend Pride Toronto for taking the correct and courageous step of censoring the hateful messaging of QAIA,” said Frank Dimant, B’nai Brith Canada’s Executive Vice President. “The Pride Parade is about diversity and promoting human rights. Issues that clearly do not mesh with the hateful messaging and antisemitism we have witnessed from QAIA in past years.”
On its own site, QAIA blamed “Toronto City Hall [one of Pride’s main funders] and Israel lobbyists, who claim that criticisms of the Israeli government amount to hate and discrimination. By caving to their demands, Pride Toronto has not only silenced the voices of queer Palestinians and human rights activists —they have set a dangerous precedent for free expression in our community.”
QAIA did not return an e-mail requesting comment from the Forward. But the group is now threatening to march under its own banner in the July 4 parade, the Star reports, setting the stage for a potentially ugly confrontation.