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‘Pinkwashing’ Washed Out at Toronto Gay Pride

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“I knished a girl and I liked it.”

That placard, waved by a member of Toronto Jewish gay group Kulanu, captured the spirit of yesterday’s massive WorldPride parade in Canada’s largest city: Joyful, fearless and boisterously irreverent.

About 100 Kulanu participants joined an estimated 12,000 marchers cheered by more than a million spectators on Toronto’s Yonge Street, according to reports this morning. The parade capped ten days of cultural and social-justice programs whose Jewish components included several Shabbat dinners, prayer services and a panel featuring Shai Doitsh and Itay Harlap, two leading figures in Israel’s LGBT movement.

Doitsh told Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy that his WorldPride experience was “amazing… The Canadians not only played a very important role in our fight for equality [in Israel] but our communities and our journey is quite similar. We can work together and learn from each other.” Levy — an out lesbian Jewish political columnist at the right-leaning Sun — wrote that she herself marched with Kulanu, wife in tow.

The march’s exuberance overshadowed controversy around a group called Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid, which marched despite protests by Jewish groups and some Toronto legislators. QUAIA has pushed for a place in the march for years, and the group got a boost in 2013 when a City of Toronto panel ruled the organization’s message did not represent discrimination towards the Jewish community. Stakes were also higher this year because of the global stage that WorldPride provided.

In response, Kulanu members also lifted signs proclaiming, “Yes! In 2005, Israel Proudly Hosted WorldPride.” Jerusalem was the WorldPride host in 2006; the event rotates between cities every three years. The event is run by Interpride, an international collective of local Pride organizations.

There were no confrontations, however, and QUAIA seemed to lose momentum after getting assigned a position at the very end of the procession. Though the parade kicked off at 1pm, the group’s 20 or so supporters didn’t even begin walking until 5pm.

As it has for years, QUAIA protested what it calls “pinkwashing” of Israel’s human rights record; the Jewish state’s much-vaunted progress on LGBT rights is used to mask unfair treatment of Palestinians and other minorities, according to QUAIA. “As queers, we recognize that homophobia exists in Israel, Palestine, and across all borders. However, the struggle for sexual rights cannot come at the price of other rights,” the group’s website proclaims.

The organization also ran an ad in Xtra, Toronto’s gay weekly, reproducing a message that had been nixed by the Toronto Transit Commission for placement across the city’s buses and subways. The ad illustrates what QUAIA calls a “loss of Palestinian land” from 1946 to the present. “This is the map the TTC doesn’t want you to see,” the Xtra ad trumpets. “Don’t fall for pinkwashing propaganda.”

Neither Kulanu nor QUAIA returned requests from the Forward for comment.

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