June 09, 2010

SHAMEFUL DECISION BY PRIDE TORONTO, People's Voice Editorial, June 1-15 issue

(The following article is from the June 1-15, 2010 issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading communist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to: People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)


"They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they for me, but there was nobody left to speak up."

These words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, spoken about the Nazis in Germany, are relevant to the attempt to criminalize any criticism of the Israeli government's anti-Palestinian policies.

Pride parades, born out of the Stonewall Rebellion and other forms of LGBT resistance against oppression, have a long record in North America as celebrations of free speech and human equality. So it is sad to hear that Pride Toronto's board of directors has voted to ban the words "Israeli Apartheid" from any Pride events, directly targeting the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

This shocking decision follows intense pressure from Toronto City Hall (one of Pride's main funders) and pro-Israel lobbyists, who claim that criticisms of the Israeli government amount to hate and discrimination. In fact, under the Harper Tories, criticism of the Israeli government's oppression of the Palestinian people is frequently labelled a hate crime. Pride Toronto finally yielded to this campaign to criminalize dissent, setting another extremely dangerous precedent to ban free expression and silence the voices of Palestinians and human rights activists.

It is distressing that this decision was made by some representatives of a community which has always had to struggle for its right to equality. Pride Toronto needs to be reminded that the stridently anti-Palestinian Harper Tories are also bitterly homophobic. Supporters of human rights and equality must stand together, not surrender each other to bigots.

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