Marching with Kulanu at Pride...
Here's a first-hand account...
Appalled by Pride’s decision to allow the controversial group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) in this year’s Gay Pride parade, close to 500 members of Toronto’s Jewish community marched Sunday in support of gay rights in Israel.
Braving searing heat, the Kulanu (meaning All of Us) group — both gay and straight — danced and sang Israeli songs to a receptive crowd that lined Yonge St. four or five people deep.
Mayoralty candidate Rocco Rossi and his posse of supporters said he joined Kulanu this year because he doesn’t tolerate discrimination of any sort.
“I’m here with Kulanu and with friends from the Jewish community who want to take the hate out of Pride,” said Rossi, who added he was disappointed the group was allowed to march in the parade.
Bernie Farber, chief executive officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said he was there to ensure Toronto’s streets were not given away to “anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic” slogans.
“We had to be here, we had to stand proud and be counted,” he said.
“In a strange kind of way, QuAIA has galvanized the community,” Farber said.
After declaring in late May that QuAIA would be ejected from Sunday’s parade, Pride’s organizers flip-flopped two weeks ago, indicating that all parade participants would only need to sign a document saying they intend to follow the city’s anti-discrimination policies — in other words police themselves — and that QuAIA would be allowed to march.
Their about-face came a little more than a week after the city’s culture officials handed Pride its $123,807 grant cheque — leading several to conclude the city had been duped.
This Wednesday, mayoralty candidate Giorgio Mammoliti intends to bring a motion before council asking that Pride repay this year’s grant money, plus $200,000 for in-kind services — police, clean-up and transportation resources — it got for Sunday’s parade.
Dr. Philip Berger, who came dressed in a hot pink top, said he felt it important to march with Kulanu to defend himself as a Jew against other Jews who are on the attack — referring to those members of QuAIA who proudly claim they are Jewish.
Rhonda Silverstone said she’s spent a lot of time in Israel and it is important for people to know that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that allows homosexuality to be practiced openly.
She hopes that Pride’s flip-flop will cause the city to take a closer look at future funding for Pride.
Shelly Grimson finds it “outrageous” that there is a group that has engaged in “Jewish-bashing” and feels QuAIA has destroyed the Pride parade by bringing in negative politics into it.
“They’re trying to portray us all as a unified mass of genocidal people who don’t care about the poor people in Palestine,” he said.
As my wife, Denise Alexander, and I marched with our Israeli flags, we were anything but vilified, as QuAIA has endeavoured to do with Israel and what their supporters deem the pro-Jewish lobby. We were cheered and greeted with high-fives by many of those on the sidelines.
By contrast, QuAIA and its free speech, anti-Israel members did not seem to get much support from the crowd as they appeared with the Free Speech Coalition and their friends from CUPE and the CAW.
A member of CUPE 416, the city’s outside workers, proudly handed out Free Speech placards to the crowd as the group neared, one of the last in the parade line-up.
A good number of the group were brandishing signs that read “My Pride Includes Free Speech” — many of which were produced and distributed by X-tra magazine (the so-called gay community newspaper which has been actively supporting QuAIA.)
But if QuAIA had self-declared that they did not intend to violate the city’s anti-discrimination policy, they went back on their word.
I saw signs that read “Israeli apartheid is deriving Palestinians of their basic human rights,” and “Israeli apartheid is collectively punishing 1-million and a half beings and depriving them of their basic needs.”
I also heard marchers chanting, “Fight the Wall, Fight the Hate, Today Israel, Is One State.”