As we compiled this second Queer (Queer 2) issue of CD, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), mushroomed into our primary focus. At the time of writing we were informed that Pride Toronto had banned QuAIA from participating in this summer’s Toronto Pride March. Capitulating to Israel lobby groups and to City Hall threats to withdraw funding if the group marched, the board of Toronto Pride has chosen to set a dangerous precedent by censoring a community human rights group. We are thinking about the impact of QuAIA on queer movements, queer politics, and where the “movement” is now.
As artists and curators, we participated in Toronto Pride’s 2008 edition, producing and presenting work on that year’s theme of Human Rights. In presenting challenging video work on JumboTrons that sought to draw connections between the gay community and Human Rights abuses worldwide, a realization dawned on us about Pride. In the midst of a million revellers the march’s Human Rights theme was overshadowed by another presence: police and military marching in our parade. Ostensibly participating to demonstrate the State’s support of Gay Pride, the inclusion of dozens of police force vehicles and informed officers and soldiers had another, more sinister, connotation.
As neo-liberal queers grow complacent and feel that their struggle is over with the introduction of marriage rights legislation, this military parade was a tacit threat to radical queers who don’t compartmentalize their political solidarities but seek instead to draw personal connections between sexual freedom, class struggle, and the campaign for the liberation of oppressed people everywhere, including Palestine. This inclusive ideology makes conservative gays and lesbians uncomfortable. Silencing Israel’s critics implies support for its crimes.
This issue is by, for, and about, queers who still celebrate difference and radical politics. Taking cues from a past generation that rioted, danced and died for our rights, a new generation is emerging awakening from theNeo-Liberal slumber as it recognizes the devastating effects of capitalism’s obscene orgy.
We close by quoting excerpts from a letter to the Pride committee by South African activist Zackie Achmat who was active in the 1980s anti-apartheid movement:
For us in South Africa, the brutal segregation of Palestinians, the control of movement by checkpoints, permits, detention without trial, torture, extra-judicial assassinations, the confiscation of lands, the press censorship, harassment [by] Jewish Israelis remind us all too vividly of the apartheid system … Apologists of Israel suggest that it is the queer oasis in a sea of homophobia, where LGBTI people are executed, tortured, excommunicated and imprisoned. This argument implies that LGBTI people should support Israel’s daily war against Palestinian people – Pride Toronto does not have to endorse QuAIA’s political platform – instead, it must affirm pluralism. We support freedom and justice for all the Palestinian people (in Israel, the Occupied Territories and all exiled refugees) and we support freedom and security for the Jewish people in Israel.
This article appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of Canadian Dimension (Queer 2).