2010-05-13, Issue 481
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid have requested support from people in South Africa and elsewhere against an attempt to prevent them marching in the annual Pride Toronto Parade. Please add your signature to Zackie Achmat’s letter of support.
Director: Pride Toronto
Dear Tracey Sandilands and Pride Toronto Board
PRIDE TORONTO: RESIST ATTEMPTS TO BAN QUEERS AGAINST ISRAELI APARTHEID
We have learnt that the staff of the City of Toronto requested that Pride Toronto bans “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid” (QuAIA) from participating in its annual parade that affirms freedom, equality and dignity for all. Council staff have threatened to withhold financial support to Pride Toronto, if this does not happen. We have also learnt that homophobic right-wing Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is attempting to have a motion passed in the Toronto City Council to that effect.
The attempts by apologists of Israel to have QuAIA banned is a sign of political intolerance and an attempt to enlist Pride Toronto’s complicity in the Occupation of Palestine. As you are aware, the Israeli army has been asked by the UN General Assembly to answer war-crimes charges because of its war against the people of Gaza. Silencing Israel’s critics implies support for its crimes.
South African activists who were active in the 1980s remember very well the courage of activists all over the world and particularly in Canada in support of the anti- apartheid struggle. We remember the work of Canadians who supported our struggle then – particularly those in the LBGTIQ community. When John Greyson made his video A Moffie Called Simon, it connected oppression on grounds of sexual orientation to the broader struggle for human rights for all.
We will never forget that the State of Israel armed the white-minority government to shoot our people, bomb neigbouring countries and build nuclear bombs. Our liberation struggle won against the armed might of the apartheid state with international support.
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 of Jewish Israelis remind us all too vividly of the apartheid system. Palestinians have been struggling for their freedom for over 50 years.
Criticizing any state is the fundamental right of every person and it must be protected. Apartheid Israel apologists suggest that criticising the actions and crimes of its state and army is anti-semitic ‘hate’ speech. This is a discredited tactic used as much against Jewish dissenters inside and outside that country as it is used against all other people who oppose Israel’s occupation and war-crimes.
Recently, our country witnessed the fascist tactics of Israel apologists led by the South African Zionist Federation to ban Justice Richard Goldstone from his grandson’s bar mitzvah. This decision was reversed because of the outcry in our broader community and from the majority of Jewish people in South Africa (most of whom disagreed with the Goldstone Report).
A second straw-man used by apologists of Israel suggests 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 or that they should censor themselves at dinner tables or in the public sphere.
Middle-East dictatorships including the ones supporting Israel such as Egypt and Jordan oppress the vast majority of their people including LGBTI people. It is the duty of activists to support movements for democracy in countries such as Egypt and Iran because this will assist the freedom of all people including LGBTI people.
We hope that Toronto Pride remembers the tradition of the anti-apartheid struggle and does not capitulate to those who would manipulate financial support to undermine democracy.
We ask Pride Toronto to affirm the democratic right of all LGBTI people to hold and express different political views. Pride Toronto does not have to endorse QuAIA’s political platform 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 letter is signed by people who live and work in South Africa and our friends abroad.
Zackie Achmat (South Africa)
* Sign the letter by leaving a comment on the Writing Rights website.
* Zackie Achmat is a South African activist and founder of the Treatment Action Campaign, which campaigns for the rights of people with HIV/AIDS.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.