Although we are still gathering and synthesizing information, our on the ground-reporter, feedback from gay-rights activists and distillation of media reports, photos, video and social networking sites indicates minimal anti-Israel activity at today’s Pride. Some of our friends reported they did not see any anti-Israel banners or flyers being handed out from Friday to Sunday. If this distillation remains accurate, Pride organizers and the City of Toronto will be commended for making every effort to stem the tide of anti-Israel rhetoric at today’s event.
However, old habits die hard, and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QUAIA) found it difficult to stay out of the limelight today. In the only known incident QUAIA dropped a 40 foot banner from the Wellesley Subway Station calling for gays to “support Palestinian queers” and boycott tourism to Israel. It is difficult to comprehend why it would risk a stunt that would aggravate the city and jeopardize Pride. http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/QuAIA_drops_banner_from_Wellesley_subway_station-10428.aspx
In contrast, the Dyke March on Saturday, attended by thousands of people, had strong anti-Israel sentiment. One marcher, for example, was wrapped in a poster that said, “Dyke Against Israeli Apartheid”. Large banners were also seen with the words, “we stand with queers in Palestine” – funny enough, Israel is indeed the only country in the Middle East that does, but the marchers would lead you to believe the exact opposite is true! Our investigator recorded them in the Dyke March chanting, “We’re sexy, we’re hot, Israeli Apartheid’s not,” using a phrase that they were explicitly warned about by Toronto’s City Council. You can see the video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgp4lrZsX1s
The Star is reporting that Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is calling to axe city funding of Pride Week after he says he captured an anti-Israeli group chanting the controversial phrase, “Israeli Apartheid”. You can see a video of Mammoliti at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3o9UPW7M8_g. In the video, a group is shouting, “we are anti-occupation, we’re here, we’re queer”.
Meanwhile, while everyone was watching Pride, an Islamic religious conference was held in Toronto this weekend at the Toronto Convention Center. Xtra! Magazine (a gay and lesbian newspaper) said the conference hosts a series of controversial speakers who have called for the death of gays, Jews and Christians. Perhaps the anger of QUAIA et al should have been directed toward the conference rather than Israel?
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center will continue synthesizing information in the coming days. The above information is based on what we have currently ascertained. It may change should new information emerge. Pride is an important celebration for our city and our interest is for its continued success while ensuring it does not become another vehicle for hate and intolerance against Israel and the Jewish people.