June 11, 2012 | National Post

Canada’s Bigots Flock Back for Another Israel Hate-In

June 11, 2012 | National Post

Canada’s Bigots Flock Back for Another Israel Hate-In

Is it summer in Toronto already? Tell-tale signs of the season are all around us: The temperature is well into the high 20s, the ferries to Toronto Island are getting crowded, and anti-Israeli bigots are noisily preparing to hijack the upcoming Pride parade with their one-issue hate-on.

It’s a June tradition in Hogtown. As with the return of American Cliff Swallows to San Juan Capistrano, or the congregation of monarch butterflies in Michoacán, we mark the calendar by the seasonal mating screech of the Same-Sex Anti-Zionist Warblers as they fall into formation for the Pride parade: “Butch! Femme! Bottom! Top! Israeli Apartheid has to stop!” (Yes, they actually chant that.)

A related seasonal tradition is the city council’s annual deliberations over what to do with Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA), as the fervently anti-Zionist group calls itself. Toronto is set to provide over $120,000 to subsidize Pride – as well as $300,000 in municipally-funded police and sanitation services for the 10-day event. But a strong majority of councillors also voted to denounce the use of the term “Israeli Apartheid,” even as they anted up the cash. A far better course of action would have been for council to provide the Pride funding after the fact, on condition that QuAIA didn’t contaminate the proceedings. That was the strategy employed in 2011, and QuAIA stayed away for once.

In truth, the issue of Israel likely will be part of the Pride parade for years to come – no mater what council does – despite the fact that the Jewish state is the one country in the Middle East where gay citizens may live and love openly, without fear of imprisonment or death. That is because the hijacking of Pride has become a perverse point of pride among QuAIA’s small core membership.

Moreover, the appearance of QuAIA has provoked a strong counterattack from pro-Israeli activists, who now march in the parade under the banner of Kulanu Toronto, a Jewish LGBT group. And they aren’t going away any time soon, either.

As a result, attendees at the Pride parade — the vast majority of whom, no doubt, haven’t the slightest interest in Israel, or the Middle East more generally — are subjected to two separate phalanxes of placard-bearing activists, arguing opposite sides of an issue that hasn’t anything to do with sexual identity, or the fight for gay rights in Canada or anywhere else. It’s an absurd spectacle that does nothing except dilute the Pride brand, and confuse the tourists who come in large part to see extravagantly outfitted men spraying foam at one another and the like.

The whole sad phenomenon speaks to the obsessional nature of anti-Israeli hatred — even among gay activists who wouldn’t survive a day in the midst of the homophobic Palestinian society whose national ambitions they purport to be advancing.

But it also says something about Pride itself.

The reason QuAIA activists are so determined to have a presence at Pride isn’t necessarily because they truly believe Palestine is a gay cause. They’re not so blinkered as that. It’s because they know that in the 21st century, attitudes toward gay rights and gay culture serve as a proxy for the social progressiveness of one’s views more generally: That’s one of the reasons there is always so much pressure on mayor Rob Ford and other public figures to join in the proceedings.

That’s also the reason city councillors and Jewish activists, even liberal ones such as Martin Gladstone, are so upset by QuAIA’s appearance at Pride. They know that the group’s involvement in the parade, if it were unopposed, would send the message that anti-Zionism has officially entered the canon of Canadian progressivism. The set of “LGBTTIQQ2SA communities” being officially celebrated at Pride (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer/Questioning, 2 Spirited, Allies) would functionally expand to include an extra HIA (haters of Israeli ‘Apartheid’) tacked on at the end.

This is not a free-speech issue: QuAIA activists should be able to march down Yonge Street any time they like, as part of its own (non-subsidized) anti-Zionist parade. The reason they don’t do so is because they know no one would come. So instead, they try to co-opt the brand of an entirely unrelated parade and festival that people  do attend.

This effort to turn LGBTTIQQ2SA into LGBTTIQQ2SAHIA is a cynical and dishonest stunt. And, thanks to the efforts of Kulanu and others, an unsuccessful one at that. In the meantime, the main losers are the Pride attendees who roll their eyes with disdain and boredom as QuAIA’s cranky legion of one-issue sourpusses flock past, completely bereft of foam.

— Jonathan Kay is Managing Editor for Comment at the National Post, and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.