Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Queer kind of ignorance emerging in Toronto

Next month, from June 19 to 28 to be exact, the city of Toronto will host one of the country's most anticipated cultural events: Pride Week 2009, two weeks of fun-filled activities celebrating gay culture and its continuing emancipation from those in the "mainstream" who would denigrate it and try to shame those whose only crime is to be born with a sexual orientation different than the majority hetero populace.

So what's the problem? Well, it's one the Jewish community knows all too well: anti-Israel rhetoric designed to breed vilification of the Jewish state at all costs, even at the cost of truth.

In this case, a group calling itself "Queers Against Israeli Apartheid" has been advocating hard in the local LGBT community to "reignite Toronto’s queer community in the fight against apartheid," according to the Ontario Public Interest Research Group Web site.

The group goes on to claim that Israel "has now begun to frame itself as a tolerant, queer-positive democracy. This can never be reality under occupation."

They're scheduled to hold their next meeting this Saturday, May 23. No doubt to calmly, and rationally discuss their political views on Israel with an open mind.

To boot, the meeting is scheduled to open with remarks by El-Farouk Khaki, a gay Toronto Muslim lawyer and the 2009 Parade Grand Martial. His organization, Salaam, is sponsoring the meeting.

(Salaam, btw, describes itself as "a Muslim Identified Organization dedicated to social justice, peace and human dignity through its work to bring all closer to a world that is free from injustice, including prejudice, discrimination, racism, misogyny, sexism and homophobia." Mr. Khaki, this is a noble endeavour. But could you openly set up shop in Gaza if you wanted to? The answer, one suspects, is no. And not because of anything Israel has to say about it. Because civil society in Gaza is called Hamas, which brooks no homosexuality under its strict interpretation of Islam.)

Umm... where to start?

Look, I have no problem with people expressing political views about Israel or Judaism, even if I find them abhorrent and devoid of any context or fact. These guys can go march on city hall, the provincial legislature and Parliament Hill until the cows come home. It's a free country.

But it's just galling to have to watch as one of the (ostensibly) most inclusive, tolerant and joyful cultural communities slowly becomes co-opted by anti-Israel agitators who out and out lie about Israel's own Pride community - with its own yearly parade - and the fact that it's the only one in the Middle East whose rights are protected and free from persecution by authorities.

I defy Mr. Khaki, or anyone else, to tell his disciples where those same rights exist for Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank? Libya? Saudi Arabia? Syria? Iraq? Iran?

Is Israel a "perfect" country? No. But show me one that is. Is the issue of Palestinian-Israeli relations fraught with competing narratives and heightened tensions? Sure. And there's been blood spilled on both sides that begs for vengeance. Yet Israel seeks peace, while the Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel at all costs. Will there ever be a solution? Only Hashem knows.

But is being openly gay in Israel - whether Arab, Jew or Christian - acceptable in the Holy Land - yes. Even if some religious parties and citizens disagree.

In fact, just last week, Israeli Member of Knesset Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) called on the Palestinian Authority "to halt the persecution of homosexuals within its territory, and said Israel should provide gay Palestinian refugees with sanctuary," according to a Ynet report.

In fact, until 2007, Israel was the only country in Asia where homosexuals were protected by anti-discrimination laws. And it remains the only country in the Middle East to provide such legal protection.

So to all those Queers Against Israeli Apartheid folks: get your facts straight and stop taking at face value all the half-truths and twisted logic of your would-be leaders.

There are a myriad of problems in Israel and you may not agree with its policies on many things, including Palestinians, but you would be free to go there and openly demonstrate against it with the rainbow flag proudly draped across your shoulders, armed with the knowledge you were an equal in the eyes of the law. Think about that next time you're told how "evil" Israel is. You're being duped. All your years of struggle for equality in North America are betrayed when you choose to believe these insipid morsels of falsehood.

Israel is a progressive democracy. The only one in the Middle East. It doesn't "occupy" the Palestinian people. It doesn't practice Apartheid politics. It defends itself as best it can from terrorism and radical Islam. It wants to coexist peacefully with its neighbours. But it will not do so by laying down and ceasing to exist. What country would?

And yes, it also defends its gay community.


Anonymous said...

Great thoughts. Actually, you echo my sentiments exactly. I have been working hard in the last few weeks trying to get these hate messages out of the Pride parades.

Anonymous said...

Bnai Brith's League for Human Rights was quick to condemn the choice of El-Farouk Khaki, a pride marshall,as a keynoter at the queer conference COMING OUT AGAINST APARTHEID:20 Years of Queer Resistance From South Africa to Palestine. Bnai Brith's charge: anti-Israeli gays are hijacking the homosexual agenda. THAT's funny, queer stuff from a so-called human rights group that actively decided not to support hate speech protections for gays and lesbians

Blintzkrieg said...

Really Anonymous #2? You don't find the slightest bit of hypocrisy in the fact that Palestinian Gays are persecuted by their own government, yet can seek refuge in Israel, while someone like Khaki rails against a non-existent "Apartheid" state in Israel? Isn't it funny that Khaki could probably have an easier - and safer - time protesting Israel IN Israel, than he could protesting it from the West Bank or Gaza?

Anonymous said...

really blintzkreig?

how about the hypocrisy of the Bnai brith kissing up to the Christian Right!

The remarks of Reverend John Hagee, attacking the Catholic Church and Muslims and jews, or saying that Hurricane Katrina was God’s retribution for homosexual “sin,” were not the precipitating comments. When a recording was produced of Hagee stating that God had sent Adolph Hitler to help the Jews reach the Promised Land, this proved too much for McCain to stomach. Yet here in Canada, B’nai Brith, led by Frank Dimant, carries on an active association with Hagee’s close Canadian associates, who are cut from the same clerical cloth. Their alliance is based on a common outlook of what they believe is good for Israel and to a lesser extent, on a common social conservative political agenda linking them to the Conservative Party.

The Bnai Brith opposed to Sven Robinson’s human rights bill that the Christian right, and that Bnai brith, that is Mr. Dimant, would not support the bill without protection being given to the speech of anti-gay clergy

from Anonymous #2

Blintzkrieg said...

Anonymous, I fail to see why you keep linking B'nai Brith into this conversation?

1. B'nai Brith is not Israel
2. Heebonics is not B'nai Brith

Let's stick to the point of this particular blog: the state of Israel is the only one that DEFENDS gay rights in the Middle East, Arab-Israeli ones included. Are you agreed or not?

Anonymous said...

Hey BlintKrieg,

Insistence that gays have more rights in Israel than in Arab countries is beside the point.
If you're interested in queer rights in Palestine, then help them with their struggle and don't demonize them. Palestinian queers can't seek refuge in Israel.

it's pretty rich of some jews when the language of gay oppression is used against Toronto's Pride parade, by another group that purports to champion human rights.

Now you'd think Jews would be supportive of a man who not only is a progressive Muslim but who also wants to maintain peace in the Middle East.

Anonymous #2 (a gay loving straight jew)

Blintzkrieg said...

Anon 2,

Who's demonizing the Gay Palestinian community? Not I.

I'm all for inclusiveness and gay rights and I believe the point is exactly that gay rights are enshrined in Israeli law vs. in any other country in the Middle East. And Israelis are actually trying to help gay Palestinians get refuge in Israel (have you read the blog thoroughly?)

If Mr. Khaki wants to help the gay Muslim communities around the world get out from under their oppressive regimes, as he claims, then his Israeli target misses the mark by a country mile.

I can't say for certain, but maybe you know, has he for instance, petitioned the P.A. and Hamas on gay rights issues? Has he encouraged his listeners to do the same?

He has all the right, as do you, to protest and speak out on Israel about whatever subject. And as I said, he could even do so IN Israel. The same opportunity isn't afforded him by the Palestinians. You said it yourself, "help them with their struggle and don't demonize them". Has anyone from QuAIA protested the Palestinian brutal record on gay rights?

Anonymous said...

Antonia Zerbisias, er, I mean Anonymous #2 (your words from your Toronto Star column are exactly the same as in your post, dear): paragrah 9)

"So it's pretty rich when the language of gay oppression is used against Toronto's Pride parade, to be held June 28, by another group that purports to champion human rights."

So Antonia, why are you always mouthing off against Israel? Any chance you get, you spew your hate and venom against Jews. You're even using Toronto's gay community as pawns to further your anti-(Jewish)semitic agenda. You don't help their cause by rallying them to hatred and racism. Leave them alone!

It must be eating you up that Pastor John Hagee is a supporter of Israel and Jewish people and that he donated $9.5 million to Israel. It must make you so mad that he didn't donate the money to Hamas terrorists, so they could toss a few more rockets at Israel, right?

Maybe you want to make the same death threat to him that you made to Michelle Malkin on Twitter?

I wonder why Pastor Hagee supports Israel, seeing as it's an Apartheid state. Better check that out, Ms. Zerbisias.

The real Apartheid state is the Palestinian state - they're the ones whose Charter calls for the destruction of Israel and Jews; Israel just wants peace with its neighbours and to protect itself from Palestinian terrorists. Hamas practices Apartheid on its OWN people by using them as human shields and having terrorist hide in schools and mosques and hospitals, and raising their children to be proud suicide bombers who kill Jews. Who is really practicing Apartheid, Antonia Z?

"Help them with their struggle?" Don't try to recruit anyone over here, lady. God knows you do it everywhere else.

It would be more appropriate, and honest, if your friends over at Pride would condemn the Arab governments that punish and even kill their gay citiens. (Yes, Arab gays can and DO seek refuge in Israel.) They should cheer Israel, who protects and honours its gay people, even Gay Arabs who live in Israel. I feel sorry for Toronto's gay community. They are being used and they're misguided by the likes of YOU.

Better ask yourself why you are so obsessed with the Palestinian cause; so obsessed with hating Jews and Israel. You are a very frightening person.

Anonymous said...

Since when is Antonia Zerbisias a gay-loving straight Jew. She's not even Jewish!

josh said...

Ooh, this is getting good.
Hagee, gays, pro-Israel, anti-Israel, arabs who are not sure...

Anonymous said...

I wonder why Pastor Hagee supports Israel???
Here's what he said about jews:

...calling liberal Jews "poisoned" and "spiritually blind," and stating that the preemptive nuclear attack on Iran that he favors will lead to the deaths of most Jews in Israel

... blaming the Holocaust on Jews, stating that Adolf Hitler carried out a divine plan to lead Jews to form the modern state of Israel

...Hagee has attributed the persecution of Jews throughout history, implicitly including the Holocaust, to disobedience, thereby attracting accusations of antisemitism

...God caused Hurricane Katrina to wipe out New Orleans because it had a gay pride parade the week before and was filled with sexual sin.

...favours censorship against jews

...once the RAPTURE comes, all the Jews and non-believers will be wiped out

And a lot of jewish groups kiss his ass! To get in bed with the hard Christian right on Israel is a dangerous path

Anonymous #2 (a gay loving straight jew)I'm not Antonia Zerbisias

Anonymous said...

are you kidding? just because israel defends its gay community, that does not mean its a peaceful community that only wants peace from its neighbors, honestly are you blind? israel has prosecuted a great number of arabs for very greedy purposes

Anonymous said...

Unfortunetly, a lot of jewish people and jewish and israeli organizations are anti-gay.

The spokesperson for Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Avi Shafran, attacked gays with an article "Dissembling Before G-d", maintaining that gay people can be cured through therapy,

JONAH is a Jewish ex-gay organization that focuses on "prevention, intervention, and healing of the underlying issues causing same-sex attractions."[10] It is an international organization, with the majority of its membership in the United States, Israel, Canada and Europe.

former president of Yeshiva University, a major Modern Orthodox Jewish institution) advocated[7] that some (although not all) homosexuals should be viewed as diseased and in need of compassion and treatment, rather than willful rebels

I guess these homo-phobic jewish people get it from hanging aroung the christian Right-wing too much!

Anonymous #2 (a gay loving straight jew)