Josh D. Scheinert Headshot

Take No Pride in These Gays

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Toronto City Council has confirmed that the 2012 Pride Week will not be deprived of its funding despite the intention of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) to march in the parade.

They have the right to march, so let them.

Not wanting to grant them more attention in advance of their participation in this celebration under the guise of gay rights, it is still important to expose QAIA for who they are. When they march down Yonge Street, let all those in the crowds know that QAIA is about many things, but gay rights is not one of them. They're not against "Israeli Apartheid" because they're for Palestinian gays. They're against "Israeli Apartheid" because they're against Israel. They don't want an Israel-Palestine solution; they want a Palestine solution and have taken the pretext of Pride to push their agenda.

In a poor attempt at rooting the plight of gay Palestinians in Israel's occupation, the QAIA website proclaims, "There can't be freedom of gender and sexuality without freedom from daily violence and the right to love who you choose, live where you choose, and attend groups, meetings and political activities without persecution."

So that's it. The occupation will end, kumbaya will descend over the West Bank and Gaza, and gay Palestinians will have equal rights and the requisite societal acceptance to live freely and openly as gay Muslims and Christians in an Arab ruled country.

Homosexuality is illegal in 32 Muslim countries and territories, including Hamas-ruled Gaza. Explain to me how standing up for the rights of gay Palestinians is best achieved by attacking Israel, especially in this area. Israel, for whatever faults it may have, is a model state for gay rights.

Israel holds gay pride festivals in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Eilat. It has not succumbed to the threats and hostility from the religious right (including Christians and Muslims who join in denouncing Jerusalem Pride).

The inclusion and welcome that Israelis bestow upon gays is the reason why Tel Aviv was declared the best gay travel destination in 2011 , earning 43 per cent of the vote. I am unsure if Ramallah, Dubai, or Tehran were in contention. This is also the reason why gay Palestinians, even during the height of the second Intifada, flee to live illegally in Israel, where they feel safer.

QAIA, blind but not ignorant to these facts -- which it calls "propaganda" -- nevertheless insists on describing Israel as "an intensely homophobic country."

On its website, QAIA asks whether political groups belong in Pride at all. They answer that they do and that Pride is an appropriate venue for political expression.

They are correct, which is why it is such a shame no one is marching down Yonge Street in solidarity with gays throughout the Arab world denied an existence, let alone a parade. No one will be hosting a symposium during Pride on how Islamic-ruled countries might moderate, let alone erase, their state-sanctioned persecution of gays.

And who will march in the parade in solidarity with two young men, aged 19 and 20, arrested in the African nation of Cameroon last August for same-sex sexual acts? They are presently awaiting trial and face five years in prison. Then there is Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, also of Cameroon, currently serving a three-year sentence on the same charge after being tricked by the police. And let's not forget Uganda's gays, those living, and those murdered.

I could go on. I could mention Jamie Hubely, the Ottawa teen who took his own life in the fall after being bullied. I could mention too many others.

But QAIA isn't marching for these causes.

Toronto's Pride originated in response to police crackdowns on Toronto's gay community in 1981. It is a day to showcase unity and celebrate advances made in and out of the community. It should also be a day to remember that there are communities around the world unable to hold their own Pride. Unfortunately for QAIA, Pride is not about those very serious struggles that demand serious attention. Instead, their focus is to spread bigotry and lies that are no less divisive than the bigotry that Pride seeks to erase.

So let them march. But let us remind them that while they may have a right to march at Pride, as a group, they do not belong.