Pride can’t win for losing: “Israeli Apartheid” controversy gets worse and worse

Pride can’t win for losing: “Israeli Apartheid” controversy gets worse and worse

Darkness is cast over Pride (Image: Neilta, from the torontolife.com Flickr pool) 

After banning the not-all-that-incendiary title Queers Against Israeli Apartheid—but not the group that uses it—Pride Toronto is facing a whole new problem: divisions within the festival as participants pull out of the annual parades, crying censorship. It’s enough to make us long for the days when the biggest controversy surrounding Pride Toronto was whether it was too commercial.

Says the CBC:

“They have to an extent betrayed the community,” said gay activist Gareth Henry, “and have betrayed me personally—my trust in Pride and what Pride stands for.”

Elle Flanders, a member of the group, says the decision flies in the face of an organization that is based on “free speech and of democracy, and of trying to win our rights to speech.” Now, said Flanders, “They are turning around and saying some people can speak and some people can’t speak.”

Pride maintains that the controversy was putting the festival’s funding in jeopardy, and without some restrictions, they would have had to “close our doors and file for bankruptcy,” according to Traci Sandilands, Pride’s executive director. But that’s just one of the organization’s worries. Prominent figures in the gay community have started organizing their own parallel events, at which QAIA will presumably be allowed to use whatever name it wants. No word yet on where the splinter group’s funding will come from.

Bloggers may not have a reputation for being socially astute, but anyone who’s ever been in a comment thread flamewar eventually learns that Mideast politics is a pretty sticky argument: easy to start, difficult to get out of. Best of luck to Pride in getting out of this, but about all they have going for them now is that the argument is still more civil than the average comment thread on this stuff.

• Controversy threatens to split Toronto’s Pride festival [CBC News]
• Pride’s Shame award [NOW Toronto]
• Pride honour rejected over ‘Israeli apartheid’ ban [Toronto Star]
• Splitsville: Queers launch alternatives to official Pride Toronto events [Xtra]