Toronto’s mayor slams gay Israel-bashers

Apartheid comparison row continues as municipality pulls over $100,000 in funds for Gay Pride Week due to anti-Israel group's participation.

March 13, 2011 03:14
3 minute read.
Rob Ford

rob ford 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford – and leading gay leaders and activists in North America and Europe – have slammed the anti-Israel focus among groups within the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities in New York and Toronto.

According to a report in Thursday’s Canadian Jewish News, Ford announced that his administration plans to pull the plug on more than $100,000 in city funds for the Toronto Gay Pride week events slated for late June, because of the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

NY gay center pulls plug on Israel-Apartheid event
NY activists to debate scrubbed gay center event

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“Taxpayers dollars should not go toward funding hate speech,” said Ford.

After New York’s LGBT center in Manhattan’s West Village denied space to Siege Busters – a group that compares Israel to the former racist South African regime and sought to hold a “Party to End Apartheid” at the center early this month – LGBT activists staged a demonstration and initiated a petition campaign against the center’s decision.

On Sunday, the center’s management will host a community forum to discuss its decision to ban the anti-Israel group from its premises.

Siege Busters is currently raising funds to send a new flotilla to break Israel’s blockade of Hamas.

In an interview on Saturday with The Jerusalem Post, Frank van Dalen, former head of the Netherlands’ LGBT federation (and currently an Amsterdam city council member for the Liberal Party), said people “can disagree with Israel’s policies, but it is wrong to say it is apartheid.”

Groups invoking LGBT labels to equate Israel with apartheid have “nothing to do with the LGBT cause,” van Dalen said. The LGBT community “should be careful about entering global themes of politics.”

According to van Dalen, LGBT groups should direct their energies to fighting to end homophobia, and secure same-sex marriage rights.

Van Dalen, a former chairman of the Amsterdam Gay Pride, expressed disbelief about the presence of the anti-Israel queer group at Toronto’s parade. While stressing what he said were the mixed up priorities of the anti-Israel LGBT groups, he said fighting for same-sex marriage in Israel as well as in the Arab world is important.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the New York City-based Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and Jewish Labor Committee, said, “We would not have tolerated a synagogue allowing its facilities to be used for homophobic events. So why should we tolerate the center being used for what is really an anti-Semitic event?” Appelbaum was the first international trade union leader to acknowledge that he is gay. He is also a co-founder of Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine, which seeks to promote cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian labor unions and rejects boycotts, divestment and sanctions aimed at Israel.

Gay critics say that a fringe segment of the LGBT community is disguising their anti-Semitism through the cottage industry of boycotts, divestment and sanctions targeting Israel – and the comparison with the former regime in South Africa.

In late February, Michael Lucas, a prominent columnist for the US gay magazine The Advocate (and adult entertainment movie producer), triggered the successful protest against the slated anti-Israel event at New York’s LGBT center.

Writing in his Advocate column earlier this month, Lucas, who is Jewish, said the anti- Semitism of Siege Busters “is of a more subtle variety.

“The group’s goal is that all of Palestine should become a multi-racial secular state,” he wrote. “The inevitable consequence of that is that demographics would turn this ‘Palestine’ into an Arab-dominated state, and Jews would lose their homeland... That, in my mind, is anti-Semitic.”

Lucas said the rhetoric of Siege Busters, and of Sherry Wolf, a lesbian anti-Israel activist and member of Siege Busters, “is hateful, runs counter to the cause of LGBT rights, and has no place at an organization established as a safe space for all members of the LGBT community.”

Wolf, a self-described “Jewish anti-Zionist,” sharply disagreed in an Advocate guest commentary – terming Lucas’s criticism an “odious charge that people who argue that Israel is an apartheid state are ‘anti-Semitic.’” She cited Judith Butler, a University of California at Berkeley gender studies professor and BDS advocate, as a supporter.

Yet Butler, a Jewish lesbian academic, has been under pressure because she waxed lyrical about Hamas and Hezbollah as “progressive” and “leftist” forces.

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