Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shutting down Israel criticism, Chaper 325

Conservative Globe & Mail commentator Marcus Gee leads the charge this time, calling for the banning of "Queers Against Israeli Apartheid" from the 2010 Toronto Pride parade. This, of course, wouldn't be censorship:

The question is whether a parade dedicated to promoting gay rights is obligated to welcome a group that is pushing a completely different agenda – one that happens to deeply offend many people both in the parade and on the sidelines. If it is, then Pride could soon become a very different event, with contingents from every group with an axe to grind and a pink triangle to slap on its placards.

Toronto Pride itself has been under considerable pressure since last year's march, and may succumb to it:

Pride now seems to recognize the danger. Organizers have revised their procedures to make sure that march applicants get a closer look and that marchers can be held legally accountable for any violence that might stem from their actions. After warning that city funding could be withdrawn from the event if it doesn't meet Toronto’s anti-discrimination and human rights policies, city officials say that "there are now mechanisms in place that allow Pride Toronto to keep the focus of the parade on the celebration of the history, courage, diversity and future of the LGBT communities." [emphases added]

Take note of the sleazy manner in which Gee approaches his topic. There is no evidence--indeed, no accusation that I can find--that QAIA has ever provoked violence or engaged in violent acts itself. Moreover, whether one agrees with QAIA's position on the Middle East or not, it's a stretch to suggest that it is advocates discrimination or is opposed to human rights: those are the very things, after all, that it is explicitly rejecting in its demonstration of solidarity with the Palestinians.

But enough about Gee's yellow journalism. He does raise an interesting point earlier when he refers to "a completely different agenda." The implication is that QAIA has nothing whatsoever to do with GBLT; that for QAIA queerness is simply an alibi to cover the "real" purpose of the group.

I find that startlingly presumptuous.

Alan Sears writes in today's Globe:

The fight for queer freedom has always developed in relation to other struggles. It is not an accident that the activist movement that emerged out of the 1969 Stonewall riot in New York City was called the Gay Liberation Front in solidarity with the National Liberation Front fighting the Americans in Vietnam.

In fact the movement very early on expressed solidarity with women's liberation. If that alliance has not been without its bumps in the road (the slogan "same struggle, same fight" created some friction back when GLBT was simply G), there has been strong reciprocal support over the years. And as the analysis of power and privilege deepened, those movements soon came to embrace others, engaged in battles of their own against interconnected forms of exploitation and oppression: racism, globalization, war, imperialism.

Indeed, "making the links" has been part of the organized labour "agenda" for some time. Within our own ranks are members fighting on many fronts, and it seems natural enough now (although I can remember what an uphill climb it was) for labour to build solidarity by adopting these battles as its own.

Gee and others would prefer that each of these movements retain a pristine, unalloyed purity, that links not be made, much less alliances and coalitions that strengthen all of the partners. But that has not been the history of any effective social movement. QAIA's support adds international energy to Palestinians fighting their own battles for sexual and gender diversity.

Moreover, unless one adopts the essentialism of identity politics, we need to recognize that individuals are more than "GBLT" or "female" or "male" or "Palestinian": they can well be all of these things, and much more. In this sense, external linkages reflect the complex reality of an individual personality.

In fact Gee effectively undermines his own case when he quotes "city officials" as saying that a Pride parade should be a "
celebration of the history, courage, diversity and future of the LGBT communities." The word "celebration' must be tempered somewhat, because the job is far from done. But indeed the parade should do all of this: and we are seeing precisely that history, courage and diversity in the emergence of QAIA.

*It certainly looks that way. [H/t Kateland in the comments]

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