Montreal, May 26, 2011 — On Tuesday May 24, the Toronto City Council’s Executive Committee adopted a report concluding that the phrase “Israeli Apartheid” does not violate the city’s anti-discrimination policy. In addition to the determination on the phrase “Israeli Apartheid”, the report made two other key determinations: a) that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) participation in Toronto’s annual gay Pride Parade does not violate the City’s Anti-Discrimination Policy; and b) that the City cannot ban QuAIA signs or banners as hate speech.
The Executive Committee made its decision after animated deputations from 46 organizations and individuals, including QuAIA, the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). Of the 46 deputations, 28 defended the report and 18 opposed it. QuAIA gave a humorous and effective presentation challenging the anti-QuAIA smear campaign. CAF informed councillors about Israeli laws and practices that discriminate against Palestinians in Israel-Palestine or in exile. CJPME reminded councillors of their obligation to protect Torontonians’ rights to information and freedom of expression on thorny issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We are gratified that Toronto City Council Executive Committee recognized that criticism of Israel cannot be equated with either anti-Semitism or hate speech,” says CJPME President Thomas Woodley. CJPME laments that QuAIA felt obliged to withdraw from the 2011 Pride Parade to ease the task of organizers in the face of criticism from pro-Israel lobbyists. CJPME urges the full Toronto City Council to adopt the same position as the Executive Council when the report is discussed again on June 14.
The focus on Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade and QuAIA’s participation is part of a larger campaign in Canada by pro-Israel lobbyists to criminalize criticism of Israel. A July 2010 City Council decision to delay disbursement of funds for 2011 Pride Toronto until after the parade has taken place still stands.