Rabbis urge Jewish community to join Pride parade to counter Queers Against Israeli Apartheid

Two rabbis at Temple Sholom in Vancouver have distributed an open letter urging community members to join the Pride parade on Sunday (August 1).

In the letter, Rabbi Philip Bregman and Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg say they would be delighted if people walked alongside them and members of the Vancouver Hillel Foundation.

"Our hope is to have a positive show of support, educating the crowds (about 250,000 are expected) about Israel's history of equality for gays and lesbians and all people," Bregman and Mikelberg wrote. "We have heard the group 'Queers Against Israeli Apartheid' may also be attending, and our presence will serve to counter their libelous message."

When contacted by the Straight, Mikelberg referred all questions to Pat Johnson, B.C. programs director for the Vancouver Hillel Foundation.

"We're participating for the reason everybody is participating: to celebrate equality," Johnson told the Straight.

He added that a component of the group will be "educating the spectators about the realities of queer equality in the Middle East comparatively between Israel and the other countries in the Middle East".

"Israel is the gay mecca of the Middle East," Johnson said. "I'm all for free expression, but...when a group of people self-identifying as queer take it upon themselves to attack in the most virulent way they can imagine the one sole oasis for GLBTQ people in the Middle East, I have to ask what their real motivation is. I don't think it's a gay-positive one."

The president of the Vancouver Pride Society, Ken Coolen, did not return a message by the time this story was posted.

The Straight was also, by the time of this posting, unable to reach a member of Vancouver Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. Like the Vancouver Hillel Foundation, it's registered as an entrant in this year's parade.

Earlier this year, a Toronto group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid was banned from that city's Pride parade. Pride Toronto reversed its decision after a community uproar.

On its Web site, the Toronto group claims that "Israel has begun an aggressive public relations campaign to market itself as an oasis of gay tolerance and democracy in the Mideast, surrounded by 'backward' countries where gays have no rights."

"The campaign is not about supporting queers in Palestine or elsewhere in the Mideast who are resisting homophobia," the group maintains. "It is about using their experience of homophobia to promote hatred of Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims–including queer Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. The campaign is designed to make people living in liberal democracies like Canada feel an affinity for Israel."

Johnson, however, claimed that those who claim that Israel is practising apartheid are, in essence, denying that Israel should be a Jewish state.

"If you're equating a society with apartheid, nobody believes that a place that is an apartheid society should continue to exist," he said.

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.




Jul 29, 2010 at 8:34pm

Perhaps Mr.Johnson can point out why the current and historic treatment of Palestinians does not meet the definition of Apartheid.
It is so sad to see the Israeli military treat the Palestinians with the same contempt as the Nazis did in the Jewish ghettos before the horrific roundup and murder of countless Jews. To equate criticism of Israeli policy with anti-semitism is a misguided and intellectually flawed argument.
Human rights for all, One love for all people with out regard to race or creed is a motto that I cherish deeply.
Many progressive Jews are not in favour of the hardline right wing policies of the Israeli government. Kudo's to Israelis who are not homophobic, however many people who identify as Orthodox are homophobic, and this holds true for Orthodox zealots of all religions, we must not let the Myopic zealots control public policy any longer.

glen p robbins

Jul 29, 2010 at 10:42pm

Respectfully - I am not Jewish - do the Rabbi's live a life of poverty?

glen p robbins

Jul 29, 2010 at 10:48pm

Shit - if the Straight will sponsor me -- to wear pink -- and if it gives me an edge to replace Gordon Campbell as Moose elder in BC---

I'll drop a double dose of "V" -- and look pretty in pink.


Jul 29, 2010 at 11:00pm

Arguably, it can be said (and is) that Canada practises apartheid vis a vis our Native peoples. Think about it. Jean Chretien did &, to his horror, realized that that he could not honestly deny that he was Prime Minister of a country that does, in fact, practise apartheid.


Jul 30, 2010 at 11:06am

Helicopter gunships killing Palestinian women and children makes Aparthied seem like a playground squabble. Even when Apartheid was at it's worst, the South African government wasn't sending F18's to bomb the civilians, or dropping incediary phosphorus bombs when there was an uprising or conflict.


Jul 30, 2010 at 2:30pm

The Pride Parade is all about coming together to celebrate gay rights. Israeli foreign policy has nothing to do with gay rights. QAIA is using their identification as Queer as a trojan horse to bring their agenda into the parade and distract from its main purpose. Meanwhile, they targeting when nationality and vilifying it at the parade, which is supposed to be an event where everyone feels welcome. How is that QAIA is allowed to hijack the purpose of a taxpayer-sponsored event, in order to target a group? This is a sham.

Tracy Ramsey

Jul 30, 2010 at 3:10pm

When you have to comb the guts of your best friend out of your hair because a suicide bomber decided to blow himself up rather than work towards any kind of REAL peace, then you can spout your nonsense. Neither side is completely blameless in this awful mess, but to compare an all too necessary means of self defense to a racist policy of degradation is completely insincere. As the old saying goes, if the Arabs will put down their arms tomorrow, we could have peace that very day. If Israel disarms herself, we will have Auschwitz. Prove me wrong, I DARE you.

John C.

Jul 30, 2010 at 10:21pm

Well, when Pride Parades can't be controversial in and of themselves anymore, just leave it to some silly faction to try to force tension where none naturally exists.

Gays are here to stay. You know who's fine with it in Vancouver? Everyone except for those two drunken morons from a few months ago, who are going to jail and no-one cares about. Have a fun parade and save the apartheid protest for it's own day.

anti-apartheid queer

Jul 30, 2010 at 10:36pm

stop listening to the zionists, like they will tell you the truth about a zionist apartheid state. if you want to educate yourself on the current situation try reading yves engler's "canada and israel: building apartheid" to learn about canada's role in building zionist, oppressive, israel. ooops, is that libelous, to tell the truth?


Jul 31, 2010 at 12:32am

It is quite revealing to see so-called "progressives" on the same side as Ahmadinejad and other dictators. How is it that progressives themselves - those who in the past defended individual rights and fought fascism - have now become the breeding ground for new kinds of dangerous attitudes: an unthinking loathing of Israel; an obsessive anti-Americanism; an idea of "tolerance" that, in its justification of Islamic fanaticism, for example, could become the "cemetery of democracies"; and an indifference, masked by relativism, to the greatest human tragedies facing the world today?