Ottawa: ‘Pride Toronto’ and Israel

“The scamble to lock up the Jewish votes in Canada meant selling out our widely admired and long-established reputation of fairness and justice,” Robert Fowler, retired Canadian diplomat, speaking at Liberal Party conference on Canadian Foreign Policy

Canada’s Stephen Harpar (listed as “Author” in Israel Hasbara Committee) government has decided not to fund the ‘Pride Toronto’ gay parade to be held between June 25 to July 4, 2010 in Toronto this year. Last year Ottawa had donated 397,500 dollars. Harper government has come up with several excuses except the religious ones, in support of its decision, however, many critics believe that it has all to do with a group (Queers Against Israeli Apartheid) in the parade showing support for Palestinian cause. They base their opinion on Bernie Farber’s (CEO Canadian Jewish Congress, an Israel lobby group) statement in daily Toronto Star: “Anything that promotes the destruction, demonizationand delegitimization of Israel, the only Jewish state, is inherently anti-Semitic”. Ironically, it’s no true because most of Israelis are either non-practicing Jews or outright atheists. Interestingly, in 2009 Bernie Farber attended the Toronto Gay Parade wearing a T-shirt emblazoned “NOBODY KNOWS I’M GAY” along with daily Toronto Star’s columinst, Antonia Zerbisias.

The best of the CJC-gay tangle is a column by no other than one of the 12 famous American Islamophobes, Mark Steyn, the author of anti-Muslim book ‘America Alone’, suggesting that increasing Muslim population in Europe and North America poses a grave threat to western civilization.

Michael Lucas, former famous Jewish-porn actor, told Israeli soldiers after their military humiliation in 34-day war with Hizb’Allah in Summer 2006: “I will expose the reality that the people of Israel face right now, especially the gay Israelis, who are targeted by the hate of Hezbollah”. Incidently, Tel Aviv prides itself as The Pink City.

Last year, Harper government defunded one of Canada’s largest Christian charity, KAIROS, for doing charity work in Gazzah. On February 3, 2010 – Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), released a video showing Stephen Harper being Canada’s most pro-Israel Prime Minister.

Toronto-based, award-winning filmaker, Elle Flanders, who grew-up in Israel, wrote an interesting article, titled We cannot all be anti-Semite, can we?

The hysteria created around the inclusion of a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) in the Toronto Pride Parade this year can be justly attributed to the ongoing Brand Israel campaign backed by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and most recently by Irwin Cotler’s Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism.

The CPCCA and the Israel lobby groups that surround it have taken the charge of anti-semitism to new and exaggerated heights, inventing what has been termed: “the new anti-semitism.” Aside from the fact that it sounds like a new and better hair product, its roots can be located in the Brand Israel campaign launched by the Israeli government’s Hasbara department, that is, the foreign ministry’s public diplomacy department.

The modern incarnation of Hasbara, which literally translates as “information,” came out of the 1992 Israel government’s sweeping changes to the foreign ministry’s publicity department, when it was merged with the press department. Hasbara’s main focus was now on media communications and on presenting positive images of Israel abroad. This also parlayed its way into the creation of organizations such as “Hasbara Fellowships” which have sent thousands of American university students to Israel to learn how to become effective pro-Israel activists back on their home campuses.

But what is the message of Hasbara, hence that of Israel’s foreign ministry, and of all Israel lobby groups, including those here in Canada such as the B’nai Brith, the Canadian Jewish Congress, Hillel chapters (on college and university campuses), etc.?

At its core, Hasbara functions from an ideology rooted in the right wing of the Israeli government. As Susan Hattis Rolef, editor of the Knesset website, wrote after the 1992 elections: “The Likud regards the world as hostile by definition, and when our few proven friends in the worst of times happened to criticize Israel, the Likud was inclined to react by saying that they too must be ‘closet anti-semites.'” anti-semitism, which is at the centre of the Israeli foreign ministry’s ideology, is what forms Jewish identity abroad and has become the raison-d’être of Jewish nationalism. If you aren’t for Israel and everything it does, you are clearly against it, so the tautology goes. By circular logic, if the State was formed as a response to Jewish hatred (post WW II), and if you are critical of the State, then you must be for Jewish hatred.

How to separate critique of Israel from this conundrum? Not easily…….

And so, too, therefore, QuAIA is anti-semitic — the word apartheid, the core of the groups’ critique, seems to have been singled out as the offending term. Linking Israel to apartheid is akin to hate speech, defiling the one democracy in the Middle East by comparing it to the brutal oppressive regime of South Africa. The simple response is that the use of the word as it relates to current Israeli State policy is merely accurate and has been used by those who lived under South African Apartheid, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, heads of State Jimmy Carter, Ehud Barak, members of Knesset Yossi Paritzky, Shulamit Aloni, Mayors of Jerusalem, Meron Benvenisti, Ehud Olmert, and on it goes. Can they ALL be anti-semites too?

While politicians will say almost anything to get elected, a good test would be to check their public track records. While QuAIA’s bookshelves have not turned up one “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” pamphlet, candidates Rob Ford and Giorgio Mammoliti have indeed proven their homophobic stripes over the years. Funny bedfellows for Martin Gladstone who’s “parts don’t fit” with Mammolitti’s — a slur he made against gays many years ago. But then again, Israel too has chosen to slip between the covers with the likes of the Christian Zionist right. Call me an anti-semite but what’s that going to look like when the Messiah comes?!

Anti-semitism is a potent and poisonous phenomenon, and it has been around as long as Jews have, but calling every critic of Israel, Jewish or not, not only undermines the real incidences of anti-semitism but further delegitimizes those who claim to ‘stand by Israel.’ The list of anti-semites is indeed getting longer and longer.

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