The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) says it doesn’t believe a controversy stemming from pro-Israel materials at Halifax Pride festivities will cause an irreparable rift between the city’s Jews and LGBTQ groups.
The Mount Saint Vincent University LGBTQ group Mount Pride, with support from the school’s student union, said Oct. 20 it will boycott Halifax Pride and is urging other groups to do the same.
The decision was sparked by the defeat of a vote at Halifax Pride’s Oct. 5 annual general meeting that would have banned pro-Israel materials associated with CIJA’s “Size Doesn’t Matter” (SDM) campaign from Halifax Pride events.
The Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP) said it’s also considering a boycott.
Mount Pride and some members of the LGBTQ community feel the meeting was hijacked by straight, white people, specifically by the Atlantic Jewish Council (AJC), which encouraged members of the Jewish community to attend the meeting and vote down what it called a “hateful resolution” that unfairly targeted Jews.
“We feel that Halifax Pride has violated its core principles… to the LGBTQIA2+ people of Halifax and Atlantic Canada, especially Queer BIPOC [black, indigenous and people of colour] peoples,” Mount Pride said on its Facebook page.
“Some of the most marginalized voices in our community… came forward and said they felt unsafe at Pride [because of the SDM campaign] and their concerns were ignored and voted down by a community outside of Pride,” Mount Pride president Leslie Allen told The CJN.
She stressed: “This isn’t about Israel or Palestine… but that a population came forward with a problem and Halifax Pride silenced it… This is about growing the community, not about alienating the Jewish community.”
CIJA’s general counsel and senior political adviser, Richard Marceau, said the boycott call is “unfortunate, but let’s be clear: those who want to use Pride as a platform to exclude or censor the Jewish community… including LGBTQ Jews, are undermining Pride’s own values.”
At the meeting, attended by 376 people, a local group called Queer Arabs of Halifax (QAH) submitted a motion urging Halifax Pride to remove and disengage from what QAH called SDM’s “pinkwashing” content and “any other content that is identified to pinkwash violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.” The resolution was defeated 210 to 106, with five abstentions.
The group had earlier told Pride that SDM made its members uncomfortable, because they say the campaign diverts attention from Israel’s poor treatment of Palestinians.
The Halifax newspaper The Coast reported that after the motion’s defeat, about a dozen BIPOC members of the LGBTQ community left in protest. Some later expressed outrage on social media.
CIJA and the AJC praised Halifax Pride for rejecting the motion, saying it would have censored the Jewish community.
Halifax Pride allows anyone to register as a member and vote at its meetings.
According to AJC executive director Naomi Rosenfeld, about 100 attendees were Jewish, joined by “many of our other partners and allies, including those from the LGBTQ community. It was not just the Jewish community voting this resolution down.”
Allen said the meeting was a tipping point but, “we’re seeing a trend at Pride events across the country where more and more pinkwashing is happening. Pride is becoming less and less for the people that need it most.”
She said the problem extends to corporations sponsoring Pride as a way to further their image, despite unjust policies towards marginalized groups.
Of the boycott, Rosenfeld said, “Making all LGBTQ groups feel included in Pride is a goal we applaud… but you can’t say that in order to include one group you have to exclude another.”
She and Marceau noted that CIJA is part of a coalition working on legislation to protect rights for trans people.
“We’re proud that ties between the Jewish and LGBTQ communities have only grown in recent years. Any suggestion to the contrary simply doesn’t match facts,” Marceau said.