The cuckoo is a disagreeable bird, distinguished by the monotony of its frequent calls—hence its association with clocks—and its parasitism: The slyly opportunistic cuckoo lays its eggs in other birds’ nests; then the unwitting host raises the chicks as its own. Strangely, when applied to people, cuckoo means crazy. Hmm. Although unethical and irresponsible, the cuckoo bird is anything but crazy in getting what it wants without trouble to itself, but at considerable cost to others.
Consider, for example, the human cuckoos, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA). For the past three years, exploiting resources and an audience they have no legitimate claim to, QuAIA and Dykes Against Israeli Apartheid (DAIA) have been “laying their eggs”—marching and monotonously messaging their loathing for Israel to throngs of gay-supportive spectators—in the “nest” of Pride Toronto.
Seeing is believing. Lawyer Martin Gladstone filmed QuAIA 2009 in action to produce a short, damning documentary called Reclaiming our Pride. In it the hatred on the faces of many QuAIA and DAIA marchers is palpable. One sees swastikas on T-shirts characterizing Israel as a Nazi state, and hears menacing chants like “Fist by fist, blow by blow, apartheid state has got to go.” The film offers persuasive evidence that QuAIA aren’t ordinary political protesters with specific grievances, but Israel exceptionalists, gripped by an irrational obsession with the Jewish state’s allegedly fathomless evils, while utterly oblivious to horrific human rights abuses elsewhere.
Over a million people from Canada and abroad took part in Pride Week 2009. Pride creates $100-million in direct economic impact, supports 650 jobs and brings the Ontario government $18-million in tax revenue. In 2014 the World Pride Congress is coming to Toronto. The economic and civic stakes around such a huge event are high.
Pride has traditionally been a boisterous but peaceful event. Yet ominously, in 2009 policing was tripled, in large part a response to crowd volatility provoked by anti-Israel activism. If the parade continues to evolve as a tension-filled, divisive forum where one minority feels singled out for guilt by association, Pride’s reputation will suffer, with material losses to the city.
It’s no good pretending the vicious anti-Zionism of the apartheid crowd is free of anti-Semitism. Many Jews do feel threatened by it, and rightly so. Some will no longer attend the parade out of discomfort. Typically of others I interviewed, lesbian Denise Alexander told me that the 2009 parade was “the first time I’ve ever felt unsafe as a Jew in Toronto.” It wasn’t only the words, “Down with Israel” or “The end of Israel”: “It’s the tone … and the veins sticking out in their necks, like in Nazi Germany.”
The Pride organizing committee is a “host bird” for the QuAIA cuckoo, but not an “unwitting” one. The “terms and conditions of participation” last year proscribed “images or messages that promote or condone, or may [my emphasis] promote or condone … violence, degradation or negative stereotypes of any person(s) or group(s).” This year they have withdrawn to the self-insulating “messages … that promote or condone violence or the incitement of hatred as defined in the Criminal Code of Canada [my emphasis].” In a stroke, the committee has turned an issue of institutional ethics into a legal one, a cowardly evasion of responsibility.
Pride’s cultural mandate is to celebrate alternate sexuality, its political mandate to promote the human rights, social acceptance and environmental security of gays and lesbians. Political activism for human rights wherever gays are imprisoned, deported or executed makes sense. So does acknowledging gay-friendly jurisdictions. Kulanu, a Jewish social group, legitimately holds signs saying, “We’re proud of Israel because Israel’s proud of us.” But anti-Israel protest and support for Israel’s homophobic enemies belong in demonstrations on Parliament Hill or at the Israeli embassy, not in a forum where Israel’s impeccable credentials on gay rights and social integration are second to no other nation.
The Ontario legislature recently passed a motion condemning Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), as did the federal government. QuAIA is simply an IAW proxy; what was hateful in IAW is equally hateful in QuAIA. Political leaders must take ownership of this issue. Michael Ignatieff, Mayor David Miller, Toronto mayoral candidate George Smitherman, Bob Rae, Jack Layton, Olivia Chow, Belinda Stronach and Elizabeth May: You all marched in Pride 2009. Announce that you will not march in Pride 2010 if QuAIA does. Birds of a feather should flock together. Pride must eject the QuQus from its nest.