For the past few years, Queer Arabs of Halifax (QAH) have asked Halifax Pride to counter pinkwashing efforts that portray foreign states as queer-friendly tourist destinations, distracting from these states’ human rights violations and the traumas that queer folks of colour have experienced as a result. This year, QAH put forward a motion to the Pride Society that would bring their concerns to a vote. While the motion addresses pinkwashing in general, it also deals with material from Size Doesn’t Matter—an organization that promotes Tel Aviv as a queer-friendly city, but negates the struggle of queer Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
The Atlantic Jewish Council (AJC) recently called for the Jewish community’s unanimous support against the motion, and wrongly accused it of being hateful and discriminatory. They claim that if passed, the motion would censor Jewish presence at Pride.
This accusation is misguided. The motion put forward by QAH does not seek to ban the presence of any Jewish community organization from participating in Halifax Pride. In fact, QAH have gone out of their way to make that clear, focusing solely on the presence of Size Doesn’t Matter.
Size Doesn’t Matter not only diminishes the presence of queer Palestinian and Arab people of colour, it also exploits queer Israelis. It presents the queer Israeli community as a gimmick to attract positive attention towards the state as a whole, and reduces their identity to a branding object.
As young Jews, we were very upset to see from our community leaders yet another attempt to discredit an initiative that would make Pride more inclusive for queer Palestinians and people of colour. What is even more frustrating is the AJC’s soliciting of votes from mostly straight, cisgendered individuals. Members of Pride are meant to identify with or be allies for the queer community. To offer to pay membership fees on behalf of non-queer individuals in order to target queer people of colour’s efforts displays a concerning lack of respect.
When our community leaders do this, they do not speak in our name. That is why we have chosen to create “Jewish Youth for Equality,” an emerging coalition of progressive, young Jews who affirm the humanity of Palestinians as equals. We have felt, and continue to feel that the AJC is out of touch with our values. We are offended that they claim to speak on our behalf without consultation. And we feel hurt as they push us to choose between our Jewish identity and our desire for a better world for all—including
Palestinians. In reclaiming the Jewish values of freedom and dignity for all people, we express our support for Queer Arabs of Halifax, as they ensure that Pride does not exclude or marginalize anyone, here or elsewhere.
The AJC’s implied suggestion that Jews must choose to support Israel’s actions over allying with queer folks and people of colour is dangerous. It silences the perspectives of many Jews, particularly queer Jews and Jews of colour who may not support Israel’s policies. The fact that the AJC feels that they can’t participate in Pride without promoting Israel is troubling. It makes support for queer issues conditional on ignoring Israel’s occupation. Rather, the AJC should focus first on supporting non-heteronormative Jews in Atlantic Canada, and be true allies for the wider queer community.
As young Jewish people, we feel that our voices are being used to silence a legitimate effort to make Pride more inclusive. That is why we choose to make our voices heard as Jews, allying ourselves with Queer Arabs of Halifax. We hope that by choosing the celebration of Jewish culture over the promotion of a state, we can become a supportive community. Young Jewish people support a Pride that includes everyone, including Queer Arabs of Halifax.