The Executive Committee was packed with media this morning, not to report on issues related to Pride funding, but because it was the first time embattled Mayor Rob Ford was set to preside over a Council meeting since he had been accused of being in an as-of-yet unsubstantiated video in which he was alleged to have smoked something appearing to be crack cocaine. The media behaved more like paparazzi tacking George Clooney than municipal affairs reporters, but the circus atmosphere died down after a couple of hours.
|Rob Ford at Tuesday's |
Executive Committee meeting
The first speaker was someone named Carol Rawson who proceeded to provide definitions of apartheid and tried to link them to the Israeli state. Like most of the anti-Israel speakers who appeared, she seemed to lack basic insight into the situation involving the Israel and the Palestinians. Either that or she didn't comprehend the definitions she was reciting.
The definitions of apartheid she listed named discrimination on the basis of racial, ethnic and religious grounds, despite that in Israel, the issue actually has to do with nationality. Israeli Palestinians and Israeli Muslims and non-Jews have full citizenship rights, whereas Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza are not Israeli, so naturally do not enjoy those rights. If her idea of apartheid were the case, then the United States is also practicing apartheid against Mexico.
In speech after speech, it was blatantly obvious that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid and its supporters are little other than a collection of vapid, hateful, self-serving ideologues. They invent their own facts and lie outright about the situation affecting the Palestinians in Israel and the Middle East.
Describing the so-called "apartheid", one speaker spoke about "Jewish-only" roads in the Occupied West Bank. However no such roads exist. There are roads for Israeli citizens, which include non-Jews, and they were built following many deadly attacks on Israelis by Palestinians. Betraying the anti-Semitism they deny, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid's supporters frequently conflate Jews with Israelis and Zionists and that linkage is not only limited to within Israel.
There were speakers who took the floor to denounce the bigotry of the anti-Israel fanatics, the most poignant of whom were members of the Gay community. Martin Gladstone, a Toronto lawyer, was one of the first people to speak out about the divisiveness and hatred that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid brings to a Pride festival that is supposed to be an event which should be welcoming to all members of the Gay community. That point was powerfully reiterated by Dr. Paul Druzin, a physician who said that he does not want his "Gay tax dollars" to fund Pride if it includes a hate group like QuAIA.
An thoughtful, balanced speech was given by Hassan Maalbaki. He said that as a Gay, Muslim Arab, he wanted a better life for his Palestinian brothers and sisters, but he did not want his city to support a venue for the intolerance and discord among the Gay community promoted by Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.
I spoke to the Executive Committee as well, beginning by noting that the world isn't going to come to an end if Queers Against Israeli Apartheid participate in Pride. They are disingenuous hatemongers whose agenda is both transparent and unconvincing. But there were matters that others hadn't raised in detail which were worth addressing.
The City Manager`s report that was under discussion is something I said was hopelessly tainted. It was produced largely under the aegis of Uzma Shakir, the City`s highly paid Director of its Equity, Diversity and Human Rights Division. The same Uzma Shakir, a proponent of Sharia law, had written an article for the vociferously anti-Israel website rabble.ca in which she essentially declared that Muslim immigrants do not owe loyalty to Canada because of our government's pro-Israel stance.
Her exact words were:
“when we adopt a partisan policy stance towards conflicts that are unresolved like Palestine and Israel when both Arabs/Muslims and Jews are Canadian citizens and deserve our 'equal' consideration, it is hard to be grateful or indeed hopeful. No! Immigrants do not owe their loyalty to Canada unquestioningly -- Canada needs to earn that loyalty..."A report by such a clearly biased source would never be accepted by a court, nor should the City`s Executive accept it. I noted that the decision should fall to elected members of Council who were chosen by the citizens of Toronto to make such determinations. The issue isn`t whether "Israeli Apartheid" is hate speech, and it likely does not fit the legal definition as such. The issue is whether the city's elected representatives have the right to choose on behalf of Toronto's citizens not to pay for or be associated with a venue for a disgusting group of bigots like QuAIA.
I discussed the nature of the group, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid itself. The group masquerades as a "social justice" and a "human rights" group, but in fact they are nothing of the sort. The are, either by actual intent or by default, an anti-Semitic hate group. The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that, "Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest. " Singling out Israel, Zionists and in so doing, most Jews for hate, is Queers Against Israeli Apartheid's sole purpose. If indeed they were concerned about the human rights of Palestinians, then they would speak out about the egregious human rights abuses faced by Palestinians in Lebanon, where they are denied citizenship, the right to own land or to be employed in dozens of occupations. Or they would speak out against the mistreatment of Palestinians that far exceeds anything perpetrated by Israel in places like Syria, Iraq, Kuwait and other Muslim countries. Queers Against Israeli Apartheid never discusses those violations of Palestinian human rights, because human rights is not really what their agenda is about.
The group is comprised and headed mainly by Marxists and anti-Capitalists. Its principal spokesman, Tim McCaskell, was a featured speaker at a Marxism conference held last weekend in Toronto. Marxists see Israel as a vulnerable, capitalist entity that is an ally of the great, evil epicenter of global capitalism, the USA. From their perspective, if Israel can be taken down, it strikes a blow against America and capitalism. If millions of Israeli Jews die and a brutal form of Sharia Law that represses women and executes Gays is imposed in its place, that would be of little concern to adherents to an ideology responsible for tens of millions of murders in the last century. But Human Rights is not their actual motive.
I observed for the Executive Committee that just because Jews are members of QuAIA, it no more precludes their being anti-Semitic than the fact that a handful of Jews collaborated with Nazi Germany precluded them from Jew hatred.
The issue of free speech was also not discussed in detail by anyone else and that was a critical aspect of the matter. QuAIA and its cronies make the deceitful argument that by attaching conditions to Pride's funding, their right to free speech is being taken away. Nothing could be more false.
Free speech is denied when the state prohibits it with sanctions and penalties. No one is depriving Queers Against Israeli Aparthied from publishing, saying, or spreading their message. The issue before council is a question of whether to fund it.
If I were to go to Council and ask for $200,000 to rent the Goodyear blimp to fly around the city and broadcast, "Richard Klagsbrun is a god and everyone should throw themselves at his feet," and got the response, "no, that's idiotic", I noted that using QuAIA's logic, I too would be deprived of free speech.
Of course free speech is not really what Queers Against Israeli Apartheid wants. They want tax-funded, subsidized speech so other people can pay for them to spread their vile poison.
Following my presentation, one of the QuAIA members took to the floor to speak, upset at what I had said. A wretched, weathered looking woman by the name of Anita Block proclaimed that she was offended at having been called a "Nazi collaborator." Her means of trying to justify that was by professing she was a "child of Holocaust survivors." She then had to clarify that her parents had left Europe in the 1930's prior to the actual Holocaust, which would not really make them 'Holocaust survivors.' But the Jews in the fanatical anti-Israel movement like to play that card whenever they can, not quite understanding it lends no validity to anything they say. It gives them no more credence than if a murderer used the excuse that being the child of a Holocaust survivor means that they could not possibly have committed a capital crime.
But there is a truly sad, pathetic component to Jews who have attached themselves to fanatics like Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. Many are what I call Munchausen Jews, who profess to be Jews almost exclusively for the purpose of demonizing the Jewish state, which also happens to be the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. Their desperate need for attention and approbation leads these Munchausen Jews to make fools of themselves while consorting with the most deplorable characters.
If Ms Block was more discerning, she might have noticed I did not call Jews like her Nazi collaborators, but only compared her to them. If I was going to identify a vicious, fascistic movement with which QuAIA was collaborating, it would be the monstrous totalitarians who worship the murderous ideology of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini.
On many occasions, QuAIA members have appeared to show support for the racist, Khomeinist hatemonger Zafar Bangash, such as at his annual al Quds Day rally to celebrate the Iranian dictator's call for the elimination of Israel.
An interesting episode followed at the Executive Committee. A Toronto woman gave an impassioned speech denouncing QuAIA's hypocrisy, in which she talked about the hate group "bitching" about free speech while they were actively engaged in trying to censor others. The woman used the phrase 'let's call a spade a spade' when identifying QuAIA as hateful bigots.
That speech provoked a remarkable response from Ward 9 Councillor Maria Augimeri. The Councillor, who is one of only a few who effectively stood up for the hateful term "Israeli Apartheid" by being one of just seven of Council's 42 members to vote against a motion last year to denounce it, took a seat allotted for visiting Council members at the Executive Committee.
Augimeri shouted into the microphone in front of her that she had a Point of Order. However Mayor Ford noted that she could not introduce it, as that was a privilege not accorded to visiting Councillors at the Committee.
It was a basic procedural matter that the Mayor was correct in noting. But acting like a petulant child throwing a temper tantrum, she kept shouting over the Mayor, who pleaded with her to follow the rules. Ford did not want to demean himself by getting in an argument with the near-hysterical Augimeri, who then spat into the microphone about being outraged that the "sexist" word bitching was being used by a deputant at the Executive Committee. Augimeri then denounced the phrase "calling a spade a spade" as racist to a small smattering of applause from the grubby QuAIA contingent in the room. Before anyone could respond, Augimeri stormed out of the room in a huff. The meeting then continued, ignoring the interruption as if Augimeri had never been there.
Had she remained, someone might have pointed out to the not-particularly-bright Councillor that if she were familiar with the etymology of "calling a spade a spade," she would have known it has no racist connotations whatsoever. The phrase originated in the mid 16th Century and was based on Nicholas Udall's translation of Erasmus. The quote comes from:
"Philippus aunswered, that the Macedonians wer feloes of no fyne witte in their termes but altogether grosse, clubbyshe, and rusticall, as they whiche had not the witte to calle a spade by any other name then a spade."Another visiting Councillor, Kristyn Wong-Tam, came to the microphone to speak about the issue at hand. Being the original owner of the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid group's website, her bias would seem apparent. Wong-Tam dissembled about Pride being discriminated against for having to fulfil conditions that are not applied to any other recipient of City funds. She naturally neglected to mention that no other recipient is also consistently used as a platform to denounce an entire community within Toronto. But honesty and integrity are not features anyone has come to expect from QuAIA's supporters.
A few members of the Executive Committee stood out as bringing forceful reason to the debate, including Budget Chief Frank di Giorgio, and most particularly David Shiner and Norm Kelly. Shiner spoke about the realities in Israel that put the lie to the deceitful claim that Israel, which affords more democratic rights to the Palestinians than any Arab country, is an "apartheid state." Kelly expressed dismay that, as Gays are persecuted throughout the Middle East in every country but Israel, where they have equal rights, Pride's response was shocking. Kelly said Pride should be honoring the Jewish state rather than investing so much energy into demonizing it.
A motion was passed by the Executive Committee that called for the city to only fund Pride's cultural events, but not the parade in which Queers Against Israeli Apartheid participates. Whether that motion is passed by all of Toronto's City Council remains to be seen.
Yesterday's events reiterated the reality that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid are an unprincipled collection of detestable cretins who have managed to manipulate the spineless leadership of Pride. Along with them for the ride are a small handful of sordid City Councillors on the hard left.
A point I raised to the Executive Committee is that the City expects its elected officials to effectively represent how tax funds are spent. There are many important needs for which we haven't found the funds. Our roads are in a terrible state of disrepair and remain in need of fixing. There are homeless people living in our streets. Supporting Pride, should it do what it's supposed to, which is to honor and celebrate the contributions, inclusion of and participation of the Gay community within Toronto, would be an appropriate use of city funds. But if tax funds are handed over to a venue for Queers Against Israeli Apartheid to spew their poison, then it would be a gross abuse of the trust that citizens place in the hands of their representatives.
There are victims to QuAIA's spiteful activities, but not the ones they would prefer. QuAIA are a group of insignificant bigots and Israel will neither be hurt by nor likely even notice them.
In the end, the real victims of the QuAIA hatemongers are the taxpayers of Toronto, who have had to subsidize them and deal with their self-serving divisiveness for far too long.