Pride Over Prejudice in Halifax

Halifax LGBT Community Votes Down Censorship: Anti-Israel resolution defeated at Halifax pride’s annual meeting

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A series of events took place the past two months in the LGBTQ community of Halifax, Nova Scotia, with far-reaching implications for LGBTQ, Jewish and pro-Israel communities. A Wider Bridge was on the ground in Halifax this week working closely with our Canadian partners to push back against those seeking to silence our community. We are proud to report that the values of inclusion and freedom of expression ultimately carried the day.

Atlantic Jewish Council (AJC), the umbrella organization for Nova Scotia’s Jewish community. Naomi shared that over the summer, AJC’s contingent at Halifax Pride endured harassment from anti-Israel protesters, who made accusations of “pinkwashing” and “Israeli Apartheid.” AJC’s participation in pride demonstrated a commitment to LGBT inclusion in the Jewish community – which includes the  state of Israel – and solidarity with the larger Halifax LGBT community. Yet AJC’s participation was disrupted, distorted, and needlessly politicized.

These protesters then submitted a discriminatory resolution to censor the Jewish community from bringing any mention of Israel to Pride. Over the past week, A Wider Bridge, the Atlantic Jewish Council, and CIJA – the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs called on Halifax Pride to stop the resolution from coming to the floor on the basis of the resolution’s direct contradiction to Halifax Pride’s values of inclusivity and openness to all.

More than 70 LGBT leaders from Canada and the United States signed an open letter published yesterday urging Halifax Pride and the local LGBT community to reject the resolution. Local LGBT leader Howard Heyman wrote an impassioned personal op ed. And queer Muslim interfaith leader Nadiya Al-Noor wrote about the controversy from her own important perspective in “From One Muslim to Another…”

In past years, between 12 and 30 people attended Halifax Pride’s Annual General Meeting. Last night, more than 300 members of the community attended the meeting, which ran almost until midnight. While the resolution came to a vote, it was resoundingly defeated by a diverse coalition of LGBT people and allies, Jews and non-Jews: 106 for, 210 opposed, and 5 abstaining.

The work in Halifax has just begun. We look forward to partnering with AJC and CIJA to engage the Halifax Pride Board and local LGBT leaders in Halifax with local community members, with Israel, and with LGBT Israelis.

You can read our full press release with the World Congress of GLBT Jews along with the AJC-CIJA press release below.

A Wider Bridge and The World Congress of GLBT Jews Thank the Halifax LGBTQ+ Community for Rejecting Discrimination and Censorship

October 6, 2016

Last night at the annual general meeting of the Halifax Pride Society, a coalition of LGBTQ+ Nova Scotians and allies resoundingly defeated a resolution seeking to censure the Jewish community and LGBTQ+ people who care about Israel. We applaud the resolution’s defeat as a victory for inclusion and freedom of expression.

The resolution called for the Halifax Pride Society to “remove and disengage from… pinkwashing content,” but the impact of the resolution would have forced many Jews to check a key part of their identity at the door in order to participate in Pride. No minority group should be required to silence themselves in this way, and indeed, Jews and all other LGBTQ+ people who care about Israel and take pride in the progress of Israel’s LGBTQ+ community were being singled out for discrimination in a way that no other group would be treated. Moreover, the “pinkwashing” accusations promote the odious notion LGBTQ+ people or allies who celebrate Israel and its LGBTQ+ community do so with a hidden agenda. Such accusations are dangerously similar to long-standing anti-Semitic characterizations of Jews as deceitful, and have no place in LGBTQ+ pride, which should be a place for understanding and openness.

For years, our local partner in Halifax, the Atlantic Jewish Council (AJC), has participated in Halifax Pride to demonstrate the inclusivity of the Jewish community and to support the vibrant LGBTQ+ community in Halifax. As LGBTQ+ people and allies, we applaud AJC’s continued commitment to the Halifax LGBTQ+ community.

We remain troubled that the Halifax Pride Society chose to allow such a discriminatory measure to move to a vote. We look forward to working with AJC in engaging the organization’s leadership and other LGBTQ+ community leaders in important dialogue to ensure the Jewish community and all LGBTQ+ people and allies who care about Israel can continue to march in Pride as their full, authentic selves.

Press Release: CIJA and AJC Applaud Halifax Pride for Rejecting Resolution Censoring the Jewish Community

October 5, 2016

Halifax, NS – Today, at its annual general meeting, Halifax Pride defeated a resolution that called for the banning of Size Doesn’t Matter (SDM) and other materials at Pride that showcase the achievements of Israel’s LGBTQ community. SDM is a Canadian program run by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), which highlights Israeli culture, technology, lifestyle, and values. SDM events and products are often seen on campus and at Pride festivals across Canada.

For many Jewish Canadians, especially LGBTQ Jews, SDM provides an opportunity to express a core part of their identity: their connection with Israel and LGBTQ Israelis. For several years in Halifax, the Atlantic Jewish Council (AJC) has made use of SDM materials while leading a contingent of LGBTQ and allied Jewish community members participating in annual Pride events.

“We applaud Halifax Pride for rejecting this resolution, which singled out the Jewish community for censorship,” said Naomi Rosenfeld, Executive Director of the Atlantic Jewish Council. “Halifax Pride’s decision tonight ensures its core values of inclusion and equality will be upheld at future events. The AJC is grateful to our friends in the LGBTQ community who opposed the censorship resolution. In so doing, they have ensured that the AJC, LGBTQ Jews, and the Jewish community at large can share their full, authentic identities at Pride celebrations.”

“We commend Halifax Pride for upholding freedom and inclusion by voting against this effort to discriminate against the Jewish community,” said Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “No Pride in Canada has adopted a policy of censorship as was proposed in Halifax. For many Jewish Canadians, particularly LGBTQ Jews, pride in Israel and the achievements of the LGBTQ community are a core part of one’s identity. Tonight’s decision is a victory for Pride’s own values and a clear sign that the organized Jewish community, as a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights and freedoms, remains welcome as a fully equal member of Pride.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA.