Halifax was the scene in October of a raucous and emotional annual meeting of the Halifax Pride Committee AGM. A resolution by the Queer Arab Halifax group that would see the abolishment of any mention of Israel’s positive attitude towards members of the LGBTQ community in that country was tabled and defeated by a margin of 210 to 106.
The motion was supported by the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, a Halifax-based LGBTQ support group. Any mention of LGBTQ folks and support in Israel would not be allowed in any of the Halifax Pride events. Fortunately, the majority see this as a successful vote that will not see discrimination being on display at Pride events in Halifax.
Even so, half of those in attendance were in favour of the motion, thereby declaring that it’s quite all right to go against the Israeli LGBTQ community. The fact Arab nations and Israel are at each other’s throats should not be a deterrent to support LGBTQ persons in any country.
Celebrating Pride is to recognize the gains and the long-awaited equality we are searching for, and have attained in a handful of nations. It must be prioritised. Most are well aware of the eternal struggles between those countries. Nevertheless, we must, above all, recognize the fact that all of these nations have LGBTQ citizens who must receive our support, regardless of nationality.
Human rights abuses are dominant around the world. We don’t have to travel very far from our own borders to know that racial tensions exist in the United States where African Americans are attacked or killed. In Canada, our indigenous people live in deplorable conditions and young people commit suicide regularly.
If we follow the resolution presented to the Halifax Pride Committee as a guide then we would be failing to support those in our own neighbourhoods and no longer accept them as equals to ourselves. Governments are responsible for guiding us towards a more accepting society, but usually fail miserably at uniting us. Such is the case in Israel and Palestine where human rights abuses occur regularly.
Should we present a resolution to our Pride committees and no longer allow LGBTQ accept mention of the U.S. because of their human right abuses, or indeed those within Canada? LGBTQ people must unite around the globe and not be intimidated by on-going conflicts between countries.
Yes, the abuses are terrifying and indeed we should not turn a blind eye to those horrific conditions, but we cannot and must not ignore our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. From east to west, north to south, we must not let further divisions monopolize us. Queer Arab Halifax should continue to be vocal and make attempts to heal the rifts between their nations and Israel, but do not discriminate and toss aside the fact that LGBTQ folks are mostly accepted in Israel.
Perhaps energies should be directed at other Arab nations where stoning gays to death and other terrible abuses occur. Celebrate our LGBTQ people in other countries, not destroy what we already have. Peace for Arabs, Jews and all others. Fight governments, not our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
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Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.