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Gay Pride parade OKs banner for ‘Israel apartheid’ group

TORONTO (JTA) — Organizers of the Toronto Gay Pride parade have decided to allow a pro-Palestinian group to march with a banner condemning "Israeli apartheid."

Parade organizers had said last month that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, a Jewish organization, could march in the July 4 event, but they banned use of the phrase "Israeli apartheid" in reaction to Jewish advocacy groups and local politicians.

Instead of a ban, parade officials will require each participant to read, sign and abide by the City of Toronto’s non-discrimination policy, a move agreed to by the Queers group.

The group had vowed to defy the ban, setting up a potential confrontation on the day of the parade. Some two dozen past parade grand marshals and honorees returned their accolades, citing censorship.

Avi Benlolo, president of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, told the Toronto Star that his organization feels that Gay Pride "is no longer a representative of gay rights, but has now been unfortunately hijacked and has become a vehicle for anti-Israel bashing and agitation."

On its website, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid called parade organizers’ change of heart "a victory for the Palestine solidarity movement, which has faced censorship and bullying tactics from the Israel lobby for far too long." 

"The Israel lobby learned a tough lesson today about our community’s proud history of standing up to censorship and human rights abuses."

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