- Gerhard Soyka is a political science graduate student at Dalhousie University and an LGBTQ+ activist from Germany.
On Wednesday of last week, the annual general meeting of the Halifax Pride voted down a controversial resolution that proposed to remove all mentions of Israel from the festival and parade, an 11-day long event attended by more than 200,000 people. The argument: Israel is using LGBTQ+ rights to sweep crimes against Palestinian people under the rug. In other words: Everything good and right Jews are doing, including at Halifax Pride, is nothing more than an attempt to shift attention away from human rights violations.
No one is denying the existence of human rights violations, not even the Jewish community. But constructing a link between that and LGBTQ+ rights in Israel? There is no empirical causation.
It was a very emotional evening for everyone involved, myself included. Since the motion’s defeat, some voices have been claiming that “white people took over the meeting and voted down the queer community.” This is a very narrow-minded perspective, if not categorically false account, of what happened. Most LGBTQ+ people in the room, including me, stood beside the Jewish community—which included LGBTQ+ Jewish people, despite claims otherwise to make them disappear—to show solidarity and to make sure that Halifax Pride remained open and inclusive to all groups.
As a gay German living in Halifax, I am shocked at the characterizations of the Jewish community at the Halifax Pride Society’s AGM. It is part of my people’s history that we killed about six million Jews in one of the deadliest genocides in history. Since then, all German governments and the German civil society have worked on the compensation of Holocaust survivors and their heirs. But, beyond that, we have also ensured that Jewish life is safe and that the contribution of the Jewish community to our society is valued.
My impression of the Halifax Pride AGM was that many people have forgotten how much the Jewish people have suffered over the last centuries. It is still not safe being Jewish in most countries of this world. I had hoped that Nova Scotia would not be one of those places. And, it was clear by the turnout of Jewish people at the Pride AGM that this community hoped so as well.
I am sure that the intentions of the resolutions’ supporters were important and legitimate but they were not sensitive enough about the consequences of their motion—an exclusion of the Jewish community from authenticity at the Halifax Pride.
I have always known Halifax—and especially the LGBTQ+ community within Halifax—to be an open-minded, diverse and safe environment based on acceptance and respect. Let us hope that the Halifax Pride remains open and inclusive for all Haligonians. In the end, we all just want to be included and to feel safe at Pride. We can surely do that, if we stop blaming each other. Let us all work together to ensure that Halifax and Nova Scotia are safe places for Arabs—but never at the expense of the Jewish people.