SF Pride hears it from both sides in Israel-Hamas conflict

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday June 19, 2024
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Activists opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine marched in the 2009 San Francisco LGBT Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Activists opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestine marched in the 2009 San Francisco LGBT Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Strong feelings on both sides of the Israel-Hamas war have landed the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee in the middle, seemingly not pleasing anyone. The dueling positions come as San Francisco prepares to celebrate LGBTQ Pride June 29-30.

The Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area criticized SF Pride in an email blast earlier this month, critiquing a "poorly worded statement" that the organization first published to Instagram. A pro-Palestinian group has also railed against SF Pride.

This year's Pride parade is scheduled for Sunday, June 30, at 10:30 a.m., where thousands are scheduled to march up Market Street from Beale Street in commemoration of the 55th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which is widely credited with launching the modern LGBTQ rights movement in the United States.

The parade this year is taking place against the backdrop of Israel's war in the Gaza Strip, which started after Hamas, which governs the strip, killed 1,200 people last October 7 in the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Hamas since then has been holding Israelis hostage in Gaza.

Israel responded with an extensive bombing campaign in Gaza, and a ground invasion, which has led to the deaths of over 37,000 Palestinians, according to health authorities, Reuters reports.

The U.S. provides billions of dollars in military aid to Israel annually. The Biden administration has faced pressure from some Democrats and protesters to cut off that aid, or make it conditional on a ceasefire.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry determined both the Israeli government and Hamas have committed war crimes, and the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for the leaders of both Israel and Hamas. Biden denounced the ICC warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "outrageous." (This is separate from South Africa's case in the International Court of Justice alleging that Israel is committing a genocide in the Gaza Strip.)

Jewish congregations marched in the 2010 San Francisco LGBT Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

Local reactions
The imbroglio with the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area began June 4, when SF Pride made an Instagram post stating that it wanted to address "comments and misinformation about our current policies and practices."

"There is no Israeli float in the SF Pride Parade. SF Pride values the contributions of Jewish queer individuals in advocating for peace and acknowledge their enduring efforts. SF Pride is carefull [sic] not to conflate Jewish groups and Jewish people living in America with the state of Israel," the post stated. "We have welcomed and continue to welcome pro-Palestinian groups to the SF Pride Parade. If more are interested, they can join the Resistance Contingent (with the SF Pride Board), or if such a group wants to have its own contingent, we invite them to request a fee waiver."

The post also stated that SF Pride did not ask for an increased police presence, that "SF Pride's sponsors, corporate and otherwise, have no influence over the content of our programming or the stance of the organization," and that "SF Pride has never used the label 'terrorist' to refer to protesters as we deeply support the rights of our community to be heard."

SF Pride's board had previously called for a ceasefire and the release of the hostages, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported.

On June 7, Tye Gregory, a gay man who is CEO of JCRC Bay Area, sent an email blast alongside the publication of an op-ed in the Washington Blade, which was written with Jeremy Burton, CEO of the JCRC of Greater Boston.

"San Francisco Pride released a poorly worded statement to the effect that there was 'no Israeli float' in the upcoming parade, which caused confusion and consternation across our community," Gregory stated. "JCRC Bay Area has been working with SF Pride Executive Director Suzanne Ford for several months to assure a safe and inclusive parade for LGBTQ+ Jews, and we were disheartened by the statement.

"However, I'm pleased to say that Suzanne and her team have been very receptive to our community's needs and SF Pride quickly clarified its position to affirm that LGBTQ+ Jews, Israelis, and allies are all welcome at Pride," Gregory added.

Gregory continued by stating, "it's important to keep in mind that, just like in other communities, anti-Israel activists are a small but vocal minority."

"LGBTQ+ Jews and Israelis can look forward to marching as their (our) full authentic selves in the San Francisco Pride parade on June 30, and JCRC will continue its work, as the largest collective Jewish voice in the Bay Area, to ensure that all LGBTQ+ people — regardless of religion, nationality, race, ability, identity or creed — are welcome," Gregory continued.

In stating that SF Pride had "clarified its position," Gregory linked to screenshots of another Instagram post, this one on June 6, which stated that registrations for floats had closed June 3, that "no organizations or groups were turned away from participating in this year's activities," and that "we gave always welcomed ALL faith communities to participate: all Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Pagans, and more."

"All LGBTQ+ people and allies are welcome at San Francisco Pride, and that includes Israelis and Jewish people just as it does Palestinians and Muslims," the post stated.

Pro-Palestinian group boycotting
Mindy Spatt, a Jewish lesbian with QUIT!, or Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism, told the B.A.R. on June 13 that her organization doesn't have a stance on the dueling statements.

"I'm not sure we have anything to add to this story," Spatt said. "We support the call for a boycott of Pride. We have had issues, as a group, for years with a lot of aspects of Pride — the corporate sponsorship, the presence of police — and at this moment in time, we agree that a boycott is needed. There is no pride in genocide."

Spatt said that QUIT! is continuing to reiterate "the demand for a ceasefire and for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories," referring to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The West Bank is occupied by Israel but has widespread international recognition as being, with the Gaza Strip, the State of Palestine.

The Instagram account gay.shame shared news of the boycott with a post June 12 announcing a Pride event of its own — "Queer as in Intifada: SF Pride rides with genocide" — Sunday, June 23, at 2 p.m. at Castro and Market streets.

("Intifada" is Arabic for a rebellion or uprising. It's been used twice to refer to uprisings against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, which has been ongoing since the end of the Six Day War in 1967.)

"Mask up and bring friends, lovers, enemies, free stuff to give away, zines, food, signs, banners, noise makers, anger, rage, love, and more," the post states.

The reason given for the boycott in the post is "for decades SF Pride has waged a war against collective liberation in the name of corporate power. A rainbow celebration of global genocide, it's now a parade for our oppressors."

"From Mayor London Breed, Matt Dorsey, and Scott Wiener's hate for the unhoused, Manny Yekutiel's Nakba denial, Google's apartheid architecture spanning the Bay to occupied Palestine, and Apple's war profiteering in Congo, to DA Brooke Jenkins' cover up of Banko Brown's murder, and Chevron's scorching of the whole earth, this is not our legacy, these are our enemies," the post states.

Yekutiel is a gay Jewish business owner in the Mission district; Dorsey is a gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors; Wiener is a gay Democratic Jewish state senator representing San Francisco, and Jenkins is the district attorney of San Francisco. Last week, the state Attorney General's office found her office did not abuse its discretion in not charging the man who killed Brown, an unhoused Black trans man, as the B.A.R. reported.
Wiener stated in a text message June 13, "I don't comment on hateful posts that literally contain the Hamas red triangle."

Dorsey stated he has "no specific response, other than that I'm looking forward to having a great time at Pride, where we celebrate our community and the wide diversity of opinions represented in it."

Breed, Yekutiel, Apple, Jenkins, Chevron, and San Francisco Pride did not return requests for comment for this report by press time.

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