Jewish groups are outraged that the Toronto Pride Parade could be hijacked by anti-Semitic protesters.
And the Canadian Jewish Congress has asked parade participants to lobby against the colourful and popular event becoming a venue to attack Israel.
Organizers have angered some Jewish groups by letting Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) be among the 164 registered groups in the Sunday, June 28 parade.
Jewish groups say the parade included growing anti-Israeli sentiment in recent years and accuse Toronto lawyer El Farouk Khaki, the 2009 parade marshal, of being anti-Semitic.
He did not return a call to the Sun last night.
But Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands said Khaki was elected parade marshal in a majority vote -- honoured for "humanitarianism" and helping many gay refugees get into Canada. "We're thrilled to have him."
She said Khaki assured her he won't express political views as parade marshal.
"This parade ought not to be politicized ... we're disappointed," Bernie Farber, Canadian Jewish Congress CEO, said last night.
"It's a pretty sad story that the Pride Parade, a highlight of the summer which invites people to come out and show pride in their identity, includes heavy-duty, very intense political debate," he said.
"It's very sad that even fun has to be political," he said.
The issue of Israel's status in the Middle East has led to "very hostile, vicious kinds of debates, where Jews and Israelis are accused of being racists," he said. "When you suggest Israel is an apartheid state, you're saying they are racists."
Sandilands said QuAIA participated in last year's parade unofficially, registered to join this year's 5-km march, and includes some Jews.
Its website says QuAIA seeks "to reignite Toronto's queer community in the fight" to brand Israel's occupation of Palestine as apartheid, opposing its promotion as "a tolerant, queer-positive democracy."
Instead of legal action, Farber said the congress wants gays to tell parade officials "it is not a political event."
Sandilands said QuAIA's admission was debated by organizers and their lawyer.
Pride Toronto's mandate is to organize a variety of Pride Week events, not exclude anyone except if they break laws, she said.
"We serve a very diverse community ... the last thing we can do is take the side of one group against the other," Sandilands said. "You're entitled to voice your opinions as long as you don't step over the anti-discrimination policy and hate laws."
Parade marshals, whose ranks were increased from 25 to 80, will watch for harassment and unregistered infiltrators, who pose an "insurance liability" risk, she told the Sun. Even anti-gay groups would be permitted, except for "racist, sexist or homophobic" behaviour.
She said a pro-Israeli group expressed concerns, and a worried pro-Israeli team was promised a parade position far from QuAIA.
I could accept that the Pride Parade should not be politicized so long as the Walk for Israel, too, is not politicized in any way.