At a time when many countries are becoming more critical of Israel's policies, Canada seems to be moving in the opposite direction. A general reluctance to engage in open debate about the Palestinian issue is exacerbated by pro-Israel groups' efforts to shut down discussion and the federal government's unprecedented penchant for defending Israeli actions.
Muted support for Palestine, funding cuts for Arab groups, now a ban on the phrase 'Israeli apartheid': what's going on in Canada?
Since the beginning of 2010, the federal government has systematically cut funding to Arab-Canadian organisations and to UN relief works in Gaza. In March, the Ontario provincial legislature issued a unanimous condemnation of Israeli Apartheid Week, while the federal government considered introducing a similar motion.
However, self-censorship reached new heights last month when Toronto's Pride Committee – which organises one of the world's largest gay pride celebrations – announced it would be banning use of the term "Israeli apartheid" at the festivities.
Pride week in Toronto is a loud and highly visible public event, with a long tradition of activists linking their own campaigns for sexual rights to other struggles for liberation and social justice; however, this year the organisers caved in to pressure from pro-Israel groups and Toronto city council.
The main effect of the decision is to bar one group in particular – Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) – who have marched in the parade since 2008.
The reason given is that the phrase "Israeli apartheid" violates Toronto's anti-discrimination policy. But when asked, neither Pride Toronto nor Giorgio Mammoliti – the Toronto city councillor mainly involved – could explain in detail what was discriminatory about describing Israel's privileging of its Jewish citizens over others as a form or racism and apartheid.
"It's absolutely bizarre the way they are trying to use the language around diversity and inclusiveness to exclude people," QuAIA activist Tim McCaskell told me. "It was so 1984."