We Can’t Let Violence, Threats Win
Sa’ar Netanel. Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski
By Simon Williams and Peggy Cidor
Prior to Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz’s decision Sunday evening to allow their Jerusalem parade to go ahead as scheduled on Friday, leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community of Jerusalem denounced the police decision to recommend it be cancelled.
Community leaders said the use of violence, threats and constant rioting by the haredi community would not persuade them to cancel the march.
"If we allow our event to be canceled due to threats of violence, we are giving up on freedom of expression in Israel," Noa Sattach of the Jerusalem Open House (JOH), an organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights, told The Jerusalem Post.
"The people are mistaken when they assume that the parade represents only the gays’ rights; this is a larger struggle for the democratic rights of all the minorities and civil rights," said Jerusalem city councilman and gay community member Sa’ar Netanel.
He termed the earlier decision by police to recommend not allowing the parade to go forward "a shameful decision and a surrender to the terror and the violent methods of the haredim." Netanel added that the citizens of Jerusalem and Israel should be prepared to see more violations of democracy, since the message conveyed by the police is that bullies win.
The March of Tolerance and Pride had been delayed for three months following the recent fighting in the North, and was scheduled to take place on Friday from Independence Park to Liberty Bell Park, starting at 11 a.m.
Netanel said the legitimization of the gay community in Jerusalem was the parade’s main goal. Asked how the hatred, violence and the mobilization of so many opponents could help legitimize them, Netanel admitted that there was a problem.
"I agree, it’s a very complex situation and this is the reason why I initiated a proposal Sunday to renounce the parade if the haredi parties agreed not to jeopardize bills aimed at improving the rights of the gay community."
The proposal, made by Netanel personally and not as a part of the Open House’s initiative, gained the support of a large part of the gay community in the city, but failed to change the position of more radical elements who refuse to accept anything less than a full parade in the streets of the capital.
Sources in the Open House said that Netanel’ s proposal came "too late" and that "once the haredim’s violence reached such a magnitude, it became irrelevant and left the field free for all the extremists."
Commenting on a week of rioting by the haredim over the planned march, Sattach raised concerns over the behavior of the community that she said is threatening the rule of law in Jerusalem. Sattach said she believed that "once the march is finalized, the violence will stop."
The UKGayNews Web site interviewed Mikie Goldstein, a Jerusalem Open House Development Committee member, who stressed that the march was merely "a call for pluralism and acceptance; it is a means of showing that there is an open way to lead a full life as an LGBT person."
Addressing suggestions that the event should be moved to Tel Aviv. Sattach stressed that the Jerusalem Open House "is a Jerusalem organization, we do our work in Jerusalem, therefore the march is being held in Jerusalem," where according to UK GayNews a 70,000-strong LGBT community lives.
There will be no floats or dancers at the march if it is held, and after the event the JOH monthly Friday night service will be held.
Gay Pride parades have been held across the world since 1969. They aim to highlight that "sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual diversity is a gift that is inherent."
The first pride event followed a June 1969 rebellion that became known as the Stonewall Riots by New York’s LGBT community who had resisted arrest in that city after a police raid.
Jerusalem has hosted four gay parades, at the most recent of which three participants were stabbed by a haredi man.