It has been a long time since the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee meeting was as stormy as the one Tuesday morning, which discussed the upcoming World Pride Parade to be held in Jerusalem this summer.
A ripple of laughter went through the meeting when MK Ibrahim Sarsur (United Arab List-Ta’al) said, “I have never had to participate in such a discussion, because in Muslim society we don’t have this problem.”
MK Ibrahim Sarsur, left, and MK Yitzhak Levi (Photo: Dudi Vaknin)
Sarsur told participants, including members of the gay community, “I respect all those present here, despite significant disagreements. As Muslims, we are obligated to religious law and it (homosexuality) is an unacceptable and condemned phenomenon, which should not be given any opportunities. Every person has the right to do as he wishes as long as he does it in his own home.”
Dozens of invitees attended the Internal Affairs Committee meeting, which was initiated by Orthodox MKs, including senior staff at the Jerusalem municipality, an ambassador from the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, representatives of the Jerusalem Open House, the Coptic and Greek Patriarchates, heads of various Jerusalem churches, students, senior staff of the Internal Security Ministry and the Vatican’s ambassador to Israel.
The heated debate started in the hallways, even before participants entered the meeting hall.
“Jerusalem is not yours. I will do anything I want in my house. We didn’t come to have sex in the streets or run around the streets of Jerusalem in pink underwear. We are having the march so people know we have equal rights,” a representative of the parade said. Opponents of the march hurled at him: “You won’t desecrate Jerusalem.”
MK Yitzhak Levy opened the discussion by presenting a public opinion poll he commissioned last week, which revealed the following data: Among secular Jews, 63 percent oppose the parade; 81 percent of conservative Jews are opposed, 99 percent of National Religious are opposed; 100 percent of Orthodox are opposed; and 92 percent of Arab Muslims and Christians are opposed.
According the MK Levy, “The residents’ stand on the issue is clear. Don’t harm Jerusalem, don’t seek a quarrel. I am addressing you in good nature: Know that this place doesn’t want you.”
‘The majority never needs to march’
MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) responded, “A dangerous religious coalition has been created here, that wants to forcefully prevent a group of people from using their rights to protest. This is the beginning of dangerous path, that ends in you asking to make them illegal.”
MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) said that the poll just proves the parade needs to take place in Jerusalem. “Majorities never need to hold protest marches, the Israeli elites don’t need to march in protest. But women, Arabs, Orthodox, and disadvantaged populations do need to march. This community’s struggle isn’t about sexual orientation. It is a political struggle for legitimization,” Yechimovich said.
Muslim representative in the Ministry of the Interior, Ahmed Qadan, warned that if the parade is held in the capital, “God will do as he did in Sodom. Have the march anywhere in the country, but I ask of you personally, leave Jerusalem alone.”
Chairman of the Jerusalem Open House, Noa Sattath, said, “We are Jerusalem residents just like anyone else. This is a week of events, not just a march. It is unwarranted hatred instead of love, and we are happy we united all religions. This discussion was meant to undercut our confidence – but it won’t succeed.”
In response to the Knesset discussion on the pride parade, the Israel Religious Action Center said that contrary to popular perceptions, many religious communities believe in all people’s right to equality and freedom of expression, and protection against discrimination due to their sexual orientation. The pride parade is an expression of tolerance of acceptance of the other, and that is the reason it is scary and frightening all those who preach hatred. Reform Judaism call law enforcement authorities to ensure the right of the gay and lesbian community and those who wish to join them in celebrating the event in Israel’s capital, and not allow violent provocations and threats that have no place in democratic society.”
Previous stories about the Jerusalem Pride Parade: