Openly gay Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will be among those celebrating Israel's LGBT community at Friday's Tel Aviv Pride Parade, despite pressure to cancel his visit.
The planned visit raised objections among activists in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, who urged the politician to cancel. LGBT boycott supporters accused Murray of complicity in Israeli propaganda, "which used its positive treatment of the LGBT community to whitewash its poor treatment of Palestinians".
A recent editorial in Seattle weekly the Stranger said it would fight "attempts to co-opt queer voices and history in service of colonialism".
“I respectfully disagree with those who are attempting to characterize my trip to Israel as an attempt to ‘pinkwash’ Israel’s relationship with Palestinians," Murray told the Seattle Times.
Murray added that he supports Israel's right to exist and believes in a two-state solution.
"The Israeli LGBT community is not a creature of the Israeli government," Murray said regarding opposition to the visit.
"The progress that Israel has made in LGBT rights was achieved through years of struggle on many fronts, not granted by the government as part of a branding or tourism campaign.”
Murray, a Democrat known for his defense of Israel, has fought against legal discrimination for years. He and his spouse of 22 years, Michael Shiosaki, arrived in Israel for a vacation and continued on an official week-long visit with a delegation of 11 Seattleites. Murray and his spouse will be marching in Friday's Tel Aviv Pride Parade alongside US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and Israel's Consul General in San Francisco Andy David, who initiated Murray's visit.
Murray is to speak on Thursday at an international conference for pro-Israel LGBT group A Wider Bridge. During his visit Murray met, among others, President Reuven RIvlin, and was briefed by senior Foreign Ministry officials. He toured Jerusalem, meeting Mayor Nir Barkat and Be'er Sheva, Seattle's sister city, where he met Mayor Ruvik Danilovich.
He also laid flowers at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. Murray met several MKs and continued to Ramallah, where he met negotiator Saeb Erekat and Palestinian students.
Murray's visit is significant to many in Israel, both because his city is host to strategically valuable companies like Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon, and others.