When an ultra-Orthodox fanatic named Yishai Schlissel stabbed six people at the Jerusalem Gay Pride march in July — 16-year-old Shira Banki later died of her wounds — Schlissel also fractured Israel’s self-image as a global beacon for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
For years, Israeli diplomats have used their country’s impressive record on LGBT issues to score political points on the world stage. But the picture they painted was of Tel Aviv, the so-called gay capital of the Middle East, with its gay and lesbian bars and beaches, and miles of rainbow bunting unfurled ahead of the raucous annual pride parade. Forty miles to the east, Jerusalem’s gay community feels like a stifled minority.
As the broad LGBT movement in Israel takes stock of the attack, the differences between the two societies has come to the fore. Three days after the stabbing, Tel Aviv activists declined to travel to Jerusalem to protest the violence, instead staging a separate rally in Tel Aviv’s Gan Meir park. The Tel Avivians had already planned a memorial service that evening to coincide with the six year anniversary of a fatal shooting at a local gay youth center. But Jerusalemites still felt stung by the decision.
“When this happened the expectation was that everyone would drop everything and come and be in solidarity in Jerusalem,” said Tom Canning, spokesman of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance. “We wouldn’t be our small group of hundreds of activists, we would be our group of activists with thousands behind us. There was a strong sense of disappointment, I would even say disbelief, that [Tel Avivians] were deciding to go ahead with their own event.”
Tel Aviv’s rally drew major politicians, with impassioned speeches by Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid. Though President Reuven Rivlin spoke at the Jerusalem protest, activists there bemoaned the disunity between the two communities that they said feeds into Tel Aviv’s image as the only safe haven for gays in Israel.
“The Tel Aviv-based organizations are giving hand to creating and strengthening an LGBT ghetto in Tel Aviv,” said Canning.
The gay rights movement in Israel has its roots in Tel Aviv in the 1970s, with the founding of the national Israeli Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Association, known as the Agudah. One of the first public pride events took place in Kings of Israel Square, now known as Rabin Square, in the Tel Aviv city center.
In the 1990s, the fledgling movement was buoyed by a “legal revolution,” Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor Alon Harel wrote in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. Within a few short years, the Knesset banned workplace discrimination against gay people , the Israel Defense Forces ensured their equal treatment — 19 years before the United States army did the same — and, following a high court order, El Al airlines began giving free tickets to the partners of gay employees.
Then, in 2009, a gunman entered a Tel Aviv gay youth center and opened fire, killing two. Six years later, the perpetrator has still not been found. The attack traumatized LGBT Israelis, but it also sparked a national conversation about their rights. Today, Tel Aviv’s gay community is central to the city’s identity and politics. Even politicians from the right, such as Likud minister Miri Regev, have appeared at the city’s gay pride parade, which drew 100,000 Israelis and tourists in 2015. Contrast that to Jerusalem, where only left and center-left politicians show up, and marchers typically number only about 5,000.
For Tel Aviv’s well-established LGBT community, the next frontier is same-sex marriage. But while legalizing gay marriage would benefit all Israelis, it’s a distant priority for gay people in Jerusalem, who are focused on survival.
“There are two voices here,” said Sattath. “One is the voice of Tel Aviv that seeks freedom of marriage, like in the United States, and that is a very difficult goal to achieve, but it is a valid goal. The other voice is that of Jerusalem. The majority of gay Jerusalemites are so oppressed that they can’t even dream of marriage; they need education and societal change.”
Jerusalem’s activists say that they face a combination of municipal neglect and incitement from ultra-Orthodox rabbis and politicians who see their parade as an “abomination.” Jewish Home Knesset member Betzalel Yoel Smotrich even took to Facebook after the stabbing to call the parade an “attempt to besmirch traditional Jewish family values.”
“The message for years has been that we are desecrating the holy city of Jerusalem,” said Canning. “People say, ‘It’s horrible that someone stabbed us and attacked us, but why you are you doing this in Jerusalem?’”
On the official level, Jerusalem’s LGBT community has had to fight its way to recognition. For years, the Jerusalem municipality refused to fund the Jerusalem Open House, even though it provided services to thousands of Jerusalemites and thus was entitled to public support. In 2010, after years of legal wrangling, the high court ordered the municipality to pay $120,000 to the Open House in compensation.
The seemingly careless policing of Pride — Schlissel had recently been let out of prison for carrying out a similar attack on the same march in 2005 — only heightened the feelings of vulnerability among gay Jerusalemites.
Jerusalem’s LGBT activists say that education is the key to acceptance in their city and beyond. According to Sattath, all secular schools in Israel have the option to include an LGBT-themed curriculum. But she wants it to be a central component of Israeli education rather than an add-on. Eventually she would like to see LGBT issues addressed in Orthodox and Arab schools as well.
“Extremists have to be nourished somewhere, and they are nourished by a society that ignores us and silences us, and where homophobia is very, very prevalent,” she said.
Sattath said that she has been buoyed by the solidarity of other Israelis. Many showed support by changing their Facebook photos to a rainbow flag with a candle. Two Israeli celebrities — Labor politician Itzik Shmuli, of Lod, and Tel Aviv journalist Keren Neubach — publicly came out after the stabbing. But Orthodox gay Israelis in places like Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh found themselves burrowing deeper into the closet.
“[The stabbing] has created an atmosphere in which people are afraid to tell the truth to tell their families, their close friends,” said Ron Yosef, founder of Hod, an organization for Orthodox gay men and lesbians.
In Jerusalem there is a feeling that LGBT leaders have no choice but to work within the city’s conservative culture to change religious attitudes about their existence. In Tel Aviv, on the other hand, activists are vigilant about politicians trying to score political points at the expense of their community. Naftali Bennett, a minister from the ultranationalist Jewish Home party, was turned away from the Tel Aviv solidarity rally when he refused to sign a document to advance gay rights in Israel. Bennett’s party opposes gay marriage in Israel.
Jerusalem activists, by contrast, opted against such a litmus test at their own rally.
“This was in order to allow everyone from the entire political spectrum and the religious spectrum to come and speak freely against homophobia and violence,” Canning said. “We didn’t want to turn this into a political event.” Bennett chose not to attend the rally in Jerusalem.
After the protests, Tel Aviv activists made a belated gesture toward Jerusalem when the Agudah chartered a bus to Jerusalem for a vigil for Banki, the victim of the stabbing attack.
And some Tel Aviv activists are acknowledging it’s time to look past the Tel Aviv “ghetto” to Jerusalem as the new battleground for gay rights.
“The real fight is in Jerusalem,” said Mickey Gitzin, a Tel Aviv city council member and gay activist. “Many times our opponents want to keep us in the ‘ghetto’ in Tel Aviv. They say, ‘This is your city, stay there.’ But we are here, we are everywhere, and it is time for us to speak up.”
Contact Naomi Zeveloff at Zeveloff@forward.com or on Twitter, @naomizeveloff
Riot police in Turkey interrupted a gay pride parade in Istanbul on Sunday with rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons. It’s still not clear why the police decided to break it up but they cleared it out quickly and left the people celebrating upset.
The annual gay pride celebration, which has been held in the city for years now, was packed and it is not immediately clear why police wanted to break up the celebration, Reuters reported.
Rumors say that the conservative Muslim officials had a problem with the celebration being around the same time as Ramadan. Homosexuality isn’t illegal in the country, but many are not ok with them and they have no laws that protect them from discrimination in employment, education, housing, health care, public accommodations or credit. The EU Commission on Enlargement released a report a few years ago saying, “There have been several cases of discrimination at the workplace, where LGBT employees have been fired because of their sexual orientation. Provisions of the Turkish Criminal Code on ‘public exhibitionism’ and ‘offences against public morality’ are sometimes used to discriminate against LGBT people. The Law on Misdemeanors is often used to impose fines against transgender persons”.
The country does not recognize same-sex marriage.
The gay pride event was held in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, a place that is known for its protests against the government. The AFP reported that police targeted the crowd after hearing slogans accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of engaging in “fascism.”
The event has been going on since 2003, and now occurs each year on either the last Sunday of June or the first Sunday of July, to mark the end of Istanbul pride week. In the first year of the celebrations, only 30 people attended but the numbers have drastically increased with time. Estimates say that in 2010, 5,000 people attended and in 2011 the number doubled with 10,000, making Gay Pride Istanbul the biggest march of its kind in Eastern Europe. Three years ago the parade attracted around 10,000-30,000 people and in 2013, almost 100,000. The European Union has praised the country in the past for hosting the parades without any disruptions, but not this time.
See Also Report from the METRO – LINK Here
On Saturday, thousands of people took the streets to celebrate the annual Pride parade just a day after gay marriage was ruled to be legal across the U.S.
To celebrate the historic decision, the U.S flag joined those of Ireland and Mozambique at the front of the celebration, all three have recognized gay rights recently. More than 250 groups showed up at the event with extra security alert for any irregularities after the attacks on Kuwait, France and Tunisia.
Ruth Hunt, chief executive of Stonewall, said Pride was “a wonderful event that celebrates LGBT equality and how far we’ve come”, adding: “However, we must not lose sight of how much is left to do.
“The number of reported LGBT hate crimes is on the rise across the UK, our government must address trans-law reform, LGBT people are still being bullied in school and isolated at work, and overseas, many Prides either take place under armed guard or not at all. In fact, it’s illegal to be gay in 75 countries and punishable by death in 10.”
Other people protested against Northern Ireland, which does not allow same-sex marriage. Campaigner Peter Tatchell held a sign which said: “Northern Ireland! End the same-sex marriage ban. Equal Marriage.”
The Happy Gordons
This video documentary sets out to examine Gay life in Ireland, and gives most of its 26 minutes to Irish lesbians and gay men in New York. These include Anne Maguire of the ILGO (Irish Lesbian and Gay Organisation) taking being arrested and hassled by Noo Yoicks Finest (the polis) calmly in her stride, Billy Quinn a Dublin-born artist and Tariach MacNaillais.
Tariach came to Gay politics by way of the Hunger Strikes agitation and says he was told than an out Gay man was not going to be employed in his field of Youth and Community Work. The other person from Northern Ireland who spoke, Cherry Smyth, lives in London (England, UK). She is of middle-class, liberal Protestant origin. Her parents had she makes clear, no insuperable problems with her sexuality. She also said things about “being Irish” which I found difficult to grasp. You don’t have to be Catholic and Gaelic to be Irish. Who said you did? Why does “being Irish” matter?
Billy Quinn is a working class Dubliner who was sexually abused in his childhood and has worked in bars from a very yong age. Where he acquired his rather plummy accent is a mystery. He compared Molly Bloom unfavourably with Jane Austen’s heroines. The latter were prissy and repressed but James Joyce’s Molly was a great sexual Earth-Mother. This proves he hasn’t read either Joyce or Austen. Compared, for example, with Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, Molly is positively south. Jane Austen, a great comic writer, is central to English, even British culture. Joyce is not central to modern Irish culture. Billy Quinn’s paintings, founded, so far as one could see, in a culture of “wee holy pictures” and fold Catholicism seems far more relevant to what one could almost call a post-Catholic Republic than Joyce, the middle-European intellectual.
Quinn says that many of his friends found the news that Ireland had abandoned practically all of the laws criminalising Gay sexuality almost impossible to believe. Kieran Rose explained why it was not impossible in the rather short amount of time he was allowed. Mike Quinlan said that ten years ago a Pride demo “ran down Grafton Street”, implying that this was nervousness on the part of the marchers – rather than the fact that a decision was taken to hurry us up with fantastic disco tracks. In 1992, GLEN (the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) decided on a Pride for Dublin: the fact that Galway was organising its third and Belfast its second Pride[s] was neither here nor there of course … not.
The video looks very good. You can’t really miss with the New York skyline and the Irish scenery, and the excitement of a big public ceremony, namely St Patrick’s Day parade. A flash of wit was a group of red-necks carrying an AOH banner marked ‘Orange County’. There was a flash of Belfat Pride with a bible-0thumper given more time to talk than the locals. There was a cut to Catholic objectors to Dublin Pride, which appeared to be saying that one was as bad as the other. But the Paisleyites put up a bigger (if not a better) show.
The Sin Fein banner was shown at the Dublin Pride demo (it was the one which came days after the change in the law). Why, one wonders? There were a dozen – at least – ‘straight’ political groups there, including Democratic Left and its leader De Rossa. There was also the Socialist Workers Movement, which has been assiduous in it support of Gay groups – to the point of being irritating. Why were they not shown?
There did seem to be a rather simple-minded (straight) political agenda behind these images or lack of the, including the non-appearance of people who actually live in Northern Ireland (not to mention the rest of the island).
This sort of thing is not inherently a bad thing artistically – it can give a certain flavour to a work. But the special flavour of the place (Ireland-in-general and Northern Ireland in particular) leached away, mainly because most of the people talking had lived outside of the island for the greater part of their short lives.
There were really two videos fighting to get out of this one. Maybe Paula Crickard, the director, should re-splice the material and produce one on New York and one (possibly even two) on Ireland – there are plenty of tales worth the telling.
Reviewer; Sean McGouran Reprinted from upstart print edition
Should the YouTube copy of this documentary stop working, then it can also be viewed at the Northern Visions Archive