We’re here, we’re queer, don’t mind us
Given the rise of hostility towards LGBTs in these elections, it is imperative that the gay community act as one in order to safeguard its
way of life, its rights and its status as equal members of society.
Pride flags being waved next to Israeli flags Photo: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters
If there is something that distinguishes the 2013 Israeli elections from
previous ones, it is the amount of politicians who have addressed the issue of
LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) acceptance into Israeli
In the past few months a number of candidates from various
Right-wing oriented parties have felt the need to express their opinions on the
issue of the inclusion, or exclusion, of LGBTs from various national
institutions such as the IDF, or their right to marry.
One of the most
vocal opponents of the Israeli gay community is Moshe Faiglin, a candidate for
the next Knesset from the ruling Likud party. In the past, Faiglin has stated
that inhabitants of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have nowhere to run to when the
disgusting gay pride parade marches past their homes. Faiglin has also expressed
a fear that open homosexuals might lead to the crumbling of the IDF, and has
even referred to himself as a proud homophobe.
When examining the voting
record of Faiglin’s Likud party a disturbing image comes to light. In the past
four years the party has blocked important pro-gay legislation, such as a law
prohibiting discrimination based on sexual preference and an amendment that
would allow same-sex marriage.
Of course, anti-gay rhetoric is not
limited to Faiglin or the Likud party. Yair Shamir, son of former prime minister
Yitzhak Shamir, and member of the Israel Beiteinu party, believes that there is
no place for same-sex marriages in Israel. Members of the Shas party, a senior
partner in the Netanyahu coalition, routinely refer to homosexuals as sick
people or deviants, and Uri Arieli, a veteran member of the Knesset and
candidate from the trendy Jewish Home party, has recently stated that
homosexuals who flaunt their sexual preferences should not be enlisted into the
This is in stark contrast to Mel Brooks’s famous line from the
musical The Producers, “if you’ve got it flaunt it!” It is also in contradiction
to the way of life adopted by the majority of Israeli LGBTs who feel no need to
hide their sexual orientation.
YET DESPITE being a proud community, the
Israeli gay community is also a silent one.
It has not organized itself
as a political power-base or created an influential lobby that would act to
promote legislation securing its civil rights. In addition, it has not joined
the existing political establishment in order to back openly gay candidates
running for office.
The fact that the gay community is not a part of
Israel’s political landscape is fascinating when taking into account the
Americanization of Israeli politics. This process manifests itself in various
ways, such as a shift in voting patterns among Israelis who no longer vote
parties but for people and the introduction of aggressive lobbying to the
Israeli political system by special interest groups.
While the settlers
and big business each have their own influential lobby, the gay community is
nowhere to be seen. Whatever happened to “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to
it!”? It is possible that the gay community has refrained from participating in
Israeli politics given its full acceptance in Tel Aviv.
tourist guides as one of the most “gay friendly” cities in the world, Tel Aviv
has turned into a safe haven for LGBTs who flock to it from all over the
country. The city not only accepts LGBTs as equal citizens but it also
celebrates gay culture enabling the creation of an Israeli gay identity. In this
sense, Israel’s LGBTs have accepted a two-state solution, one that embraces them
and the other which is turning against them.
HOWEVER, GIVEN the rise of
hostility towards LGBTs in these elections, it is imperative that the gay
community act as one in order to safeguard its way of life, its rights and its
status as equals members of society. This community can no longer ignore the
rise of homophobia in Israel or continue to exist as a state within a
The “we’re here, we’re queer, don’t mind us” mentality has to
Lastly, it is important to note that the attacks on LGBTs by
Right-wing politicians might signify a shift in the Israeli Right wing, whose
ideology is no longer restricted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
may be witnessing the birth of a new, more radical and daunting Right wing,
which is similar to the one found across Europe and which openly promotes both
homophobia and xenophobia.
And if this is the case, then we should all
rally against it.
The writer is studying towards a master’s degree in
mass media at Tel Aviv University. He has previously contributed to The
Jerusalem Post, the +972online magazine and The Jewish Daily Forward. His Hebrew
language blog has been featured several times in the Israeli press. Ilan Manor