Police reconsider gay parade approval

Religious opponents warn of plans for "million-strong" counter-protest.

By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
October 30, 2006 18:12
3 minute read.
gay pride j'lem 224.88

gay pride jlem 224.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

 
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Amidst mounting public opposition and threats of violence, Jerusalem police said Monday that they will reevaluate a permit given to hold a gay parade in the city next month. The debate over the event, which is slated to take place on November 10, mirrors a similar controversy over this summer's planned international gay parade in Jerusalem, which was eventually cancelled due to the war in Lebanon. The burgeoning opposition to the local city parade has again united an unusual cross-party and inter-faith coalition of Conservative Orthodox Rabbis, Muslims, and Christians who call the event a deliberate affront and provocation to millions of believers around the world. Supporters of the parade counter that freedom of speech enables them to hold the event in Jerusalem, as a symbol of tolerance and pluralism, even if theirs is the view of the minority of residents in the city. The two-year-old public debate over the holding the international gay parade in Jerusalem in the last two years has only served to intensify the struggle over the local parade. The local organizers of the event, still smarting over having to cancel two international parades in the city in as many years, have appealed to the High Court of Justice to force police to approve the local event, while haredi and religious opponents of the parade have warned police of plans for a massive "million-strong" counter-protest against the event in an effort to show that the parade poses a danger to public safety and is a threat to peace. "The unprecedented opposition to the parade is sufficiently clear to show that the good of the public and the safety of the public outweighs freedom of expression," said Shas leader Eli Yishai during a boisterous debate on the issue at the Knesset's Interior Committee Monday. "Whoever wants to nix Jerusalem from a certain public nixes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," countered Meretz MK Ran Cohen. "I am concerned over the incitement against the parade coming from both this house and outside of it," added his colleague MK Zahava Gal-On, noting that the talk of violence came as the 11th anniversary of the assassination of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was being marked this week. Nearly 70 MK's from across the political spectrum have signed a petition against holding such a parade in Jerusalem. The bitter debate on the issue in the Knesset has created a rare alliance of ultra-nationalists, haredi and Arab Parties. "This is the first time that the liberal Meretz Party, which is always preaching about tolerance, is going against the Muslims," noted MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism). A Jerusalem police representative told the parliamentarians that the issue would be reviewed closer to the date of the planned event. The prerogative for issuing permits for public events rests with police, who could ban the move due to concerns over public safety. Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said Monday that the High Court affirmed that police have the prerogative to cancel the event. Jerusalem police chief Ilan Franco met late Sunday night with a senior Rabbi from the anti-Zionist Eda Haredit who warned of violent protests if the parade went ahead, officials said. Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Yaacov Edri (Kadima), condemned the threats of violence, but said the event was not fitting for Jerusalem. The parade is slated to take place through the streets of central Jerusalem, and will not enter religious neighborhoods, or the Old City. The annual local parade, which draws several thousand participants every year, has been the source of repeated debate, with many religious city councilors and a not insignificant number of largely traditional city residents considering such an event inappropriate for a "holy" city. The organization has held four previous gay parades in the city. The last gay parade in the city ended in violence after a haredi attacker stabbed three participants in the event. The assailant is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence.

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