Sa'ar on tour in south Tel Aviv 370.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Over 50 picketers demonstrating against Israel’s refusal to issue passports to 65 infants born, or soon to be born, to surrogate mothers in Thailand assembled outside Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s Tel Aviv home on Tuesday.
An official statement issued by the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday explained the denial, saying that according to Thai law these babies are citizens of Thailand, and their extraction would be illegal. The Israeli government is investigating the situation and is in contact with the proper authorities.
Of the infants in question, 90% are to homosexual Israeli couples, said a spokesman for the campaign that organized the demonstration “Gideon, your baby is home. Ours are not!” The organization holds Sa’ar responsible for refusing to issue their infants Israeli passports.
The spokesman said Sa’ar and the government are “stalling” to prevent same-sex couples from raising children in Israel, adding that their organization “tried to make it a general issue.” But it feels like the government “is trying to exhaust homosexuals from having children in Israel.”
Sa’ar posted a message on his Facebook page on Sunday that emphasized his empathy for the plight of the parents. But further into the message, he reiterated that there continues to be a conflict between the Israeli citizens’ signed surrogacy agreements with Thai mothers and Thailand surrogacy law.
Among those leading the demonstration Tuesday was Ruby Israeli, whose son was born out of surrogacy and is in Thailand with his same-sex partner.
Israeli’s son is suffering from a worsening head injury, according to the spokesman, that Thai doctors are unable to diagnose. “The Israeli government is abandoning him,” the spokesman said. Meanwhile, “Gideon can go to sleep with his newborn son.”
Gala Rachmilevitch of Tel Aviv joined her brother and two six-month-old nieces across the street from Sa’ar’s apartment.
Her brother and his life-partner conceived their daughters through a surrogate mother in India. Their friends are in Thailand with surrogate children they are attempting to bring back.
“I think it’s a basic right to have children. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or not. This is Israel in 2014,” Rachmilevitch said. “Next, people with long noses can’t have children because they’re ugly.”
Knesset members have also rallied behind the cause, including the only openly gay MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz).
Horowitz disagrees with the Israeli government’s justification for not issuing these children passports.
“The [Thai] mothers knew from the beginning what they’re getting into,” his spokesman said. “They signed a contract. They gave up any parental rights to the children. There shouldn’t be any problem. Israel made up a problem.”
Horowitz, who along with other Knesset members is pushing forward legislation that would allow for a surrogacy process in Israel for same sex-couples and single mothers, also considers protests the best way to resolve this conflict.
“I don’t think we can legislate the relationship between two countries. The way to go is to put pressure on the decision makers and to let them know we are targeting them. That will expedite the process,” he said.