Haifa’s gay pride parade exposes DC Dyke March’s anti-Israel hypocrisy

By KAREN L. BERMAN
June 29, 2019 22:34
3 minute read.
Haifa’s gay pride parade exposes DC Dyke March’s anti-Israel hypocrisy

The Haifa Gay Pride Parade. (photo credit: COURTESY ISRAEL POLICE)

While Tel Aviv is naturally the first city that comes to mind regarding Israel’s gay-friendly society, Haifa hosted its gay pride parade on June 28. The event came as intersectionality – the idea that all forms of social oppression are linked – continues to be utilized as a mechanism for excluding supporters of Israel.

When the DC Dyke March banned Israeli and Jewish pride flags earlier this month, it was anything but an isolated affront to those communities. A similar scenario played out at the 2017 Chicago Dyke March, which also barred the Jewish pride flag. Although the DC march’s organizers said their policy was a ban on “nationalist symbols,” they allowed Palestinian flags.

Yet in Haifa, last week’s pride parade was part of a larger celebration of diversity and tolerance in the city as a whole, strongly refuting the arguments of those who paint Israel as an “oppressor” of minorities and marginalized populations.

Haifa is home to a blossoming liberal Arab culture, a hub of Druze culture, and the headquarters of the Baha’i faith. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions are jointly celebrated during a December festival that is part block party, part intercultural artistic extravaganza – it is truly an “only in Haifa” type of event.

The UN cultural body, UNESCO, has recognized Haifa’s religious and ethnic diversity by designating a Tolerance and Peace Square in the city. UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said at the time that “managing diversity raises some of the most difficult questions of this 21st century – inside our societies and outside, with our neighbors and globally.” Indeed, there aren’t many cities that manage their religiously and ethnically diverse populations better than Haifa.

In 2017, the Haifa Municipality opened an LGBTQ Center. On that occasion, Haifa’s then mayor Yona Yahav issued a call “to all residents of Israel to look each other in the eyes and see the human and the beautiful hidden within each of us.” And last year’s Gay Pride Parade in Haifa was the largest in the cities history.

The rich diversity in Haifa is also powerfully manifested on the University of Haifa campus, where Arabs make up 35% of the student body – exceeding the Arab community’s 20% share of Israel’s total population — debunks the claim that Israeli society marginalizes Arabs and other minorities. The Universities non-Jewish and Jewish students thrive in this diverse environment, with numerous student organizations and clubs focusing on co-existence. University of Haifa also serves a greater number of both recent immigrants and first-generation university attendees than any other Israeli university, while offering more than 20 international degree programs taught in English.

The anti-Israel hypocrisy of intersectionality proponents runs even deeper. Israel – the only Mideast nation that sufficiently protects the LGBTQ community, and where openly gay man Amir Ohana is the government’s new justice minister – is lumped in with “nations that have specific oppressive tendencies.” Yet in Gaza, where homosexuality is illegal, the Palestinian leadership is somehow not the source of oppression?

Ohana’s rise to the Israeli Cabinet is particularly illustrative of the broad tolerance in Israel’s society. Ohana belongs not to one of the left-wing or even centrist Israeli political parties, but rather to the right-wing Likud. LGBTQ acceptance in Israel, therefore, is far from an exclusively progressive value.

Meanwhile, last week’s Pride Parade in Haifa came during a month when Israel’s largest cities are celebrating – not just tolerating – their LGBTQ populations. Gay pride parades have already been held this month in Jerusalem (June 6) and Tel Aviv (June 14), with the Tel Aviv parade representing the largest event of its kind in the Middle East and Asia as well as the culmination of both week-long and month-long celebrations of the LGBTQ community in one of the world’s most gay-friendly cities.

The factual case for the vibrancy of Israeli diversity and the depth of LGBTQ acceptance in Israel can go on and on. Yet if supporters of Israel and all proponents of the truth fail to put a megaphone to these issues, events like the DC and Chicago Dyke Marches will continue to blatantly ignore and twist the facts.

It is time for the world to understand that gay pride and Israeli pride are one and the same. Only then will the next Dyke March be a true platform for unity and inclusion.

The writer is CEO of the American Society of the University of Haifa.


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