Calderon, Gafni spar over homosexuality

At conference sponsored by right-wing NGO Komemiyut, Yesh Atid MK says, ‘God created homosexuals in his image, we must treat them equally.’

MK Moshe Gafni 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
MK Moshe Gafni 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon and UTJ chairman Moshe Gafni clashed on Tuesday over homosexuality, interpretations of the Torah and whether equality was desirable in Israel in general at a Ramle conference on balancing the state’s Jewish and democratic character.
Calderon addressed the issue of equality and discrimination with the opening statement that, “all humans are made in the image of God,” reciting a long list of groups which included “homosexuals and non- Jews.”
She added that “each of us has an equal value” and should “equally share the burdens” of citizenship and society.
Gafni said that the “Torah tells us how to treat gays,” implying that he accepted an interpretation of the Torah as condemning homosexuality.
Calderon retorted that the Torah also literally says “an eye for an eye” about punishment when one person harms another physically, but implied that the rabbis over the ages have interpreted that phrase metaphorically to refer to monetary compensation.
“Homosexuals don’t say: Let’s go do something interesting – at some point they realize what they are and that isn’t simple,” said the Yesh Atid MK. “We shouldn’t tell people that God created them messed up.”
Gafni also disagreed with Calderon about the principle of equality in general, saying “there is no such thing as equality for all people. It is a lie.” He cited as proof the division in Judaism between kohanim, levites and Israelites.
People “can’t tell us that a regular family is the same as everything else in style today,” said Gafni, complaining about political correctness that “oy vavoy if a politician says bad things about this” issue.
Calderon argued that Gafni’s idea of a “regular family” was inherently discriminatory and even excluded and persecuted her since she is divorced.
“I am divorced, and I don’t want to tell people that because I am divorced I’m not equal,” said Calderon.
Meanwhile, Calderon came under fire from the opposite side of the aisle for participating in the conference at all, because of positions held by its organizers, the right-wing NGO Komemiyut.
Sixty-One, an organization that seeks to “reveal to the Israeli public what the Right is hiding,” called Komemiyut a “extreme right-wing organization that represents the militant branches in the settler public.”
Sixty-One quoted Komemiyut rabbis as discouraging Jews from employing or renting homes to Arabs, speaking out against homosexuality and supporting Kach founder Rabbi Meir Kahane.
Virtually all of the conference attendees were nationalreligious and several individual attendees repeatedly yelled out racist and anti- Arab-Israeli comments – though most maintained decorum and applauded Calderon even when she espoused some more liberal positions.
The left-wing organization put out a poster spoofing Kach’s logo and slogan, which read “Ruth, not like this,” and pointed out that Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid made his party’s MKs cancel their participation in a Geneva Initiative tour.
On Sunday, Calderon said she received a message from Sixty-One clarifying that Komemiyut sponsored the conference, saying that “their way is not my way.” However, hours later, she wrote on her Facebook profile that she decided to attend the event and do her best to speak out against racism, hatred of gays and lesbians and the Torah’s supremacy over democracy.
“I am in favor of serious arguments and discussion with those who do not agree with me,” Calderon wrote. “I believe in speaking to Palestinians, too. Even with those who fight us, discussion is meant to bring understanding and peace, and as such, I believe in speaking to Jews who disagree with me.”
Labor MK Eitan Cabel also planned to attend the conference, but canceled immediately after learning about Komemiyut’s agenda.
“I was never afraid to speak before crowds that are not from my political camp and make my opinions known, which is what I planned to do this time,” Cabel explained.
“After I learned that the NGO organizing the event promotes a discourse of exclusion, discrimination and racism, I understood that my place is not with them and that I cannot cooperate with them and be a decoration for their extremist agenda.”
Cabel added that he “always respects his ideological rivals, but has no respect for those who spread hate.”