'Madrid Pride' without Israelis

Gay parade organizers ask Israelis to stay away for security reasons.

jlem pride parade 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
jlem pride parade 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Organizers of a Gay Pride parade scheduled for this week in Madrid have asked a planned Israeli delegation not to attend due to security issues, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Originally, a contingent from Israel’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) association and the Foreign Ministry was to have its own float in the parade, but was informed by organizers that security concerns would make it best to avoid taking part in the event this year
Madrid’s Pride Parade, scheduled for July 3, is one of the largest of its kind in the world and hosts over a million participants each year. It is scheduled to take place a little over a month after an IDF raid on the Free Gaza flotilla left nine foreign citizens dead and inflamed anti-Israel protests across the globe.
Mike Hamel, chairman of the Aguda – The National Association of GLBT in Israel – said he was dismayed by reports in the Israeli press that gave the impression the Spanish organizers were boycotting Israel’s gay community. Rather, he said, it was a security issue.
“Spain has a large Muslim and radical Left population, and I think they were worried that the Israeli delegation would face violence,” he said.
“It wasn’t a political decision against the state of Israel; it was made because of security concerns.” The cancellation comes less than a week ahead of Tel Aviv’s annual pride parade, which will bring tens of thousands of participants to the streets of Tel Aviv on Friday.
Hamel said the cancellation of the Israeli contingent’s participation in the Madrid parade was especially frustrating because of his belief that Israel’s gay community could help encourage dialogue between Israel and an often hostile world.
“This [the cancellation] is very unfortunate, because I feel that the community can serve as a bridge for dialogue,” he said. “Our community and other ones abroad have so many shared interests, and through this dialogue between our communities, we can eventually reach and discuss larger issues. There is a potential for dialogue, to understand each other, and it’s a shame that it’s lost.”
Hamel added that his beliefs were supported by the Israeli government, which has increased its support for making Tel Aviv a “gay tourism” destination. The government has also routinely highlighted Tel Aviv and Israel as a whole as an island of tolerance toward homosexuals in a region where they are often persecuted.
“There is a huge economic potential in gay tourism for Israel, and the pride parade is part of this,” Hamel said, adding that in September, activists would file a petition to have Tel Aviv host the Europride for 2013.
The event is a pan-European pride parade, and last year’s Europride in London hosted an estimated 1.5 million revelers.