LGBTQ-phobic attacks increased by 36% in Israel in past year – report

The report on the state of LGBTQ-phobia in Israel again raises the question of whether Israel is a liberal and tolerant society for LGBTQ people.

The rainbow flag, commonly known as the gay pride flag or LGBT pride flag, is seen during the first Gay Pride parade in Skopje, North Macedonia June 29, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/OGNEN TEOFILOVSKI)
The rainbow flag, commonly known as the gay pride flag or LGBT pride flag, is seen during the first Gay Pride parade in Skopje, North Macedonia June 29, 2019
The 7th annual report documenting LGBT-phobia, published on Wednesday by the Nir Katz Reporting Center of The Aguda – Israel’s LGBT Task Force, revealed that 2,125 incidents were reported in the past year, an average of one case reported every four hours.
This represents a 36% increase in the number of reported incidents of hate speech and violence against the LGBT community compared to the previous year. August saw an increase of 58% in online LGBT-phobia cases compared to the month before, after Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi leader Rafi Peretz stated that conversion therapy can be performed on those of LGBT orientation, as well as the rise of the right-wing Noam Party’s election campaign: “Israel chooses to be normal.”
Investigation of the complaints this year shows that 46% of the reports were made by gay and bisexual men, 22% by lesbian and bisexual women, and about 25% by transgender people. This is a 40% increase in transgender reports compared to last year. Almost two-thirds (63.5%) of those who reported this year were aged 19-30, and around a quarter (26%) were up to age 18. More than half of reported LGBT-phobia cases occurred on social networks, and most of them were responded to by the Aguda under the auspices of its cyberbullying prevention program.
The reporting center is named after Nir Katz, a 26-year-old counselor who was murdered in a 2009 shooting attack on an LGBT youth center in Tel Aviv.
Meretz Party chairman MK Nitzan Horowitz, who is openly gay, responded to the report, saying: “The rise in violence against us is a direct result of the hateful diatribes that politicians and rabbis have chosen to use as incitement against the LGBT community as their flag of political struggle.
“When Education Minister Rafi Peretz supports ‘conversion,’ another rabbi calls us disabled and a campaign that calls us abnormal is circulated, legitimacy is created for violence,” he said. “When we [Meretz] are in the Education Ministry – when I become education minister – I will finally turn the light on. We will strengthen education for acceptance, equality and pluralism, and prevent racial violence and LGBT-phobia.”
This report on the state of LGBT-phobia again raises the question of whether Israel is a liberal, accepting and tolerant society for LGBT people, when these revelations come from cases in all walks of life and social circles.
The data from the report shows that 39% of the cases reported this year occurred in the vicinity of state institutions, with most reports touching on the relationship with the Population and Immigration Authority and the alleged abusive and discriminatory conduct of the authority’s employees toward the gay community.
However, the Aguda noted that last month it met with the director-general of the Population Authority to discuss the situation, and that the authority’s willingness to handle the reported cases is evident.
The family
Approximately 29% of all reports to the center this year were on the basis of LGBT-phobia in the family. The report includes insulting, degrading treatment and sometimes removal from the home and exclusion from the community. The Nir Katz Reporting Center noted that 272 youths were forced to leave their homes this year as a result of LGBT-phobia. The most notable case among family members in the past year was the stabbing of a 16-year-old boy by his brother outside Tel Aviv’s LGBT youth hostel in July.
The education system
Cases in schools and higher education account for about 5% of all cases reported to the center this year. About 75% of those were in schools, and about a quarter in higher education institutions.
For example, homophobic slurs were directed toward a gay student in the social work department of an educational institution in the Jerusalem area. Following the case, a seminar was held about the gay community in the department, in collaboration with the faculty, in an attempt to use the content of the seminar as a tool for students to use as future therapists.
Work environment
About 3% of all cases reported were in the work environment. In about half of those cases, the LGBT-phobia was directed by a member of management; the rest were between colleagues. A man in his 30s alleged that after successfully passing three job interviews at a hi-tech company, he hinted in the last interview, which is supposed to be the easiest, about his sexual orientation and therefore did not get the job.
Some reports were also of teachers who desired to reveal their sexual orientation at school and received homophobic responses from their colleagues and students.
One employee said: “Throughout most of the time I worked, I received comments about my sexual orientation – and many people have made sure to explain to me why it is wrong and how it is supposedly ‘deviant.’”
Ayala Katz, the mother of Nir Katz, said on Wednesday: “While there is more awareness and inclusion and more communicating between children who come out and parents who stand alongside their children, more harsh, derogatory and degrading statements come from rabbis and politicians, including the education minister. Such statements have a violent and destructive effect, especially for those who believe, and are influenced by, them.”
“Hatred is the same hate, and the same statements are weapons,” she said. “The gun that shot my son a decade ago is the same gun aimed at thousands of state-sponsored boys and girls today; the same gun that throws teens to self-destructive behaviors, but also encourages others to physically or verbally hurt.”
The Aguda’s chairwoman Hila Farr warned in the report that “LGBT-phobia kills and injures thousands of victims who are physically and verbally attacked, thrown out of the house and pushed to the edge – sometimes to utter despair and loss. This reality does not come from anywhere; there are those who just choose to enter it. It is strengthened when the Israeli education minister wants to convert an entire sector of society, and the state chooses to award the Israel Prize to a man who calls for boycotting thousands of LGBT people. The consequences of this incitement are seen daily in hatred and violence in the public sphere, in social networks, in the workplace and even in government institutions.”
Farr added: “More than ever, we have a public responsibility to promote a society that denounces incitement and violent leadership. We will be not be ousted from the public sphere. Rather, we will protect the personal safety of members and community members, and continue to work for equality and freedom.”