Israel saw a record number of 3,309 instances of violence and hate speech directed at members of the LGBTQ+ community reported to The Aguda - The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, with 25% of them occurring between the last elections and the formation of the new Israeli government.
The year 2022 saw an 11% rise in the number of reports of harassment against members of the LGBTQ+ community compared to 2021, part of a pattern of rising reports of harassment in recent years.
In 2022, around 35% of reported violent incidents happened in public areas, such as on the street, in neighborhoods or on public transportation. This is a fivefold increase from 2021, where this accounted for just 7% of cases.
In addition, 8% of incidents described businesses discriminating against members of the LGBTQ+ community by refusing to provide service – an eightfold increase compared to 2021, where this made up just 1% of cases.
During the second quarter of 2023, this has become even more prominent following details about the Discrimination Law in the coalition agreements, as well as statements made by Religious Zionist Party MK Simcha Rothman and National Missions Minister Orit Struck, who support it.
Discourse against the LGBTQ+ community is intensifying
According to the Aguda's annual LGBTQ-phobia report, a possible explanation is that these incidents are a result of a rise in statements against the community in public discourse during 2022, and of specific events that became surrounded by a media echo.
For example, in May 2022, a number of right-wing and rabbinical organizations mobilized for a public campaign supporting an event hall owner who refused to allow an LGBTQ+ couple to use the hall to get married and lost a subsequent lawsuit against him.
Another example the Aguda provided is that it is the product of the organized activity of certain extremist elements that clearly espouse hostility to the LGBTQ+ community, such as MK Avi Maoz and various affiliates of Rabbi Tzvi Thau who are constantly engaged in trying to normalize harm to the community.
"These factors result in a well-oiled and well-maintained hate machine, through activists, in-person actions, social media presence, attempts to establish student cells in academic institutions about the purity of the 'heteronormative' family and attempts to delegitimize and exclude the lifestyles, organizations and family members of the members of the LGBTQ+ community," the Aguda said.
Thirty-five percent of the reports sent to the Aguda are about homophobic statements made by members of the public and media. This is a sevenfold increase compared to 2021, where it was just 5%.
These manifest in the form of articles, analyses and opinion columns that promoted offensive content towards the LGBTQ+ community on various media outlets, though the two outlets that stood out the most in 2022 were Channel 7 and Channel 14.
However, 47% of all the reports sent to the Aguda discussed statements made by public figures, media personalities and religious organizations.
This offensive discourse included statements made by senior rabbis, religious politicians and activists and spokespeople for right-wing organizations.
Offensive statements against the LGBTQ+ community made by public figures from the religious and ultra-Orthodox sectors have been widely circulated on social media and popular media platforms within these groups. The homophobic discourse especially stood out in reference to young transgender people.
"At a time when public support for the LGBTQ+ community is at its greatest ever, extremist elements are working hard to raise the hatred and we have no choice but to stop them."Hila Far
"At a time when public support for the LGBTQ+ community is at its greatest ever, extremist elements are working hard to raise the hatred and we have no choice but to stop them," Aguda chair Hila Far said.
"The report clearly shows the destructive effects of policy, hateful political discourse and violence against members of the LGBTQ+ community. The rise of homophobic public figures inside and outside the government, while crushing the justice system, requires us to be on our guard to protect the existing rights we fought hard to obtain and to work to obtain those we have yet to win.
"We won't retreat. We are equal citizens and the role of the state is to protect our right to exist with dignity and security. We have a long way to go."
"The report's data proves that incitement comes from the corridors of the government," Yesh Atid MK Yorai Lahav Hertzanu, chairman of the LGBTQ+ lobby in the Knesset, said in response to the report.
"When ministers and officials in the most homophobic government in Israeli history spread fear, hatred and violence towards members of the LGBTQ+ community, the groundwork is laid for the next hate crime. The coup d'état laid the foundation for the persecution of the rights of the community in Israel.
"In the face of this violent attack, each and every one of us has a moral obligation to oppose it by any legal means. We will not allow any harm to our youth, our rights and our freedom to be exactly who we are."
"In the face of this violent attack, each and every one of us has a moral obligation to oppose it by any legal means. We will not allow any harm to our youth, our rights and our freedom to be exactly who we are."Yorai Lahav Hertzanu
To report homophobia, contact Nir Katz of the Aguda's reporting center on the website https://www.lgbt.org.il/support-lgbt.
The Aguda's hotline is open Sunday-Thursday from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. by phone at *2982 or through WhatsApp at 058-6205591.