A day after LGBT personality Gal Uchovsky was accused of sexual assault, prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activist Etai Pinkas-Arad has been accused of sexual misconduct by two men who said they had relations with him over 10 years ago when they were 17, Ynet reported on Wednesday.
The two, identified in the report as “A.” and “Y.,” were both 17 years old and members of the Israel Gay Youth (IGY) group at the time of the alleged incidents. They met Pinkas-Arad, who was over 30 at the time, at lectures he gave to the group. The veracity of the allegations made by the two men were checked by lie detector tests.
Pinkas-Arad serves as a Tel Aviv City Council member in charge of the issues concerning the LGBT community, He was at the center of the battle in the High Court of Justice to make surrogacy for same-sex couples and single fathers legal.
In response to the report, Etai-Pinkas told Ynet that he did not remember the exact details of the incidents, as they happened over a decade ago.
“It is necessary for a sexual encounter to be consensual and respectful, certainly if it is a matter of young partners, even if above the age of consent, as in the case in question,” said Pinkas-Arad to Ynet. “But in life itself, it happens that a sexual encounter in all communities ends so that one of the parties remembers the encounter as disappointing and unpleasant.”
Pinkas-Arad added that he was “very sorry” for the incidents, adding, “It is important for me to emphasize that I have never been active in IGY and have not mentored teenagers and have only been invited a few times to lecture. And as mentioned, quite a few years have passed since the cases described, and where I am today, I remind myself that where there is doubt, there should be no doubt.”
Pinkas-Arad announced on Facebook that he would be stepping down from his position as the City Council member responsible for LGBT issues.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said Wednesday that Pinkas-Arad’s decision to step down was the right one.
IGY RESPONDED to the reports about Uchovsky and Pinkas-Arad on Wednesday, writing on Facebook, “The last few days have been hard and painful. We strongly condemn any behavior of the kind of incidents that have been exposed in recent days and condemn any expression of sexual violence, certainly when it harms our youth and young adults.
“IGY is meant to be a safe space for girls and boys, young men and women from the LGBTQ+ community,” added the youth movement. “It is the basis of everything we do. And despite all our attempts to create safe spaces for you, these are also days that take us to think within. There is no room for confusion here and no room for gray space. No is no.
“If the members who experienced these events did not feel safe to come and talk until now, it means that the space was not safe enough – and that is on us,” added IGY.
The movement detailed a number of steps it has taken in recent years to help victims of sexual abuse and harassment.
“We deal directly and unambiguously with every complaint that comes to us, and still we know that we have many more lights to turn on and stables to clean. But it’s not enough, it’s never enough.”
All of IGY’s educational leadership will meet on Friday for a discussion on how to move forward, and all the counselors in the movement will come in for talks and to process the recent events.
“We have been and will continue to be always a shoulder and ear for every complainant, and we call on everyone who is hurt, who feels pain, to talk to us. We are with you,” added IGY. “We all have a long way to go. As always, we are with you in it together.”
The Agudah-The Association for LGBTQ+ Equality in Israel responded to the Ynet report on Wednesday, writing on Facebook, “The last few days show the strength of the members of the LGBTQ+ community who are taking a step forward, pulling back the curtain and shedding light on the dark corners of our community.
“Every step forward and such exposure pushes us forward to live in a safe, respectful space which recognizes and sanctifies consent and personal security.
“We believe, embrace and support all of the victims,” added the Agudah. “We call on law enforcement authorities to investigate and clarify the complaints in depth.”