Maoz threatens LGBTQ+ Pride parade, women's rights in IDF after deal with Netanyahu

The unit in charge of external programming in the education system will be under the control of far-right MK Avi Maoz.

LGBTQ youth protest against far right Noam party at Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem (photo credit: Courtesy)
LGBTQ youth protest against far right Noam party at Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Far-right Noam Party head Avi Maoz promised to cancel the Jerusalem pride parade on Thursday, as outrage grew surrounding the powers given to the MK through his coalition deal.

In an interview with the Olam Katan Shabbat pamphlet published on Thursday, Maoz stated that he will “see to it” that the parade is canceled.

“An abominable and promiscuous parade in public?! After all, this is the public space of the Jewish state! I feel that I am expressing the opinion of the majority of the residents of the State of Israel, who think that the public parade should be stopped,” he said.

Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu rushed to assure the public that “the pride parade in Jerusalem will continue to march,” stressing that a government headed by him “will not harm the LGBTQ community or the rights of every citizen in Israel.”

A copy of the coalition agreement between Maoz and the Likud seen on Wednesday revealed that Maoz will receive control of the Education Ministry’s unit responsible for external programming at schools, which may put the ability of LGBTQ organizations to interact with the education system at risk.

 Noam MK Avi Maoz attends a discussion at the Knesset, at the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, on November 22, 2022.  (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Noam MK Avi Maoz attends a discussion at the Knesset, at the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, on November 22, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

According to the agreement, within 30 days of the establishment of a government, the Unit for External Programs and Promotion of Partnerships will be transferred from the Education Ministry to Maoz’s new National-Jewish Identity Department, which will be a part of the Prime Minister’s Office. The new department will receive a budget of NIS 100 million in its first year and rise to NIS 150m. a year later.

The Unit for External Programs and Promotion of Partnerships is responsible for “the development and leading of dialogue between societal sectors in the units of the Education Ministry while imparting skills for sharing processes and creating a culture of participatory governance.” Everything from art programs to science programs to political and societal programs are offered by external organizations with the approval of the unit.

LGBTQ organizations such as Israel Gay Youth (IGY), Hoshen, the Pride House in Beersheba and Shoval provide programming for Israeli students through the unit. In an interview with Channel 14 on Monday, Maoz warned that “foreign foundations and foreign countries that finance study programs in the Education Ministry have infiltrated the country,” pointing to over 3,000 study programs he said are organized by “left-wing entities.”

Maoz added that he intends to “return all public systems to Jewish identity,” stating that he would remove “gender studies” from the education system.

In Netanyahu’s response, he did not address the decision to transfer authority over the education system to Maoz.

In Maoz’s letter to Kohavi regarding the army’s Gender Affairs Department, the party leader cited recent statements by Kohavi in which he said that politics should not be inserted into the IDF.

“If there is an example of deep political involvement in the army, then this example is the Gender Affairs Department, whose whole concern is to promote foreign agendas of so-called equality gender, etc., which are in extremely sharp political controversy, and which were brought into the army under pressure from civilian elements, who are all about promoting these civil agendas,” Maoz said.

LGBTQ+ organizations warn that the deal should 'worry every parent in Israel'

The Aguda – The Association for LGBT Equality in Israel warned that “the transfer of authority over content in the Education Ministry to Avi Maoz should worry every parent in Israel.”

“This is the abandonment of the LGBTQ youth who are outside and inside the closet and of hundreds of thousands of boys and girls in Israel whose lives will be dependent on the most extreme person,” said Aguda. “In a year when 80% of the LGBTQ youth in Israel reported that they faced cases of violence and hatred because of their identity at school, Avi Maoz marks as his goal to harm these youth and legitimize the violence against them.”

The Aguda called on Netanyahu to prevent the transfer of the unit.

In response to Maoz's statements, the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance announced the opening of a charity fund "in honor of MK Avi Maoz" dedicated to "strengthening the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community in Jerusalem - in a parade, in the media, and in any way we can think of!"

The open house shared a link (https://joh.org.il/maoz) to donate to the new fund, adding that they would update Maoz when donations were made with a personal thank you letter.

Hoshen, an outreach organization encouraging tolerance towards LGBTQ people, stated that “It is impossible for a person who expressed himself in such a hateful manner towards the LGBTQ community, to be the person entrusted with the safety of the youth in the education system. There are five LGBTQ teenagers in every classroom in the country.

“LGBTQ youth suffer suicide rates three times higher than non-LGBTQ youth, LGBTQ youth report two times more self-harm and risky behavior and it has been proven that social support drastically lowers the risk to LGBTQ youth,” added Hoshen. “Education for tolerance in the education system saves lives and therefore we must fight for it now more than ever.”

The Havruta organization, which advocates for LGBTQ religious Israelis, responded, “Netanyahu unfortunately handed over the keys to your children’s education to Noam. No more tolerance and inclusion, only hatred and hatred, the Judaism of a few who are only strict concerning others and never about themselves. The one who came to the Knesset on the shoulders of others is going to make sure that all the ‘others’ for his part will no longer be there. Noam is interested in putting an end to the Jewish people. Shameful.”

Former education minister Shai Piron stated on Thursday that the agreement to give Maoz authority over external programming “cannot pass in silence.”

“This is a democratic, moral, Jewish and public cultural decline,” wrote Piron on Facebook. “MK Avi Maoz represents one seat in the Knesset, a single faction, and he, and only he, will be responsible for the curricula at the Education Ministry.”

Piron expressed concerns that Maoz would prevent national-religious figures such as Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Rabbi Benny Lau and Rabbanit Malka Puterkovsky from having their voices heard in the education system.

“Don’t get confused. This means that instead of conducting a proper debate on the concepts of education, we will receive instructions from the commissar of culture and spirit.... This means controlling the discretion of principals, and mainly, denying the power of educators to shape identity and responsibility.”

Hagit Pe’er, chairwoman of NA’AMAT, stated on Thursday: “Avi Maoz is suitable for the position of minister in the regime of the ayatollahs in Iran –- he represents neither Judaism nor Zionism but hatred, darkness and ignorance. Maoz does not rest for a moment – yesterday it was the women, today it is the LGBTQ people and tomorrow another group in Israeli society.”

Roni Sassover, a lawyer who spearheaded a protest movement against a transgender boy being allowed into a religious elementary school, is being considered to head the unit on education in Maoz’s new office, according to sources in the Noam Party.

In September, Sassover and a number of parents and Religious Zionist MKs held a protest outside a religious public school after it was reported by B’Sheva that a transgender boy had been accepted into the school without the parents being informed of the boy’s sex assigned at birth.

Noam was established by radical elements from the hardline wing of the religious-Zionist community – specifically, close associates and allies of alleged sex offender Rabbi Zvi Yisrael Thau, president of Yeshivat Har Hamor.

The party ran a campaign focusing strongly on what it views as Jewish values and strongly against LGBTQ people and Reform Jews.