Analysis: An acceptable compromise

Who are the winners and the losers in the Gay Pride Parade controversy?

gay parade jerusalem 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
gay parade jerusalem 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The first thing the leaders of the haredi opposition to the Gay Pride Parade did on Thursday afternoon after they learned a compromise was in the works was to rush to the High Court of Justice and cancel their petitions against the march. Now that an agreement has been reached, the last thing they need is for the court to issue a landmark ruling on the case. After months of controversy, long nights of rioting and dark threats of ancient curses and explosives along the parade route, the event should take place in a relatively calm atmosphere, behind a 3,000-strong police cordon in Givat Ram Stadium - a stationary event rather than the planned march. Now that this struggle is (hopefully) over, both sides are taking stock and preparing their tactics for the next round - the 2007 Gay Pride Parade. As cynical as it may sound, the terrible carnage at Beit Hanun on Wednesday morning was a useful ladder enabling the parties to climb down from their respective limbs, just in time. So who are the winners and the losers? Before we come to the warring parties, let's not let the police escape without blame. They, perhaps, are the ones who lost the most points in the fracas. The terror threat following the civilian deaths in Beit Hanun might be genuine, but it was a lame excuse for canceling the parade. The security forces operate under a heavy load 365 days a year and, as any intelligence expert will tell you, it's not because of a lack of motivation that we haven't seen suicide attacks in the last couple of years, it's because our side has gotten a lot better. The heightened thirst for revenge is reason enough for tightening security, but not for caving in to the pressure. The police might have been hard pressed to supply the requisite personnel but they would have managed. A another few thousand officers from other districts would have had a late start to their weekend. But instead, Jerusalem Police commander Ilan Franco had to shuttle humiliatingly between the sides, desperately seeking a compromise, while his forces were losing the nightly fights against rioters on the streets of Mea She'arim. Under fire from all sides, Franco dearly wished to give in and cancel the parade, but Attorney-General Meni Mazuz forbade it, just as the High Court would have if a compromise hadn't been reached. This wasn't one of the finest hours for the capital's finest. And what of the organizers? The event that started out as the International Gay Parade but was postponed due to the Lebanon War was gradually watered down with their agreement, from a march in the city's center to an alternative route in the government compound, empty on Fridays, and now finally cooped up in a medium-sized sports stadium. They could have held out and when they realized that the police were going to play the terror card after Beit Hanun, there were voices in the gay community who called to postpone again, but to insist on a march. The Jerusalem Open House, though, decided the event couldn't be put off any longer but accepted the static option out of a real fear of violence. Some in the community are now blaming them for giving in to violence, but at least they haven't established a precedent. The holy city will host a gay pride demonstration for the fifth consecutive year. Jerusalem's haredi community is licking its wounds. One leader admitted on Thursday evening that "Beit Hanun saved us from total defeat. We wouldn't have been able to stop the parade. The rabbis had no choice but to accept the compromise. As it is, the whole campaign was a failure and everyone is looking to blame someone else." The rabbis ultimately understood that if they continued to oppose the parade, chaos would also break out on their home ground. They gave in, even though none of their conditions, chief among them an assurance from the police that another gay pride parade wouldn't take place in the future, were met. In the end, in order to rein in their wild young horses, they were forced to swallow an event granting legitimacy to homosexuality in a city they regard as their own.