J'lem gay activist gets death threats

Gay pride march gets go-ahead; haredim take to the streets in protest.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Following a decision by Jerusalem police to allow a planned gay pride march in the city on June 21, city council member and representative of the city's gay and lesbian community Sa'ar Netanel received dozens of phone calls threatening his life. According to Israel Radio, Netanel's telephone number had been posted on haredi Web forums. Haredi protesters took to the streets after police announced their decision Wednesday. Four were arrested on suspicion of throwing rocks, Israel Radio reported. The decision to approve of the parade through the streets of the city was made late Wednesday night by Jerusalem Police Chief Ilan Franco. Police said that 7,000 of its officers would be out in force to safeguard the event. A counter-protest organized by haredi residents will take place simultaneously in a separate part of the city, police said. The prerogative for issuing permits for public events rests with police, who still might ban the event - or restrict its scope as they did last year - due to concerns over public safety. Low-level haredi protests began Wednesday evening in the city's Mea Shearim neighborhood, ahead of the final police approval for the event, when dozens of haredi protesters pelted police with stones, set a garbage bin on fire and blocked traffic in the area. There were no immediate reports of injuries. An additional, massive haredi protest was planned to take place in Jerusalem on Sunday. Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said Wednesday night that police could still reconsider their approval for the event based on the situation on the ground. The Executive Director of Jerusalem's Gay and Lesbian Center Noa Sattath had warned that the organization would petition the High Court of Justice if police nix their proposed parade route between two central parks in the capital. Last year's parade through the streets of Jerusalem was cancelled following weeks of violent haredi protests, and instead the event was confined to an enclosed city soccer stadium to avoid clashes. The annual local parade, which draws several thousand participants every year, has been the source of repeated debate, as many religious city councilors and a significant number of largely-traditional city residents considered such an event inappropriate for a "holy" city. Supporters of the parade counter that freedom of speech enables them to hold the event in Jerusalem, as a symbol of tolerance and pluralism, even if theirs is the view of the minority of residents in the city. An annual gay pride parade takes place in Tel Aviv. A recent bill put forward by two religious MK's and still pending final Knesset authorization would give the Jerusalem Municipality the right to ban such events. The Jerusalem Gay and Lesbian Center has held four previous gay parades in the city. A 2005 gay parade in the city ended in violence when a haredi man stabbed three participants. A public opinion poll found that three-quarters of Jerusalem residents were opposed to holding such events in the city.