Israel: Reactionary right whips up homophobia against Pride demonstration

Weeks of a vicious propaganda campaign against the proposal to hold a Pride Parade in Jerusalem resulted in demonstrators being stabbed by a reactionary ultra right-wing settler at the event on June 30.

The campaign against the parade resulted in a sharp polarization in the city and nationally, making those who wanted to come on the parade even more determined to be there. About 8000 demonstrators came to march, eight times the forecast figure. Significantly there was a masked group of Palestinians who made it all the way from Ramallah to attend the demonstration. The route of the parade was surrounded by approximately 2000 ultra-right wing activists, who came with the intention of disrupting and smashing the event. About a hundred of them were marching behind the demonstrators, shouting “The Shame Parade”, and all along the way stood thugs with mass-produced signs of hatred and scorn. A short time after the beginning of the march, a 30 year old settler dashed towards the march and stabbed three people before he was brought down by demonstrators.

The attacker came from the settlement of Kiryat-Sefer in the West-Bank. Settlers there are expropriating land from the Palestinian village of Bil’in near Ramallah. The ultra-right in Israel, backed by the Christian right from the US, began this incitement campaign against the parade a few months ago. Originally it was intended that the parade should in fact be the International Pride Parade for the year and should take place in Jerusalem. The organisers of the Parade decided to postpone the International event to next year, and to hold instead the annual local event. This was the fourth annual parade in Jerusalem. The Pride demonstration normally faces opposition and abuse from isolated groups of ultra-right, numbering no more than a few dozen. However this year was different.

The political parties in the majority on Jerusalem Council gave their full support to the campaign against the march. These reactionary parties felt confident to do so because of rising ultra-right activity as a result of the Sharon government’s proposal to close settlements in Gaza as part of its “Disengagement Plan”.

As a result of this atmosphere, the orthodox mayor, Uri Lopliansky, banned the demonstration from taking place even though it is beyond his authority to do so. A local court overturned the mayor’s illegal ruling and ordered the municipality to hang rainbow-coloured (the colour of the Pride parade) flags in the streets of Jerusalem and to pay 60 000 Shekels (€11 000) to the organizers of pride, half of it from the mayor’s own pocket.

This was a humiliating blow for the ultra-right, and they sought revenge by mobilising hundreds for a counter protest. Even before the demonstration began, the streets of Jerusalem were filled with posters full of reactionary poison calling for a “holy war” against the holding of the Parade. The ultra-right activists came well-prepared with printed signs reading: “homosexuality is abnormal”, “homosexuality is not an incurable disease and can be psychologically treated”, and “homosexuality = the destruction of the family unit and the destruction of national loyalty”. They were shouting reactionary filth at the demonstrators and used every opportunity to try and spark physical confrontations.

The 18 year old demonstrator who was injured said: “I was marching in the front lines, waving a huge and colorful Pride flag. I was quite prominent, shouting mostly the word ‘freedom’. At a certain point some orthodox man came running towards me and began stabbing me. He wanted to stab me in the body, but I stopped him with my left hand. He wanted to murder me. Eventually, I was stabbed in the left hand and in my chest”. In spite of the trauma, which resulted in him lying bleeding next to a blood-covered and torn rainbow flag, he stressed: “I will lead the International Parade next year!”

In spite of the stabbings, the organisers decided to hold a party that was planned after the demonstration, claiming that “we will not let them destroy our party”. But in spite of the achievement in holding the demo and in the number of demonstrators, the stabbing necessitated a serious response on the streets. A group of demonstrators, among them activists of Maavak Sotzialisti (MS = CWI Israel), tried to convince other people to come back onto the street in order to protest against the assault. A representative of Yakhad-Meretz (a liberal so-called “social” party) in the municipality threatened us with arrest if we continued to discuss with protesters about the event. Soon after the party has started, two MS activists were assaulted in the street by a group of ultra-right thugs. One of the activists was arrested with the charge of an assault. Solidarity action by protesters resulted in the MS activists being released a short time afterwards.

The attack on the demonstration shows the threat that the ultra-right represent. This raises the question of proper stewarding of demonstrations in a way that protesters can be protected from such attacks. However, this must be linked to a wider political campaign explaining the dangers that the ultra right and their homophobic propaganda represent to all workers and youth.

Liberal elite groups, among them those who write for the Haaretz newspaper, insisted after the event that in spite of the fact that the stabbing was unfortunate, the holding of such a parade in Jerusalem was a provocation, and therefore in future people should be satisfied with an annual parade in Tel-Aviv where the population is more secular. This stand in effect implies that there should be no demonstrations or protests if they antagonize the most reactionary elements on the Israeli right. For this reason, the neo-liberal parties, such as Shinui and Yakhad-Meretz, which try to present themselves as being the representatives of the struggle against homophobia, could not suggest anything but promise some future changes in the law. Shinui has exposed its hypocritical position a few months ago, when it tried to propose a law bringing about civil marriage which at the moment is forbidden in Israel. But this bill they proposed specifically excluded any possibility of same-sex marriage!

This is also the reason why Shinui was not present at all on the Jerusalem march. Despite this its leader, Tommy Lapid, was quick to use the event to launch one of his many vicious attacks against the orthodox population in Israel, as if gay orthodox people do not face prejudice either. That’s the way it is – neo-liberal parties cannot fight against oppression, because they’re an integral part of this oppressive system, promoting every day the most brutal attacks against working-class people in the name of “Liberty”. Against them we will continue to build and widen the socialist struggle for the change of society deep to its foundations.

Capitalist society develops and emphasises division and prejudice. It does this because it is one of the methods sections of the super rich parasites who make up the ruling class use to divide the majority of the population against each other. Maavak Sozialisti is opposed to all discrimination on the basis of nationality, religion, gender or sexuality. We fight instead for a socialist society which would see the end of this kind of stereotyping and prejudice, where consenting non-abusive human relationships will be able to develop without the restrictions imposed by capitalism

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July 2005