Israel: Gay Pride demo under serious threat

Reactionary Jewish and Arab groups unite in homophobic campaign

A Gay Pride demo will be held in Jerusalem, on 10 November, against a background of vicious incitement and homophobic propaganda by reactionary Jewish and Arab organisations. This follows a similar campaign running up to the June 2005 Gay Pride demo, which lead to the stabbing of three demonstrators by an ultra right-wing settler (who was sentenced to 12 years in prison). These groups are attempting to whip up hatred and intimidation in to prevent people from attending the demonstration.

Incredibly, Jewish religious-fundamentalist and extreme-rightwing groups – among them the followers of the neo-fascist leader, Meir Kahana, and his movement – formed an alliance with the reactionary Islamic Movement and its political party Ra`am- Ta’al (which organizes mainly among Israeli-Palestinians), to oppose the demonstration and organise a ‘counter-action’. The ideological settlers and Kahanists “normally” support the banishing and killings of Arabs. Now, they and the Islamic Movement have jointly plastered street lamp posts and walls of Jerusalem with posters with the reactionary slogans saying, “Jews and Arabs against the filthy parade”. A special campaign song, which threatens bloodshed, was made by two singers, one from the Kahanists and one from the Islamic movement.

“Holy War”

This is incredible hypocrisy. The Kahanists are in favour of the forcible removal of all Arabs from Israel and the Occupied Territories. Yet, they are making deals with their supposed sworn enemies to peddle their homophobic filth on the streets of Israel! The Kahanists, taking up the rhetoric of the Islamic organisations, were quoted in the press as saying they are going to launch a “Holy War” (“jihad”) against demos like this. On last year’s pride demo, Palestinians from the Occupied Territories managed to reach the march and demonstrate alongside Israeli Jews. However, they had to march with their faces covered because they feared attacks from reactionary Islamic fundamentalist organisations when they returned to the Occupied Territories.

Last year, the demo in Jerusalem was supposed to be part of an annual international demo, “World Pride”. After an unprecedented campaign of homophobic incitement, and using the excuse of the tension that existed at the time, before the withdrawal of Jewish settlements from Gaza, the Jerusalem organizers agreed to substitute a smaller-scale local parade, and to postpone the international one. The last year was characterized by the weakening of the main political parties and greater confidence amongst the extreme-nationalist forces.

Against this background, a homophobic campaign was renewed with greater intensity. The main liberals (including some proclaimed “gay celebrities”), who, in the past few years, tried to pose as leading opposition against homophobia, have exposed themselves on this issue. Unfortunately, they have totally yielded before the pressure of the reactionary parties. While they would support a commercialized “party-parade” in Tel-Aviv (the second largest city), where the level of daily homophobia is relatively low, they strongly opposed all initiatives for a serious demonstration in the capital city, Jerusalem, since it demands a real effort behind calling for a struggle, with all its implications.

In practice, these people agree with the claims of the fundamentalists and fascists that such a parade is a provocation and people should protest where they can do so “quietly”.

It seems like the events around the march in Jerusalem is a repetition of similar situations, in the past few months, in Moscow, Riga, Warsaw, and Bucharest.

Media hysteria

In the past few days, hundreds of Jewish orthodox fundamentalist rioted in Jerusalem. Seventy (out of 120) members of the Knesset (parliament) signed a petition against the gay pride parade. Even before that, the government promised the Jerusalem municipality that it would use pressure to force a cancellation of the demo. The news headlines are full of warnings of a ‘blood bath’. The right-wing reactionary Jewish organisations claimed they will mobilise one million people, in three counter-demos, and in nationwide protests. The figure is obviously fictional, and aimed to deter protesters from showing up. Still, even a crowd of 200,000 could be enough to dwarf the gay pride parade and to pose a serious threat. Posters displayed in areas of Jerusalem by these reactionary organisations give instructions on how to make Molotov cocktails, and other amateur weapons, and call for the “sacrifice of life”. It was revealed that rotten eggs are ready to be used against gay pride marchers along the planned route, as well as fruit containing razors.

Over 8,500 people demonstrated in 2005 on the Jerusalem Gay Pride demo but it is not clear what effect the intimidation campaign will have on the protesters this year.

The main prison that serves the Jerusalem region is being cleared of all its inmates in the run-up to the demo, to make space for the expected 1,000 arrests the police expect to be made. Over 8,000 riot police, and 2,000 border police (the paramilitary force normally used to guard checkpoints and attack Palestinians), will be positioned along the route. Unfortunately, the organisers of the demo are expecting this traditionally reactionary force to protect the demonstrators. The organisers also asked participants not to bring posters or placards larger than A3 size because they feel this will act as a provocation to the police. However, experience shows that bending the knee to right wing reactionaries merely encourages more attacks not less. As the Gay Liberation Front stated, in 1971, “We do not intend to ask for anything. We intend to stand firm and assert our basic rights. If this involves violence, it will not be we who initiate this, but those who attempt to stand in our way to freedom”.

Maavak Sotzialisti (CWI in Israel) will be participating in the gay pride demonstration and campaigns for proper stewarding to protect the event. We produced leaflets outlining the reactionary role of the homophobic campaign against the demonstration, and how this is used to divide the working class, Jewish and Arab, alike. Through our campaign leading up to the demo, and by our participation on it, we hope to show the importance of standing up against this vile reactionary propaganda. This is part of the struggle for a socialist world that ends oppression of all minorities, regardless of their ethnic or national background and their sexual orientation.

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November 2006