Social Issues

Israel’s gay community: We are on frontline of gov’t offensive

By Pablo Duer

Tel Aviv, Jan 18 (EFE).- The LGBTQ community in Israel says it is on the frontline of a widespread offensive against several minority groups that Benjamin Netanyahu’s new hard-line government and his far-right and ultra-Orthodox partners are targeting.

“I have nothing against LGBTQ people or leftists, I oppose the ideas and the ideology,” deputy minister and leader of the homophobic Noam party Avi Maoz said during the government’s swearing-in less than a month ago.

Similar statements are common among the ministers of the new government, as well as policy proposals like an amendment to the anti-discrimination law that would enable doctors and businesses to deny treatments or services on religious grounds.

Tel Aviv hosts the largest Pride Parade in the Middle East annually, an event that previous governments have described as an example of the country’s liberal and democratic values.

“I dismissed it for a long time. I said that nothing was going to happen, that they were inapplicable policies, but now reality shows us something else, we are following models like the one in Hungary, and that forces us to intensify our fight,” Hila Peer, head of the Israeli LGBTQ association Aguda, tells Efe.

Homophobic incidents have seen a 75% increase in the last year, which, according to Peer, proves that the “rhetoric is enough to generate an atmosphere of violence in the streets,” even before applying any specific policies.

Aguda, as well as several other NGOs, has urged people to take to the streets and join massive anti-government demonstrations that have been taking place in Tel Aviv in recent weeks.

Havruta, a religious community of homosexuals, is one of the most active organizations currently.

Many of its members now regret voting for Netanyahu and his partners and say they are surprised by the government’s offensive against them.

“Suddenly the religious authorities feel more empowered to express their opinions against us,” Havruta chief Shay Bramson stresses.

CONVERSION THERAPIES

Voicing their concerns about conversion therapy, which was banned early last year, community members believe it could be reinstated by the government, the most far-right in Israel’s history.

Bramson says that he was forced to undergo conversion therapies during his adolescence.

“Our fight is not against the government but against specific policies directed at us and at other minorities, such as women and the Arab population of Israel.

“We consider they are policies that go against the state and against the values of Judaism,” Bramson adds.

The LGBTQ community and other minorities have also joined the recent protests against the legal reforms planned by the new coalition that would grant more power to the government and weaken the judicial system.

Peer is concerned that such reforms will target the gay community first.

“I think if we don’t stand our grounds strong enough to show values, to explain to the public the importance of minorities’ rights and liberalism, once we fall, I don’t know who is going to be there after us if we don’t protect those rights,” she concluded.EFE

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