Social Issues

Tel Aviv celebrates LGBTQ Pride amid political tensions in Israel

Jerusalem, Jun 8 (EFE).- More than 150,000 people took part in Thursday’s LGBTQ Pride parade in Tel Aviv against a backdrop of concern about the future of minority rights under the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.

The largest Pride event in the Middle East brought locals and tourists onto the streets of the seaside metropolis.

Organized by the Tel Aviv city administration, the parade was more festive and relaxed than last week’s Pride procession in Jerusalem, where hostility to LGBTQ people runs high.

Though even in liberal, secular Tel Aviv, the parade is the occasion of a large police deployment to deter attacks by extremists and a man with a history of threats against the LGBTQ community was arrested in possession of a stun gun, brass knuckles, and pepper spray.

But the parade started on time at 5:00 pm with the customary display of over-the-top costumes and rainbow flags.

Attendees told reporters that the Pride march offered people a way to reject the anti-LGBTQ sentiments expressed by the hard-line religious parties in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

Though one contingent of marchers carried signs denouncing Israel as an apartheid state and accusing Israelis of using their defense of LGBTQ rights to “pinkwash” the violations of Palestinian rights.

During the first few months of this year, Tel Aviv was the epicenter of massive protests against the Netanyahu government’s proposal to sharply limit the power of the Supreme Court and give lawmakers control over judicial appointments – seen by opponents as an assault on the separation of powers and a threat to the rights enshrined in Israel’s Basic Laws.

In a departure from previous years, the city government excluded speeches by politicians from Pride 2023, with the exception of Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who is running for re-election.

“Pride weekend has kicked off with a clear message: We are all equal, we are all people, and we all deserve to love who we want without fear,” Huldai said at the start of the parade.

Groups who were prominent in demonstrations against the judicial overhaul joined the march.

“This year’s Pride Parade is the most protest-oriented one we have had in years. Without democracy there is no pride. This year’s parade is a protest not only for the rights we are still fighting for but also for those that threaten to be taken away from us,” Hila Peer, chairwoman of the Aguda Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, said Thursday. EFE jma/dr

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