Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Legislators Propose Bills to Ban Gay Pride Parades in Jerusalem

Shas MK Nissim Ze'ev (Photo: Knesset)

Earlier today, two bills were presented for first reading by the Israeli parliament, both of which attempt to prevent gay parades from being held within the city of Jerusalem, by amending the municipality's Basic Law from above. One parliamentarian, MK Nissim Ze'ev of Shas (about which more below) condemned the homosexual community for "carrying out the self-destruction of Israeli society and the Jewish people" (Ha'aretz).

Much of our last discussion of the gay pride parade in Jerusalem focused on the opposition of the "ultra-Orthodox" or haredim, as they are called in Hebrew. I realize that for people less familiar with Israeli society and the Jewish world, there is bound to be some confusion about which particular groups this term encompasses. Hence, I hope that those who understand will excuse the rather long excursus on Israel's political and religious landscape that follows.

Until relatively recently, the term "haredim" ("trembling ones") referred almost exclusively to the various black-clad Hasidic and "Lithuanian" groups (Note: the term "Lithuanian," refers to those who identify with opponents of the Hasidic movement; the division between hasidim and their opponents dates to the late 18th century), most of whom either rejected the Zionist state or had an ambivalent attitude toward it best described as "non-Zionism." The main political organ of these groups is the United Torah Judaism party, which is a coalition of the Hasidic Agudat Yisrael and the Lithuanian Degel ha-Torah, and has 6 seats in the Israeli Knesset.

In the past three decades, we have also seen an increase in another kind of "haredi" or ultra-Orthodox population, which has found its political expression in Shas, a party which derives its guidance from rabbinic luminaries of various mizrahi (Middle Eastern Jewish) communities. This party, however, also draws much of its support from "traditional" and even secular mizrahim, having marketed itself as a party opposing Ashkenazi hegemony in Israel. It currently has 12 representatives in the Knesset, and is a member of the governing coalition.

In addition to these two groups, another constituency involved in the opposition against the gay pride parade was the national-religious or "knit kippah" camp. This sector, which is today identified as the ideological backbone of the settlement movement, is religious (sometimes "ultra-Orthodox") but embraced the state (at least until the evacuation of settlements from Gaza) and interprets the Zionist movement in religious, messianic terms. Its main political organ today is the National Union - National Religious Party, which has 9 seats.

When I watched the documentary about the Jerusalem gay pride parade discussed earlier, I noticed that the approaches used by these various sectors differ significantly from one another. For example, the national religious camp used language much closer to that of the Christian right in America, as I think I noted earlier. Shas, it seems to me, is using more populist language that appeals to "tradition." I think it is not an accident that the haredi parties are keeping a low profile, and that they are probably not going to become involved in this. They do not see this as an issue to gain votes or to mobilize the ultra-Orthodox. Their caution also reflects a distrust of modern party politics and mass organization (i.e., democratization).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Dear Amos,
I am impressed by this article description of the various religious movements in Israel. The article even gives an explanation on the political connotations related to the “gay parade” and a hint about a relationship with democracy. It is insinuating basically that a gay parade is associated with democracy, liberalism, tolerance, free expression. Who is against this great leap forward in culture and civilization? It is the religious fanatic reactionary. I am not religious, not even traditionalist. I happen to be Jewish and Israeli.
Fundamentally I am not against gays as I am not against normal people. (I know these days we must call them heterosexual and not normal because it is wrong to call gay not normal – for me gays are still out of the norm). I am against obscene parades be it for homosexual or heterosexual. When last did any municipality give a license for an obscene heterosexual parade? I have no problem with nudists for example. They are not exhibitionists. The act the way they do for them self and do not bother people that disagree with them. So why only gay people have to act in this fashion? Do they have to exhibit their abnormality? It is bad enough in place such as San Francisco and now Tel Aviv; but in Jerusalem!? This is, we say the sacred city to all monotheistic religions, to many believers. We say that it is in our trusted hands and I believe that so it should be because it is the symbol of our legitimacy on our land. Some of these religious people happen not to be Haridim nor Jewish. Some of them happen to be Christians and Muslim. The same liberals would cry foul if the Jews are perceived to be taking advantage of Arabs on menial issues. They would make an issue of Sharon walking on Mount Zion for example. But in this case they will side with obscene eccentrics.
Democracy does not say that the eccentric rule. It says that the majority rule. Modern human right does not say that minorities must abuse but that minorities must not be abused. I don’t regard taming an obscene parade as an abuse to this specific minority. In they home gay people can do what they please, exactly like heterosexuals. Today in Israel and in many western countries, this extremism is labeled liberalism. I call it anarchy and human decay. On of along list of so called modern culture that include swearing in music and preaching for violence; a culture of mutilation, tattoos and piercing; all in the name of liberalism and freedom. This is what is fuelling a reaction from the fanatics be it the “haredims’ the churches and the Moslem extremists. It is sad that in this case I would side with the likes of the Mufti of Jerusalem as I am embarrassed that we giving him more unnecessary ammunitions.
Shaul Hacohen