Sunday, January 20, 2008

Secularism, Critique, Blasphemy, and the 2006 Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade

Two of the posters ("pashkavilim") shown above are part of the campaign against the gay pride parade in Jerusalem. The one on the right reproduces a headline from Ha'aretz which states that "Religious leaders have warned that the Pride Parade in Jerusalem will cause bloodshed." The second one, on the left-hand side, is from Ma'ariv and cites Shimon Peres as saying that "The homos have crossed the line." I took this photograph in Jerusalem in late June 2006. As always: click to enlarge.

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to see the New York premiere of "Jerusalem is Proud to Present" (ירושלים גאה להציג, 2007) as part of the Jewish Film Festival at Walter Reade theater. In Israel, it has been shown on Channel 2 and Channel 8 and screened at various film festivals.

This latest documentary by the Israeli director Nitzan Gilady ("In Satmar Custody," 2003) is about the attempts to hold a Gay Pride Parade (מצעד הגאווה) in Jerusalem in the summer of 2006, as part of the international "World Pride" celebrations. The parade, which was to go through the city center, had originally been scheduled for August 6. It was postponed several times, in part because of the war still raging in early August, and in part because of the fears that police would not be able to protect marchers from the wrath of religious protesters. Ultimately, the "march" was held as a rally in a closed stadium, guarded by thousands of police officers, on November 10.

Gilady's film begins with a surreal press conference attended by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious leaders in Jerusalem, watching clips from previous gay pride parades in other parts of the world, and denouncing the planned event as an abomination. Throughout, it gives space to both supporters and opponents of the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, though it is clear that Gilady, who said after the screening that he had only recently come out to his parents, has chosen a position.

One one side, we see the activists and members of the Jerusalem Open House (English). They include the first openly gay Jerusalem city councilor, Sa'ar Netanel (Meretz), elected at the same time as its first ultra-Orthodox mayor, Uri Lupoliansky; Adam Russo, the victim of a stabbing attack at the first gay pride parade in Jerusalem on June 30, 2005 (the assailant was eventually convicted of attempted murder); Noa Sattat, the director of the Open House; and Boodi, a 19-year-old drag queen from Ramallah, who performs at Jerusalem's only gay club, Shushan (now closed), and eventually seeks asylum in the U.S. after being kidnapped by Hamas militants.

Arrayed against them, we see Mina Fenton, a national-religious municipal politician who not only organizes a group of American-born settler women using her bad English and crude sense of taste (the Americans seem slightly more attentive to public opinion) but also solicits support in Arabic from a hijab-clad by-passer. We also encounter a Brooklyn expatriate, Rabbi Yehuda Levin, a dogged opponent of the "gay political elite." Less openly involved than these somewhat ridiculous figures, are the various religious leaders of Jerusalem - the Christian clergymen, the Muslim sheikhs, and the Sephardi and Ashkenazi rabbis. Finally, we see the anonymous masses of rioting ultra-Orthodox protesters.

As the date of the parade approaches, tensions rise and the incitement on the part of the opponents of the parade becomes ever more murderous. The director and Sa'ar Netanel find themselves surrounded in a car by a mob of haredi hooligans, beating on the windows. What follows is footage from various news channels of several days of rioting in the city by young ultra-Orthodox men. Traffic blockades are set up, dumpsters set on fire, and stones thrown. The police respond mercilessly with water cannons and beatings. One foreign commentator calls it the "intifada of the ultra-Orthodox."

The rhetoric of the Open House activists is unapologetically secularist. Netanel speaks of the forces of "darkness," and the black masses of haredi men who appear in the film, anonymous and often in conditions of near-darkness, only reinforce this rhetoric without problematizing it in any way. For Netanel and others, this is a battle of democracy against theocracy, of tolerance against bigotry, of liberalism against religious fanaticism, of progress against backwardness.

The "ultra-Orthodox" intifada invites comparison with the riots that swept across the Muslim world following the Danish cartoon controversy. In both cases, the aggrieved parties - religious believers -responded with violence to what they saw as symbolic desecration (of the Prophet or of the Holy City). The "perpetrators" of these blasphemies, however, presented their actions as a matter of inherent rights and freedoms, which had to be vigorously asserted.

Last October, I attended a colloquium at UC Berkeley's Townsend Center for the Humanities, which posed the question: Is Critique Secular? The first panel discussion of the day featured a paper read by Talal Asad (Anthropology, CUNY Graduate Center) called "Reflections on Blasphemy and Secular Criticism," with local superstar professors Wendy Brown (Political Science), Judith Butler (Rhetoric), and Saba Mahmood (Anthropology) responding.

In his paper, Talal Asad argued that
The conflict that many Euro-Americans saw in the Danish cartoons scandal was between the West and Islam, each championing opposing values: democracy, secularism, liberty, and reason on the one side, and on the other the many opposites – tyranny, religion, authority, and unreason (Asad 3).
Referring to secular critique itself as a kind of violence, Asad, while claiming to stake out a position beyond the normative, blasted "Western secularists" who can conceive of blasphemy only as "a constraint on the freedom of speech guaranteed by Western principles and by the pursuit of reason so central to Western culture."

Asad wants us to see blasphemy "not simply as a bid for free speech against irrational taboos but as violence done to human relations that are invested with great value" (Asad 16). I may be wrong, but my intuition is that while such an argument finds an audience in the Western academy when the violent protesters are Muslims upset about an insult to Muhammad, it seems to lose a lot of its force when those rioting against blasphemy are ultra-Orthodox Jews upset about the "desecration" of Jerusalem by homosexuals.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about the comparison with the cartoons, Amos. First of all, as Asad points out, it is only Europeans who insist upon understanding the cartoons 'blasphemous'. To Muslims they were just insulting, and it was to the insult that they responded. But not only to that insult. The international riots were often about so much more than a cartoons, the cartoons functioning as a pretext for the airing of other grievances - the riots in Gaza spoke to the Israeli occupation; the protest in Amman (which I attended) against Zionism; the protest in Beirut torched not just the Danish Embassy but also a Maronite Church, and this in the wake of a string of high-profile assassinations that began with Hariri. So I don't think it's mistaken, as many have done, to attribute the riots to a reaction against the cartoons.

Another point of difference: now I haven't seen the film but it seems to me that the Orthodox intifada would not just be protesting the desecration of their Holy City, but also a form of life that they see as sinful and socially destructive. And for the gays, more is at stake than just the expression of free speech; a pride parade is a struggle to establish a kind of social existence for gays Israeli society; it's about recognition and the affirmation of the right to love as they like. This is not just speech, and yeah it may be damaging to orthodox forms of life, but this is politics and there are losers - you know this, you read history. Moral invectives such as the charge of blasphemy are depoliticizing, and I think we should avoid them, and given the legal history of the concept Asad provides it might not be misplaced in this context.

Amos said...

Dear Anonymous,

The points you raise tend to make me think that the comparison is more justified than I had imagined.

First, you're right that Asad, in the essay that I cite, provides a genealogy of the category of blasphemy in "Euro-American" rather than in "Muslim" thought. I cannot find the place where he makes the kind of explicit distinction that you talk about though. I also have to wonder whether the cartoons could have been understood as so insulting if the object of the depiction had not been a figure such as Muhammad.

Of course, the riots by the ultra-Orthodox could also be read as "airing [...] other grievances" - such as the fiscal policy that has seen their allowances plummet. Most of the rioters were young, unemployed yeshiva students.

Also, it is important to note that although there were direct attacks on gay pride marchers in 2005 (including the stabbing of three marchers by an ultra-Orthodox terrorist), much of the violence in 2006 was directed against the state. It was interesting in this context to see how Muslim religious leaders framed the gay pride parade as an attempt to desecrate (this is the language used in the film, as far as I remember) Al-Quds; the Brooklyn ex-pat whom I mention, Yehuda Levin, in making his pitch to them in East Jerusalem directly responds to this anxiety, using the name "Al-Quds" rather than Jerusalem when he talks (through a translator) to particular representative. Here, I think another useful comparison is to the language used by the sheikh of the Islamic Movement's Northern branch in Israel, Raed Salah, following the excavations at the Mughrabi Gate (see this post and many others). At the center was an (imagined) violation of holy space.

Another point supporting the centrality of the Holy City's desecration is the fact that the ultra-Orthodox did not protest (at least not in significant numbers) against the gay pride parade in Tel Aviv. I think the national-religious groups were far more likely to turn this into a general crusade against homosexuality, using language similar to that used by American evangelicals. But this sector of the public largely stayed away from the rioting in Jerusalem, which was en exclusively ultra-Orthodox affair, similar in kind to but larger in scope than riots against the profanation of the Sabbath that might be caused by opening certain streets, for example.

With respect to the opposition in Jerusalem against the gay pride parade - not just by ultra-Orthodox Jews but also by Muslims and Christians - the term most often invoked (in Hebrew) was "desecration," alongside references to "Sodom," "filth" and "abomination." I don't know what the language used by the Greek Orthodox clergy was.

Your penultimate point is crucial though, and I agree. I would only add that the parade was above all a struggle to establish a kind of social existence for gays in IN JERUSALEM - this is after all the goal of the Jerusalem Open House.

I don't understand your last point though. It seems to me that for religious believers such as the ultra-Orthodox who rioted in Jerusalem, the sacred and its desecration are part of the political sphere. Hence, "blasphemy" (or insult to symbols held in high esteem) cannot be regarded as taking place in some non-political realm.

Rebecca said...

I attended the 2007 gay pride march in Jerusalem in June, and while there was certainly ultra-Orthodox opposition to it, there were not the days of rioting that occurred the previous year. We were confined to a very short march on King David St. from HUC to Gan HaPa'amon - again surrounded by thousands of police (mainly Border Police). It was interesting to see what happened afterwards - many of the marchers continued down Keren ha-Yesod to Emek Refaim St., which was entirely closed off to traffic, so that there was a kind of unofficial continuation of the march. Of course, Emek Refaim is usually (now) considered to be a center of "secular" Jerusalem - but there are many religious people who live in the neighborhood and there are yeshivot nearby. I saw very little harassment - it was more the atmosphere of a street party than anything else. One thing that I don't know if people noticed was that there was a kind of religious-national flavor to the gay pride march itself. I recognized quite a few straight left-wing religious people (ranging from Reform to Orthodox). The Meretz youth group led people in songs in praise of Jerusalem. I think if we are going to talk about a march like this in Jerusalem that some attention should be paid to the specifically Jerusalem qualities that it had - including being quite welcoming to religious people (gay and straight).

And why, to take on Talal Asad, we should be more respectful of Muslim claims of "blasphemy" than to Christian (or Jewish) I don't know. I think that he's engaging in special pleading.

Anonymous said...

“the problem of blasphemy is a European obsession. For a secular society that doesn’t acknowledge the existence of such a thing as blasphemy it is quite remarkable how much public discourse there is about it – and about those who complain of it or claim to be affronted by it. Quite remarkable, too, is the obsessive need to repeat again and again the words and images that secularists think will be regarded as blasphemy…But there is certainly something complicated going on beyond the courageous demonstration of political freedom, something that has to do with the attempt at re-assuring the limitless self” (42-43). That protests against the Danish cartoons appeared to most Europeans as religious reveals one of secularism’s insecurities; it is by standing up to its theological other, that secularism can affirm – and it must do so continuously – the autonomous self that it insists upon, the self that at every turn it itself circumscribes.

ariel said...

This self-other discourse is really tiresome. It can easily be turned around: are the religious demonstrating their insecurity when they condemn the unbelievers? Most secularists simultaneously take their secularism for granted and are aware that religion continues to be a powerful social force. Perhaps "secularism" needs to affirm its "autonomous self" continuously by reference to the "theological other," but secular people spend far more time thinking about sex, nouvelle cuisine, and video games than about blasphemy.

Amos said...

Haha. I bet the religious spend quite a bit of time thinking about those too.

I was actually trying to imagine earlier how the logic of Asad would look if it were inverted. Is the religious self trying to stand up to its secular other by continuously affirming the heteronomous self on which it insists, the self that at every turn it itself liberates from heteronomy?

Thanks for your reports Rebecca! That's very interesting what you say about the national-religious flavor of the exercise. Actually, one of the theme songs of the film is Naomi Shemer's "Jerusalem of Gold" - there are several scenes of drag queens singing it at the Shushan.

Nobody said...

i dont think that one can compare between the danish cartoons and gay parade in jerusalem at all ... one should also bear in mind that massive gay parades are held in tel aviv every year ... the ultra orthodox in jerusalem never rioted over them ...

the gay parade in jerusalem was a deliberate provocation ... come on guys ... lets not play naive ... we dont have written agreements with the ultras but we know where the red lines of each side are ...

ariel said...

Amost wrote "the parade was above all a struggle to establish a kind of social existence for gays IN JERUSALEM." That city does not belong to the Ultras, but to the extent that it does, perhaps some provocation is in order. To be frank, I find the life style of the Dossim an abomination against modernity, but I can't imagine stabbing any of them if they chose to parade down Shenkin.

That said, I think Asad, from what I've read here, has a point, albeit a very limited one. Really, there is no need to assert the freedom of critique with tasteless acts calculated to insult the deeply held beliefs of others living in one's own community. While responding to something like the Danish cartoons with violence is totally unwarranted, a vigorous protest would certainly have been justified. We are aware, as Nobody says, of others' red lines, and we should at least think twice about whether there is a good reason to cross them. In the case of the Jerusalem parade, which is about the quality of the participants' lives in their own locality, good reason exists.

Nobody said...

We are aware, as Nobody says, of others' red lines, and we should at least think twice about whether there is a good reason to cross them. In the case of the Jerusalem parade, which is about the quality of the participants' lives in their own locality, good reason exists.

it's hard to see how the gay parade could contribute to the quality of life in jerusalem ... even most of my secular friends found the idea of turning jerusalem into another san francisco devoid of any sense and taste ...

and the haredim did not riot because the parade was insulting to their deeply held beliefs ... the haredim did not riot against gay parade in tel aviv or against gay clubs in jerusalem ... deeply held beliefs simply had nothing to do with this ...

anyway, you want a war with the ultras ??? dont worry ... you will get it ...

Nobody said...

ariel said...

That said, I think Asad, from what I've read here, has a point, albeit a very limited one. Really, there is no need to assert the freedom of critique with tasteless acts calculated to insult the deeply held beliefs of others living in one's own community. While responding to something like the Danish cartoons with violence is totally unwarranted, a vigorous protest would certainly have been justified.


the difference between the cartoon riots and jerusalem gay parade is crystal clear .. when the muslims across the middle east and even as far away as pakistan and afghanistan are rioting over the cartoons published in some danish newspapers it's 100% aggression and picking one's nose into another person affairs ..

99% of the people who burned embassies across the middle east never been to denmark, some heard for the first time that such a country exists at all !!! these people dont read danish newspapers, they've never seen the cartoons ... to start with, these people didnt speak danish to be able to read danish newspapers !!! in this case it was not possible to even say: you dont like it, dont read it, because these people did not read danish papers anyway !!!

it was none of their f**king business what this or that danish newspaper decides to publish, let alone to demand apologies from the danish government and people ... no violence and no vigorous protest were justified in their case ...

We are aware, as Nobody says, of others' red lines, and we should at least think twice about whether there is a good reason to cross them. In the case of the Jerusalem parade, which is about the quality of the participants' lives in their own locality, good reason exists.

with the haredim it was very different ... it was enough to move the parade to tel aviv or elsewhere and there would have been no problem at all ... there are enough places open in shabat in jerusalem and jerusalem used to have gay or at least mixed places too .. but the haredim also have some ideas of what the quality of life is ... staging an international gay parade in jerusalem and dragging drug queens from all over the world to jerusalem is not their idea of quality ... and as a matter of fact of very many people who are not ultra orthodox at all ... i dont even mention arabs or traditional people ... many secular people in jerusalem like to think of the city as a special place ... the only reason that jerusalem was chosen as a location it's because from the beginning the organizers were seeking confrontation ... this is what they were looking for

Amos said...

the only reason that jerusalem was chosen as a location it's because from the beginning the organizers were seeking confrontation

How do you know this? I realize that there may have been differences in opinion even within the gay community in Jerusalem about the parade, but do you really believe that the goal was to provoke the dossim? I think the attempt was to make some sort of statement, sure...but the goal wasn't to hurt the ultra-Orthodox. It was to say: we live in this city too, and we want to have a parade that allows us to celebrate our identity (and many groups do this). This parade wasn't going to be with naked people or anything hyper-sexual. Just like the previous parade that took place in Jerusalem in 2005, when someone got stabbed...it was more an assertion that we live here and we are not going to let this kind of violence deter us from being open about who we are.

While anonymous the first (see above) argues that the cartoon riots (which were, according to anonymous, about more than the cartoons) were justified while the Jerusalem riots weren't, you're arguing the opposite, that the haredim rioting in Jerusalem were justified and the Muslims who rioted were idiots.

Yes, there are differences between the two cases but there are also important similarities, as far as the reactions of the ultra-Orthodox and the Muslim rioters are concerned. Both believed something of great symbolic value to them had been insulted and desecrated.

Now, it is true that it would be highly unlikely that if someone in Denmark had decided to publicly burn a Torah scroll or to deliberately engage in some kind of staged act of pronouncing the ineffable name of God out loud ultra-Orthodox Jews would riot and start burning the Danish embassy. They probably wouldn't...

Nobody said...

Yes, there are differences between the two cases but there are also important similarities, as far as the reactions of the ultra-Orthodox and the Muslim rioters are concerned. Both believed something of great symbolic value to them had been insulted and desecrated.

i disagree ... it was not because of the symbolic value ... not for the haredim at least ... the haredim are always paranoiac about exposing themselves and in particular their children to what, using arie's terminology, they consider a low quality secular lifestyle ...

the haredim take homosexuality very seriously, as a deviation ... i won't go into the reasons ... but the thing is that they dont mind gay parades in tel aviv .. and they did not mind even gay places open on shabbat on the outskirts or in the center of jerusalem ... maybe they did not know .. maybe they did not care because it did not create exposure ... but to stage bombastic parades in the center of the city is a different matter....

i lived in jerusalem for 15 something years ... and all this gay stuff was live an kicking .. true there was a constant friction between the ultras and the seculars ... but now here come people that claim that they can't maintain their quality of life without doing something that clearly degrades the quality of life for the haredim in a way that they can't accept ... now it became different because no compromise is possible here ...

and we simply don't need these cultural wars ... not in jerusalem and not in tel aviv .... we have tel aviv .. we have a reasonable degree of freedom in jerusalem .. it's enough ... they have their space, we have ours .. fair enough ...

we sure dont need this shit now when by 2012 1/3 of all schoolchildren learning in elementary schools are predicted to be haredim .. and i dont mention other religious people ... the gay community wants to ram its head into the wall ???? it should first check if it got enough heads to crash the wall ... because it did not ...

ariel said...

well, what you say about the quality of life for gays in Jerusalem being good enough and it simply being imprudent to parade there may be true, but I still don't see how you can defend the Ultras' rioting when it results in a stabbing. Regarding the Danish cartoons, I was referring to the Muslim community in Denmark when I said that they were tasteless and pointless from the point of view of the assertion of the right to critique. The rioting elsewhere, as I said, was totally unwarranted.

Amos said...

the haredim take homosexuality very seriously, as a deviation ... i won't go into the reasons

Okay, we know why...it's not so complicated in the texts...


i disagree ... it was not because of the symbolic value ... not for the haredim at least ... the haredim are always paranoiac about exposing themselves and in particular their children to what, using arie's terminology, they consider a low quality secular lifestyle ...


You make a good point, and I have thought about in those terms before to be honest. And actually, I did explain to someone recently that it was about it being in Jerusalem..that they didn't try to block the one in Tel Aviv...

however, I'm not sure that's so good either. have you been reading about what's going on in bet shemesh these days? one national-religious family had their windows broken because they had a TV in their living room that faced out onto the haredi neighborhood. Then, not too long ago, one religious guy (haredi, not national religious) who had been trying to moderate people, prevent violence and conflict, was beaten up by a gang of other haredi hooligans..I forgot whether this was in Ramat Bet Shemesh (whcih is more haredi) or in Bet Shemesh...

Should this also be accepted? It seems like it's also about a "low quality secular lifestyle" - and damn, yah, some aspects of this lifestyle are really crappy, the haredim are right, but you can't impose your will using violence and illegal means, especially if other people are acting within the rights accorded to them in a democratic state...

of course, I agree that it's not necessary to deliberately try to hurt people, to provoke..it's important to recognize the narrative of the other (as you've pointed out in one of your posts, people on the left have no problem doing that when it comes to the Palestinians...it sometimes seems harder to do when we're talking about religious people).

Nobody said...

however, I'm not sure that's so good either. have you been reading about what's going on in bet shemesh these days? one national-religious family had their windows broken because they had a TV in their living room that faced out onto the haredi neighborhood. Then, not too long ago, one religious guy (haredi, not national religious) who had been trying to moderate people, prevent violence and conflict, was beaten up by a gang of other haredi hooligans..I forgot whether this was in Ramat Bet Shemesh (whcih is more haredi) or in Bet Shemesh...

it's a good enough reason to start avoiding rocking the boat too hard ... the sectarian composition of the country is changing fast ... we all know this ... and i dont even want to think what if the end result of it would be these fundamentalists becoming majority ...

people should tread lightly now.. and look for some compromise and understanding with these people .. we should be very firm in tel aviv and other places .. but this does not mean trying to corner the other side ....

ariel said...

well, what you say about the quality of life for gays in Jerusalem being good enough and it simply being imprudent to parade there may be true, but I still don't see how you can defend the Ultras' rioting when it results in a stabbing.


it's a deadly serious matter for the haredim ... i know this because i had enough interaction with them in jerusalem .. it could have easily ended with bombs ... you have your values, they have theirs ... you dont have to understand them as long as you dont decide that you can't live without gay parades in jerusalem ... if you think that this confrontation is absolutely necessary then it makes sense to check how the other side sees the situation to know the consequences ...

Nobody said...

Regarding the Danish cartoons, I was referring to the Muslim community in Denmark when I said that they were tasteless and pointless from the point of view of the assertion of the right to critique. The rioting elsewhere, as I said, was totally unwarranted.

i disagree ... to the muslim community in denmark they could say: dont like it, dont read it ... to the rest of the muslim world they had to say: f**k off ...

danish cartoons were absolutely legitimate ... there are many people who think the same .. me for example ... i dont buy fairy tales about the religion of peace ... as far as i am concerned the danish cartoonists have put it just right ....

Nobody said...

if the danish cartoonists would have directed a whole gay parade into the very heart of a very conservative muslim neighborhood, then i might consider this, under certain circumstances, as a provocation ... because in a way this is an invasion of private, or maybe collective, space ...

but to deny people who think islam is a dangerous and violent religion the right to express their opinions in a newspaper is a clear violation of the right of free speech ...

Amos said...

You're on somewhat shaky ground, Nobody, and inconsistent. On the one hand you argue that one should be pragmatic and not provoke the ultra-Orthodox but you have no such scruples when it comes to religious Muslims.

I think the cartoons were insulting, pure and simple. I don't think there was a justification for violence. But I think these were vile and deliberately hurtful depictions. Of course there is freedom of speech, but we can choose how to exercise it.

Nobody said...

well .. it's up the danes to decide ... there is no doubt that this combination of political correctness and muslim fanaticism has clearly eroded the freedom of expression ... i would agree that it's impossible to reclaim the lost ground without paying a certain price .... i dont have advises for the danes as to what is the best way to act now ...

in the case of the haredim it's not a matter of principle ... it's a matter of separating our spaces, of demarcating the line to avoid more confrontations in the future .. it's not about holding or not gay parades at all ... though i am not sure that the situation won't change at some point in the future ... and if it will then a part of the thank you should go to the organizers of the 2006 parade ... because it's them who turned it into a matter of principle that involves the whole space ....

Nobody said...

my idea is about dividing the space ... it's not about fighting for the whole of it ...

islamoskeptics should have their space to express themselves ... muslim critics of the western moral decadence have their blogs and sites for doing the same ...

the seculars in israel have the whole of tel aviv to hold gay parades .. the orthodox have jerusalem to have no gay parades ...

there is no contradiction in what i am saying ...

Shaun said...

Rebecca,

I too attended the 2007 march in Jerusalem, but had a very different impression. Among a variety of fascist protests, a Haredi man was arrested with a pipe bomb just before the parade was to begin. See below:
http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-4707.html
and

http://www.allbusiness.com/middle-east/israel/4501100-1.html

Roman Kalik said...

Shaun, I doubt you bothered reading the follow-up news reports in the Israeli press, small as those articles were. The "pipe bomb" was little more than firecrackers, with the fear of such a bomb building the entirety of the initial report.

That said, the ultra-Orthodox have just begun realizing that they have a growing fringe element, made up mainly of yeshiva drop-outs who were rarely given a chance to prove themselves again to their community. These are often the same people who later seek to prove themselves with the zealot's fervor, compensating for the respect of a yeshivacher forever lost to them.

The second issue is the various self-righteous groups of Jerusalem. Me'a She'arim in particular has several such groups that ebb and flow into each other. They're small, but also potentially dangerous.

These are the people who can interpret a call for protest as a call for violent vengeance.

But as for the parade itself... The ultra-Orthodox community had largely decided to leave gay parades alone, and the rabbis in particular said time and time again to leave them be, until the original international parade plan was announced. I'm sorry, but that parade would have had nothing to do with civil rights or showing presence and solidarity. It would have been a sex-themed, multi-day, city-wide party, with tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of participants. Flashing and various other displays of sex-themed idiocies wouldn't have just been unavoidable - they would have simply been part of it.

This is when the red line was crossed. The fact that this format died as the war began was irrelevant. People were already angry, far too angry, and they vented that anger on the "standard" parade. The ultra-Orthodox public was fully convinced that letting the previous parades slide merely resulted in having their core values trampled fully into the ground.

Whoever thought that a great big international parade was a good idea... was little more than a publicity-seeking idiot.

ariel said...

It seems the ex-Israeli left (this includes Nobody, heavy on the ex, if I recall correctly) has come to imagine the division of space as the primary solution to the most pressing social conflicts (e.g. separation wall, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as respective enclaves of secularism and religion, the Danish public sphere). I don't disagree with the immediate pragmatism of such suggestions, but I have my doubts about their long-term viability. Is tacitly ceding Jerusalem to the Haredim wise? I can't say for sure, but as a matter of principle I find it highly distasteful to say the least. As a matter of practicality, I fail to see how gay parades in Tel Aviv do anything for gay people living in Jerusalem.

As for political correctness, it undoubtedly stultifies free expression at times, but it also has its place. It has been a good thing in that it has required public discourse to take cognizance of its impact on minority groups. I don't dispute the Danish newspaper's right to publish any cartoons it likes. But neither do I feel the need to line up among the paper's zealous defenders. To say that Danish Muslims have the option of not reading what they don't like is certainly true, but I don't think splitting the public sphere into mutually exclusive blocks is in any way good. I would rather support the maintenance of a single public forum of discourse that does not appear, as a matter of course, hostile to specific groups. This does not mean that criticizing the violent tendencies in Islam is off limits, but it does mean doing so in as polite and qualified a manner as possible.

Incidentally, I find it disingenuous of Christians, even merely nominal ones, to claim that Islam is peculiarly prone to violence when their own religion, soaked through and through with images of bloody death, has supplied a fine basis for holy war on untold occasions. I don't anticipate the resumption of the Crusades anytime soon, but I have read extremely disconcerting reports about the presence of evangelicals in prominent positions in the military, including in the academies.

Noah S. said...

Ariel, regarding your comment, which I hope I'm misreading, "well, what you [Nobody] say about the quality of life for gays in Jerusalem being good enough and it simply being imprudent to parade there may be true," I would ask only this: Is it for anyone other than the members of a given group to decide whether or not their quality of life is good enough?

Nobody: The seculars have Tel Aviv to hold gay parades and the Ultras have Jerusalem to not have them, eh? Ah yes, and what if the issue at hand were not homosexuality but women's liberation, or race; would you say, okay, in the north, parades protesting against racism are kosher, but in the south... well, let's not rock the boat? Where do you draw the line in your twisted logic of social compromise?

I have my own idea about compromise that plays on your divisions of social space. How about the gays put up with having the rabbis' condemn their lifestyle on a daily basis, and for one day out of the year, the Jersulem haredim keep their kids indoors away from the scary world outside? By the way, the demographic projections for 2012 that you cite, if they are accurate, provide all the more reason to rock the boat now - before it's too late.

Also, Nobody, as an aside, I think it would strengthen your credibility as an interlocutor if you didn't refer to the events in question as "all this gay stuff."

Nobody said...

Noah s. said...

Also, Nobody, as an aside, I think it would strengthen your credibility as an interlocutor if you didn't refer to the events in question as "all this gay stuff."

i think you are wrong .. but if you insist: gay lifestyle, mixed places and even predominantly gay places (i think there was actually only one)...

ariel said...

It seems the ex-Israeli left (this includes Nobody, heavy on the ex, if I recall correctly) has come to imagine the division of space as the primary solution to the most pressing social conflicts (e.g. separation wall, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as respective enclaves of secularism and religion, the Danish public sphere). I don't disagree with the immediate pragmatism of such suggestions, but I have my doubts about their long-term viability. Is tacitly ceding Jerusalem to the Haredim wise?


i would gladly consider such an option but to be honest the haredim in jerusalem don't seem to be interested ... there are more places open in shabat now in jerusalem than a few years ago, but it does not seem to bother the ultra orthodox and others so much ... i dont think they would be interested in such an offer

As a matter of practicality, I fail to see how gay parades in Tel Aviv do anything for gay people living in Jerusalem.

we have kvish yerushalaim - tel aviv, ariel .... never heard this secular jerusalem joke ??? what is the best thing about the city of jerusalem ??? answer: kvish yerushalaim tel aviv

and by the way .. not all gays in jerusalem were happy with this gay parade circus ... not all people think that the wisest approach in this situation is to rock the boat as hard as one can ... noam has his idea about the best way of achieving social compromises, but some people, even gays, would beg to disagree ... and given that it takes a while for such people to put straight their twisted logics, in the foreseeable future some gays in jerusalem would prefer to travel to tel aviv for the parade instead of marching in the center of jerusalem ...

never mind that it's simply not the style of jerusalem .. it's simply not a place to have gay parades ... you can find in jerusalem places of all kinds up to those with drug queens dancing on a bar but overall it's not a place that makes one feeling like starting with carnivals rio de janeiro style ...

Nobody said...

from your comments ariel i guess that you have experience of clubbing and gay night life in jerusalem ... you for sure know these people ... too many jerusalem gays are not people who will start marching in the center of jerusalem with grim faces while bombs exploding all around just to make the point ... for them love parade or pride parade should be fun ...

Ellie said...

The parade drama has no connection at all to the cartoon riots. Were Jews all over the world rioting in the streets and burning down embassies b/c of this? Of course not. This was strictly an internal Israeli matter and Jews around the world stayed out of Israeli affairs(for once).

Next year let parade organizers try these shenanigans in Um El Fahm and let's see what happens. I mean they can use the same argument - why do gay people have to hide who they are in Israel proper? But they would NEVER do that b/c then we would really see a comparison to the cartoon riots. Let's be honest here. Haredi fanatics are one thing but Islamic fundamentalists are another.

Noah S. said...

Nobody: From the very inception of these parades in the early 1970s there have been heated debates within gay communities regarding their appropriateness and strategic usefulness. There is no reason why the J'lem community would be any different in this respect. Gradualism, i.e. Notrockingtheboatism, is an arguably viable stance, but my feeling is that this is a matter for internal J'lem gay politics. It is not for anyone but members of this community to decide whether a parade is appropriate, or whether it "fits" with the style of J'lem.

By the way, this is the second time you've accidentally replaced the word "drag" in "drag queen" with "drug" - a slip that, in light of some of your other comments, seems not entirely irrelevant to your views on this topic.

Nobody said...

By the way, this is the second time you've accidentally replaced the word "drag" in "drag queen" with "drug" - a slip that, in light of some of your other comments, seems not entirely irrelevant to your views on this topic.

loool .. but it's only accidentally ... i am always writing with mistakes unless i have a spell checker or check myself several times before i post something .... but in general i have nothing against drag and drug kings and queens :D :D

Nobody said...

by the way noah

you took offense only to my replacing drag with drug in drag queen ... but i think that in my comment i have misspelled your name too

:D :D

Nizo said...

Ellie said...
Next year let parade organizers try these shenanigans in Um El Fahm and let's see what happens.


brilliant.

---

As a member of "the community", I personally don't see the point in provoking people unnecessarily. Furthermore, I don't see how a drag queen swinging a feather boa or two guys kissing does anything to advance the acceptance of the GLBT community by the religious sectors of society.

On a not so unrelated note, look at how the gay marriage issue in the US gave the bible-belters something to rally around. Some argue that it cost Kerry the election in 2004. As a result, Dems are now scared of appearing too pro-gay and that ends up hurting GLBT advancement in the long run.

I always believed that working quietly behind the scenes achieves more than ramming one's agenda down people's throats.

Just my two agorot..

DeWayne said...

It is interesting that here in America the State of Israel must be looked upon as land promised by God and property of the Jewish (religious) heritage, yet those in Israel that are the religious are called Ultra, as apparently meaning radical for their belief.

Next I note that when a stabbing is is done, the obvious perpetrator was one of these religious-radicals.

It appears to me that there are people that want both to have their cake, and eat it also. Also the reasoning used, does not even suggest perhaps a false flag situation concerning the Ultra Orthodox.