Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday condemned a stabbing attack at the gay pride parade in Jerusalem, calling it a “despicable hate crime” and “an incident of the utmost gravity.” He vowed that, “We will bring the responsible to justice” and said Israel would protect the gay and lesbian community.
Six people were wounded, two seriously, when Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox man, charged into the midst of the annual parade and stabbed wildly at marchers. Schlissel was released three weeks ago from prison, where he had served 10 years for a 2005 attack on the pride parade, in which he injured three people. He called his 2005 attack “a mission from God” and had said in recent days that the “foul march” had to be thwarted.
Israel’s chief rabbis condemned the use of violence in the name of religion.
The prime minister led a chorus of condemnation from across the political spectrum as all parties, right, left, and ultra-Orthodox, spoke out against the attack.
“The State of Israel respects the private freedom of individuals which is a fundamental principle exercised in this country,” Netanyahu said. “We must ensure that every man and every woman can live in full security in any way that they choose. This is how we have acted in the past and this is how we will continue to act. I wish all the wounded a speedy recovery.”
President Reuven Rivlin said that Israel would not stand for such “hate crimes.”
“We came together today for a festive event, but the joy was shattered when a terrible hate crime occurred here in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” he said.
“People celebrating their freedom and expressing their identity were viciously stabbed. We must not be deluded — a lack of tolerance will lead us to disaster. We cannot allow such crimes, and we must condemn those who commit and support them. I wish the injured a full and speedy recovery.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat vowed that freedom of expression would not by defeated by violence in the capital.
“The criminal act this evening in Jerusalem is an attempt to damage the fabric of the city and to prevent the basic rights of freedom of expression,” he said. “We will not allow any excuse for any kind of violence. In Jerusalem there is a place for everyone, and we will continue to fight along with the Israel police against anyone who tries to violently hurt others. We will continue to support all the groups and communities in Jerusalem and we will not be deterred by the foul means of those who are trying to prevent it.”
Israel’s chief rabbis also condemned the attack on the pride parade. Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said, “the sentence for the stabber in the streets of Jerusalem today should be the sentence for any murderer or even more serious than that; it’s unacceptable that a man rises supposedly in the name of religion and raises his hand against Israeli lives.”
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said that “the Torah of Israel forbids any act of violence and harming a person, and all the more so a man who harms others and attempts to kill.”
Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) warned that such acts threatened to further divide Israel society, and called for non-violent freedom of expression.
“This is a shameful act and it should be denounced,” Edelstein said in a statement. “The schisms in our society are widening, and these acts bring us as a society to the edge of a precipice. We must enable every community the freedom of speech but never use violence! I call on legal authorities to prosecute the perpetrator to the full.”
Economy Minister Aryeh Deri, from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, joined in denouncing the attack.
“Any show of violence should be condemned and denounced and there should be a bitter war against anyone who acts violently against any person,” he said.
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said the campaign against such acts was central to the very character of the State of Israel.
“The stabbing in the pride march in Jerusalem is an abominable hate crime,” he said. “I call on the police to enable the continuation of events and to not give in to the enemy of everything that is good and wonderful in Israel.”
“This is a struggle of principles and it is important for the character of the state,” he added. “I support the marchers and pray for the speedy recovery of the injured.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the religious Jewish Home party lamented the “moral crime” that he said required Israeli society to reflect on its moral status.
“The stabbing at the pride parade is a moral crime that cannot be forgiven,” he said. “The person who did this damaged Jewish values and morals and should be punished as severely as possible. Once the incident has been clarified Israeli society must do some soul searching on how we came to this.”
Herzog’s fellow party member MK Tzipi Livni also decried the crime.
“The stabbing incident at the gay pride parade in Jerusalem is the most terrifying expression that could be of unfounded hatred among the people of Israel,” she said. “A crime of pure intolerance towards others, it comes from the seeds of incitement throughout the year. I wish a full recovery to the wounded and am sure that the justice system will bring the stabber to justice.”
Said Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid: “What happened today in Jerusalem is a hate crime against the LGBTQ community. It cannot be that an event entirely based on the values of equality and freedom of expression in Israel ends with people being stabbed, people who only want to express their full right to choose who to love.
“Israel was founded on the values of equality and respect for the freedom of every person to choose how they want to live their lives irrespective of race, gender or religion. Law enforcement must act firmly against anyone who tries to undermine those values,” Lapid said.