54% spike in reported homophobic incidents in 2018, LGBTQ support group says

In report to President Rivlin, Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel says an anti-gay incident occurs in the country every ten hours on average

Illustrative: Participants take part in the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade, on August 2, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
Illustrative: Participants take part in the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade, on August 2, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

In a report submitted to Israel’s president on Sunday, the country’s largest gay rights group said 2018 saw a 54 percent jump in the number of reported homophobic incidents over the previous year.

The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, or Aguda, told President Reuven Rivlin that an anti-gay incident occurs on average every ten hours in Israel, and a homophobic social media post is detected every four minutes.

“2018 broke records for homophobia in Israeli society,” Aguda chair Hen Arieli said Sunday.

She slammed the government for giving “cover” to homophobes “by systematically refusing to grant us our rights, allowing ministers and clerks to discriminate against us and our families, not advancing equality or personal security.

“Homophobia is a disease that must be cured through joint efforts, not abetted.”

One-quarter, 25%, of the complaints, which include violence, hate speech, discrimination and harassment, were for incidents that occurred in a public space, the report says. Another 22% took place online or in the media, 15% were at home or within the family, and 13% in the workplace.

Participants gather ahead of the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade on August 2, 2018. (AFP Photo/Gali Tibbon)

The largest number of reported incidents took place in the largest cities — Tel Aviv (33% of all incident reports), Jerusalem (15%), Haifa (9.5%), Beersheba (7.5%), Ashkelon (5%), Holon (5%) and Rishon Lezion (4%).

Significant spikes were seen in Rishon Lezion, Holon and Ashkelon in 2018.

Most of the complaints were for hate incidents targeting men (45%) or members of the transgender community (38%). In general, transgender Israelis are especially targeted for harassment. Though they make up only a tiny part of the LGBTQ community, they are the target of fully 24% of all online hate posts tracked by Aguda. Gay and bisexual men are the subjects of a further 50% of the posts, 23% concern the LGBTQ community generally, and just 3% target gay and bisexual women.

More than two-thirds (or 69%) of those posting against gay people online are men.

About 8% of the complaints concerned public statements made by well-known figures — of these, 46% were media personalities, 31% rabbis, 15% members of municipal councils and 8% members of Knesset.

Protesters for LGBT rights march on Tel Aviv’s Ayalon freeway, July 22, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Another 7% of reported incidents took place in educational settings, mostly during the young adult years — 78% of these incidents were in high schools, 20% in colleges and universities, and 2% in elementary schools.

Another 5% of incidents occurred in Israel’s security services — 75% of these in the IDF, 25% in the Israel Police and Prisons Service. There were no figures offered for the more secretive agencies, the Mossad and Shin Bet.

The report’s authors are careful to note throughout that the figures don’t reflect the number of actual incidents of attacks or harassment, but only the number of times victims and others came forward to report them. When a city has a high number of reports, such as Tel Aviv, it may reflect not a higher number of incidents, but greater willingness to speak up against attacks and harassment.

According to Arieli, “we have seen how, in a systematic way, cities that have pride marches and events see a decline in hurtful discourse toward the community.”

It is the sixth year that Aguda has published the report.

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