ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Opposition decries 'horrifying incitement'

Coalition MK: LGBTQ community poses greater threat to Israel than Hezbollah or Hamas

Yitzhak Pindrus of the United Torah Judaism party says that it’s his duty to ‘not only prevent the Pride parade, but in general to prevent this movement’

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Pindrus gives an interview on June 20, 2023. (Screenshot: Channel 12; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Pindrus gives an interview on June 20, 2023. (Screenshot: Channel 12; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A Haredi member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition blasted the LGBTQ community in an interview Tuesday, saying it was a graver threat to Israel than Islamist terror groups and adding that it was his duty to prevent Pride marches.

Yitzhak Pindrus, a senior member of the United Torah Judaism party who has a history of controversial remarks, including against members of the LGBTQ community, told Channel 12 news that “I understand I may have not correctly conveyed my message [previously], I will now try to explain it better.

“In my worldview, the most dangerous thing to the State of Israel — more than Islamic State, more than Hezbollah, more than Hamas — is the permissiveness regarding arayot, because that’s what the Torah says,” Pindrus said, using a term for sexual relationships and practices that are forbidden by the Bible and by Jewish law, including intercourse between men, among many other examples not related to LGBTQ people.

“Not the economy. This is the most dangerous thing for the State of Israel,” Pindrus continued, quoting Torah verses saying that the punishment for sexual permissiveness would be the Jewish people being banished from the Land of Israel.

“That is why… I need to not only prevent the Pride parade, but in general to prevent this movement,” he said, presumably referring to the LGBTQ rights movement.

In his interview, Pindrus also slammed protesters against the government’s judicial overhaul plans, who have frequently blocked roads and have held some demonstrations in predominantly Haredi areas.

“A bunch of nasty anarchists, such evil,” said the lawmaker, arguing that it was his right not to have his child to learn mathematics and other core curriculum subjects. The government recently allotted millions to Haredi schools that eschew core curricula. “When they tell me ‘democracy,’ I laugh in their faces.”

People march during the 21st annual Jerusalem Pride Parade in Jerusalem on June 1, 2023. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

The remarks drew fierce reactions from opposition politicians, with opposition leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party saying in a statement Wednesday that one of the reasons the party was formed was “to combat dark and homophobic people like Yitzhak Pindrus, who is using his power to trample over a sizable community, revoke its rights and liken it to despicable murderers.

“Over the last decade, we have managed to bring about significant change, and we won’t let the Pindruses take us back thousands of years,” the party said.

Yesh Atid MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzanu, who is gay, addressed Pindrus in a tweet: “It is very sad that you are inflaming hate and fear toward people just because they are different from you, and are adopting antisemitic rhetoric… Homophobia, just like hatred of Jews, kills. This horrifying incitement has no place, is despicable and it would be best if you apologize and take back your remarks.”

It was unlikely Pindrus would heed that advice, though, in light of his defiant refusal to apologize last year when he was filmed saying it was his dream to “blow up” the Supreme Court, since it was his responsibility as a member of Knesset to “correct the people of Israel by increasing Torah studies” and “not through the Supreme Court.”

Under attack for those remarks, Pindrus at the time doubled down. “I do not regret my words, the Supreme Court should be toppled,” the UTJ lawmaker said, dismissing criticism that he was effectively calling for violence against its judges.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with new Knesset speaker Amir Ohana and Ohana’s children after the swearing-in ceremony of the new Israeli government at the Knesset, on December 29, 2022. (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

When the current coalition in December elected Likud MK Amir Ohana as the first-ever gay Knesset speaker, Pindrus was among several Haredi lawmakers who protested Ohana’s mention of his partner Alon Haddad during his acceptance speech, and Ohana’s expression of gratitude to his parents for accepting him “for who I am.”

Pindrus walked out of Ohana’s speech, and told the Kan broadcaster several days later that it was his “right to feel uncomfortable when Amir Ohana talks about his family.”

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