Decrying ‘LGBT terrorism,’ far-right extremists target Jerusalem Pride Parade

Police grant Lehava organization permit to protest near annual march as anti-LGBT posters appear in the city

A sign against same-sex marriage in Jerusalem on June 4, 2019. The Hebrew words say "Father and Mother = Family . The courage to be normal." (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A sign against same-sex marriage in Jerusalem on June 4, 2019. The Hebrew words say "Father and Mother = Family . The courage to be normal." (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The leader of a far right-wing group said Tuesday his organization plans to disrupt this week’s Jerusalem Pride Parade in order to fight what he called “LGBT terrorism.”

Bentzi Gopstein said his Lehava organization has received a police permit to stage a protest near the annual parade on Thursday and would use loudspeakers to disrupt the marchers who “are bringing disaster to Israel.”

“The purpose of the march is to dissolve the values ​​of the Jewish family and to turn Jerusalem and all of Israel into Sodom,” Gopstein said in a statement.

Lehava opposes intermarriage and the assimilation of Jews and LGBT rights and tries to stifle any public activity by non-Jews in Israel. Lawmakers across the political spectrum have tried to designate it as a terrorist group.

Benzi Gopstein, leader of the far-right Jewish group Lehava, speaks at a ceremony in Jerusalem honoring the late Jewish extremist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane on November 17, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gopstein is a member of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, which united with the Jewish Home and National Union ahead of April’s elections to form the Union of Right-Wing Parties. The merger was orchestrated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to salvage votes for the right-wing bloc, which he said would have been wasted had the hardline parties run on their own and not crossed the electoral threshold.

Also on Tuesday, the right-wing conservative group, Hazon (Vision), posted signs around the city protesting same-sex marriage. The posters espouse traditional values and counter the LGBT movement with the slogan “Father and Mother = Family. The courage to be normal.”

Rabbi Noa Sattath, director of the Israel Religious Action Center, blasted the Hazon posters as “incitement,” telling Channel 12 news the conservative group was “against anyone who does not hold their dark and violent worldview.”

“We will continue to fight for justice and equality,” said Sattath, an LGBT rights activist and one of the organizers of the Jerusalem parade. “We demand a thorough examination of the sources of funding for this incitement organization. No one knows who is financing Hazon and why.”

Pride rainbow flags hang June 4, 2019 on poles on Agron Street in central Jerusalem ahead of the city’s Pride Parade scheduled for June 6. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Uri Banki, whose daughter Shira was stabbed to death at the 2015 parade, called on the public not to be deterred and come to the march.

“If the good stays silent and sits at home, the evil will raise its head,” Banki wrote on his Facebook page.

The Jerusalem parade is one of dozens of events around Israel during Pride month. Police hope to prevent a repeat of the violence that marred the 2015 parade when an ultra-orthodox man, who had just left prison after serving 10 years for a stabbing attack on the 2005 parade, stabbed a teenager to death and wounded several other people.

Israel’s national police force said it “will act decisively against anyone” who tries to disrupt the march, adding uniformed and plainclothes policemen will be deployed along and around the parade route in central Jerusalem.

At least 2,500 police officers will be watching over 30,000 participants expected to attend the event, Channel 12 news reported.

A rainbow gay pride flag hanging in front of the Great Synagogue in central Jerusalem on August 1, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Gopstein’s comments and the Hazon posters are the latest incidents as tensions rise ahead of the parade. Last week, Jerusalem’s chief rabbi asked city hall not to hang LGBT flags ahead of the annual pride parade, because they “mar the city.”

In previous years, ultra-Orthodox and religious council members were angered by the pride flags put up next to the Jerusalem Great Synagogue on King George Street, along which the pride parade passes.

However, the Jerusalem Municipality said in a statement that the flags would be put up as in previous years in accordance with court rulings on the matter.

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