As Netanyahu holds first cabinet meeting, hundreds rally in support of LGBTQ rights
Protesters block major Tel Aviv highway, scuffle with police as new PM convenes his ministers in Jerusalem; head of LGBTQ group says ‘darkness has descended on the State of Israel’
As Israel’s new government held its first cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, hundreds of people in Tel Aviv staged a rally in support of the LGBTQ community, amid progressive fears that the new right-wing government’s policies will infringe upon their rights.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swore in Israel’s 37th government on Thursday. Partnering far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties to his right-wing Likud, it will be his and the country’s most hardline coalition to date. The shape of Netanyahu’s government has stoked fears that the status of the LGBTQ community will be harmed under the new government.
According to assessments, some 1,500 people attended the demonstration for LGBTQ rights at the Kiryat Hamemshala government complex.
Protesters blocked roads and then made their way onto the Ayalon freeway via the Hashalom exit, which was blocked off by police. Traffic was also blocked near the Yehudit pedestrian bridge. Scuffles between police and demonstrators were reported.
Some Israeli news broadcasts showed a split screen, with demonstrators blocking roads in Tel Aviv and Netanyahu and his ministers convening in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu was quoted saying at the meeting: “That minority that is fearful, has nothing to fear.”
“We won’t agree to become second-class citizens, and we will fight for our place in the State of Israel,” The Aguda – Association for LGBTQ Equality said in a tweet.
Hila Peer, chair of The Aguda, said at the rally that “darkness has descended on the State of Israel,” adding that the incoming government was made up of people who wished to impose conversion therapy — a practice strongly discouraged by major health organizations.
מחאת הקהילה הגאה בקריית הממשלה בתל אביב: מפגינים חסמו את צומת עזריאלי@ittaishick pic.twitter.com/2zUr3WJzQE
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) December 29, 2022
Conversion therapy was banned in Israel earlier this year by the Health Ministry under the previous government.
Cpt. (res.) Lila Rabinowitz, 28, who attended the rally wearing her army uniform, told the Ynet news site she came because “we are at war for the homeland.”
“I will continue to defend Israeli citizens against the enemy abroad and at home,” she said.
A poll by The Aguda this week found broad support for gay rights in Israel, with 77 percent of respondents saying they support full equality for LGBTQ citizens, 14% responding they were against, and 9% answering that they didn’t know.
According to the study, 51% of respondents said they wanted the government to expand the rights of the LGBTQ community, 31% answered that they preferred that the coalition maintain the status quo, 9% said they wanted such rights reversed, and 8% didn’t know.
The poll found that 69% considered same-sex families as acceptable as traditional ones, while 29% believed otherwise, and 5% answered that they didn’t know.
The new government is set to pursue policies that could potentially harm the status of the LGBTQ community.
In the Likud party’s coalition deal with Religious Zionism, the new government committed to pass legislation that will allow businesses to refuse service to certain customers on the basis of their religious conscience.
Far-right Religious Zionism MK Orit Strock sparked outrage this week by saying that doctors could be allowed to refuse treatment that contravenes their religious faith, as long as another doctor is willing to provide the same treatment. MK Simcha Ruthman subsequently backed up his colleague, saying that a hotel could refuse to serve gay people on religious grounds.
In addition, MK Avi Maoz, chair of the anti-LGBTQ Noam party, was handed control over an Education Ministry unit in charge of approving external educational vendors, who play a critical role in school programming. Especially prevalent in secular schools, these vendors cover a range of subjects from sexual health to bar mitzvah preparation.
Earlier this week, a report in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily revealed that the party had prepared lists of prominent gay journalists in 2019.
However, government ministers, including Netanyahu have pledged not to harm the status of LGBTQ citizens.
Likud MK Amir Ohana, a Netanyahu loyalist, was sworn in Thursday as Knesset speaker, the first openly gay person to hold the role. He praised Netanyahu for entrusting him with the post, and promised that no harm would come to the LGBTQ community.