Jerusalem Pride Parade organizers say Ben Gvir must be kept away from event security

Open House notes police minister’s past involvement in counter-protests, role as attorney for the brother of the man who murdered Shira Banki at 2015 march

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visits the Tel Aviv Police Forward Command Center with Police Commissioner Koi Shabtai, March 1, 2023. (Courtesy: National Security Ministry)
File: National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visits the Tel Aviv Police Forward Command Center with Police Commissioner Koi Shabtai, March 1, 2023. (Courtesy National Security Ministry)

Organizers of the upcoming Jerusalem Pride Parade have appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir from being involved in the march’s security.

Heads of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance said they were concerned that the far-right lawmaker who oversees police may “improperly” interfere in the march, citing his participation in counter rallies in past years, according to their letter to the premier.

“The minister was part of the [homophobic] ‘Beast Parades,’ petitioned the courts several times to cancel the parade, decisively spoke out against it, and represented the family member of the murderer Yishai Schlissel,” their letter to Netanyahu read.

Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox extremist, murdered teenage marcher Shira Banki at the parade in 2015. Ben Gvir represented his brother, Michael, after the latter was arrested on suspicion of planning to also carry out an attack in 2016.

“He is not a suitable person to oversee the parade and certainly does not inspire the confidence and trust of the marchers,” the organizers wrote. They pleaded to the prime minister to prevent Ben Gvir from visiting the police command center and personally overseeing the event.

The far-right minister made appearances at the police’s Tel Aviv command center at the height of anti-judicial overhaul protests earlier in the year. Critics alleged his presence led to harsher policing tactics.

Thousands take part in the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade, June 2, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Up until 2019, Ben Gvir attended counter-protests against the Jerusalem Pride Parade.

“We have found ourselves in a Kafkaesque situation where the person responsible for the security of the pride parade is the one who for years tried to cancel it, and incited against it as well as the gay community,” said Jonathan Valfer, head of the Open House, in a statement.

“In the past six months, we’ve seen improper involvement by the national security minister in operational decisions of the police, and damage to police as an independent state body that is committed to serving all Israeli citizens,” he said.

Unlike its Tel Aviv counterpart, the Jerusalem Pride Parade is the subject of heavy security and restrictions, in particular following Banki’s killing, due to animosity toward marchers by many of the city’s residents.

Schlissel carried out the 2015 stabbing attack just a few weeks after he was released from prison where he had served 10 years for stabbing and injuring marchers at the 2005 parade. He is currently serving life in prison.

This year’s parade is slated for June 1 and will kick off a series of national events marking LGBTQ Pride Month.

Virulently anti-LGBTQ MK Avi Maoz said last year that he would “make sure” the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade would be canceled after joining the government, an assertion Netanyahu rejected at the time.

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