LGBTQ group asks attorney general to probe Noam over ‘blacklists’ of gay journalists

Aguda – Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel requests criminal investigation into far-right party, saying its recently unveiled lists break anti-harassment laws

Noam party leader Avi Maoz speaks during a function meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on December 5, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Noam party leader Avi Maoz speaks during a function meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on December 5, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A prominent LGBTQ rights group on Tuesday asked Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara to probe the far-right Noam party after it was revealed that the party had prepared lists of prominent gay journalists.

The Aguda – Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel asked Baharav-Miara to open a criminal investigation against Noam, saying the “blacklists” contravene laws to protect people from harassment and threats.

The lists “show that the party conducted surveillance and marked civilians based on their sexual identity or their political positions,” Aguda said in a statement.

“We stand by the men and women of the media who saw themselves marked as targets for harm just because of their identity,” the group said. “It is the right of each and every one of us to not feel exposed to constant potential danger from the government.”

“We will not be silent and will do everything for justice against those who incite against us,” Aguda said.

Noam’s lists included dozens of gay TV anchors, reporters, radio hosts, and other TV professionals working in the news and entertainment industries.

The lists were part of an internal document from 2019 that appeared to outline the party’s perceived opponents in the media and in civil society.

The lists were prepared for unknown reasons, according to Ynet, which first reported the lists on Thursday.

Noam openly espouses homophobic views and policies and ran on an anti-LGBTQ, anti-pluralist agenda as part of the Religious Zionism party ahead of the November 1 elections, which handed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and its far-right, religious partners 64 seats in Israel’s 120-member Knesset.

Noam leader Avi Maoz is set to serve as a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, heading a unit in charge of Israel’s “Jewish national identity” in the incoming government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Maoz has decried female enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces and has said that he will work to shut down an army unit in charge of promoting equal opportunities for women in the military.

As part of the office on Jewish identity, Maoz is slated to take 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.

On Thursday, Ynet columnist Nadav Eyal unveiled parts of Noam’s lists. They included reporters and editors from some of Israel’s largest news organizations, including Yedioth Ahronoth and Ynet, Haaretz, Channel 12, Channel 13 and the Kan public broadcaster, as well as TV personalities, some of whom have been open about their sexual orientation.

The report quoted another part of the document that featured photos and descriptions of “extreme left-wing women” active in non-governmental organizations that the party said were involved in research led by the army unit in charge of gender affairs in the military.

The party said, “continuous monitoring of [the unit’s] activities between 2001 and 2013 reveals the involvement of the following researchers in [the unit’s] studies.”

The party called the women part of a “secret team” inside the army unit and decried a “radical feminist” takeover of the military.

Another part of the document unveiled by Eyal outlined the “takeover” by “leftist” organizations over offices such as the Education Ministry and the Justice Ministry.

Listed organizations include the New Israel Fund, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Israel Democracy Institute, the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, and the Tali Education Fund, which runs Israel’s largest pluralistic Jewish studies program.

MKs Simcha Rothman and Orit Strock in the opening of the Knesset summer session at the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on May 9, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In addition to Noam’s discrimination against the LGBTQ community, the far-right Religious Zionism party has demanded legislation that will allow businesses to refuse service to certain customers on the basis of their religious conscience.

The legislation demand is part of Religious Zionism’s coalition agreement with Likud. Although coalition agreements are not legally binding, if the incoming coalition were to adopt the bill, it would be expected to pass.

The proposed legislation stipulates that discrimination would be permitted “when done due to the religious belief of the person whose occupation is providing a public product or service or operating a public place.”

It would not be applicable if the product or service was essential and no reasonable alternative exists, and would not be applicable to state providers of products and services.

The demands sparked a firestorm of criticism on Sunday when MK Orit Strock stated publicly that doctors should be able to refuse treatment to patients due to religious objections, on condition that other doctors are able and willing to provide the same treatment.

That same day, MK Simcha Rothman made similar comments, asserting that if a hotel wanted to refuse service to gay people on religious grounds, it would be entitled to do so. “A business owner can do whatever they like in his business. He created the business and he doesn’t owe anyone anything,” Rothman told the Kan public broadcaster.

Strock’s and Rothman’s comments and the coalition deal clause have been roundly condemned by politicians from across the spectrum, along with numerous NGOs, businesses and even President Isaac Herzog, who view it as divisive and likely to harm the fabric of Israeli society.

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