MKs, Jerusalem Pride march organizer receive death threats referencing murdered teen

‘The fate of Shira Banki awaits you,’ reads message sent to lawmakers and activist, naming 16-year-old killed by Haredi extremist in 2015; lawmakers decry incitement, vow to march

File: Jerusalem Pride Parade marchers on August 2, 2018 carry a poster commemorating 16-year-old Shira Banki, murdered by an ultra-Orthodox extremist in a pride march in the capital in 2015. (Luke Tress/The Times of Israel)
File: Jerusalem Pride Parade marchers on August 2, 2018 carry a poster commemorating 16-year-old Shira Banki, murdered by an ultra-Orthodox extremist in a pride march in the capital in 2015. (Luke Tress/The Times of Israel)

A day before the annual Pride March is set to take place in Jerusalem, a number of lawmakers and one of the organizers of the parade were sent death threats Wednesday referencing the murder of a teenage participant in the 2015 event.

“We will not allow the Pride Parade to take place in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the Holy City. Shira Banki’s fate awaits you,” read the message sent to MKs Gilad Kariv (Labor), Naama Lazimi (Labor) and Eitan Ginzburg (Blue and White).

The message was also sent to Emuna Klein Barnoy, community director at the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, and an organizer of the annual parade.

The threat was sent on Facebook and Twitter from an account under the name of “The brothers of Yishai Schlissel.”

Haredi extremist Schlissel stabbed Shira Banki, 16, to death during the Pride Parade in the capital in 2015, just three weeks after he was released from prison, where he had served eight years for a stabbing attack at a Jerusalem parade in 2005.

Labor MK Kariv tweeted that the Knesset Guard had been told of the threat, and that he had also filed a complaint with the police.

Thousands of people take part in the annual Pride Parade in Jerusalem, June 3, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The lawmaker decried “the incitement against the gay community, which receives a tailwind from rabbis, public figures and the extremist media.”

“The answer is clear — a more determined stand alongside the gay community! Tomorrow we will march in Jerusalem — come!” Kariv tweeted.

Labor’s Lazimi said that “a direct line is drawn from the dangerous conservative nationalism that is trying to seep in here, to the threats of murder against those who march in the Pride Parade.”

“This is the same hatred that led to the murder of Shira Banki — we must not succumb to this inciting extremism!” she tweeted.

Gilad Kariv (left) and Naama Lazimi (Flash90)

Ginzburg, who leads the Knesset Caucus for the LGBTQ Community, condemned the “explicit threats of murder on the basis of sexual orientation.”

“So I inform the cowards who are hiding behind a fictitious account… We will march. With heads held up. Happily. With pride,” he tweeted.

On Wednesday afternoon, Jerusalem District police commanders toured the route of the pride march in preparation for the rally later the next day. Police said roughly 2,400 officers would be deployed throughout the area in order to secure the march and maintain order.

LGBTQ pride marches are held annually in several locations across the country, including the capital Jerusalem, with the largest event taking place in Tel Aviv on June 10 this year.

All of the events are held under heavy security, particularly the Jerusalem parade, where last year some 7,500 people marched with more than 3,000 police officers securing the event. There is also a vocal far-right counter-protest.

Protesters rail against against the annual Pride Parade in central Jerusalem, August 2, 2018. The signs read, “Jerusalem is the holy city,” and “Jerusalem and Sodom are not twin cities.” (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The annual Pride Parade is a highlight for Jerusalem’s vibrant LGBTQ community, which is often overshadowed by Tel Aviv’s gay-friendly character and beset by religious and political tensions ever-present in the capital.

The warning sent to the lawmakers and Klein Barnoy came after the Aguda umbrella organization for LGBTQ groups in Israel announced last month that it was canceling a planned pride march in the southern city of Netivot after a 9mm bullet was sent to the mother of one of the organizers.

In the wake of that threat, Aguda director Ran Shalhavi called on police to protect the organizers. He said the fact that “an event whose essence is tolerance and acceptance within the framework of dialogue” draws death threats is “convincing proof that our campaign is not over.”

Netivot rabbis had spoken out against the march and called on residents to do everything in order to prevent the event, within the boundaries of the law.

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