MK Sofer: LGBT community perpetrates 'violence'

Newly ascendant anti-LGBT MK says he will seek to ban Jerusalem Pride Parade

Noam head Avi Maoz looking for way to outlaw annual march he deems offensive, also plans to roll back ban on debunked gay conversion therapy

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

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

MK Avi Maoz said on Thursday that he would work to legally abolish an annual Pride Parade in Jerusalem, as the far-right Religious Zionism party made plans to throw its weight around after becoming the third largest Knesset party in Tuesday’s vote.

Maoz, head of the anti-LGBT Noam faction which ran as part of Religious Zionism, told Army Radio that his party would “investigate canceling the pride parade from a legal point of view.”

He claimed the yearly celebration was meant as a “provocation,” describing it as offensive.

“It is illegal for a person to walk naked in the street. There is no public participation without limits. What a person does in his private home is their business and I don’t intend on getting involved,” Maoz said.

He also indicated that he would seek to roll back a Health Ministry ban on so-called conversion therapy, allowing “psychological advice for those who don’t want to be gay.”

Health officials around the world say that conversion therapy is scientifically dubious and possibly dangerous, with major health organizations pointing to what they term pseudo-scientific methods and the treatment of homosexuality as a mental illness.

Approximately 7,000 people march in the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade, which has taken place nearly annually for nearly two decades. While largely accepted by residents, it is often accompanied by protests from religious hardliners, and there have been two stabbing attacks, both by the same perpetrator, first in 2005 and a second fatal assault in 2015.

MK Avi Maoz speaks during a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset on December 15, 2021. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

The religious extremist Lehava group, allied with Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben Gvir, holds yearly protests alongside the parade and in 2006, Religious Zionism head Bezalel Smotrich co-organized a “beast march” in Jerusalem, in which religious opponents of the Pride March walked with donkeys in order to mock the parade.

Noam burst onto the political scene in 2019 with a series of provocative highway billboards and video ads with the slogan “Israel chooses to be normal.” It merged into Religious Zionism, alongside Otzma Yehudit, under intense pressure from Netanyahu before the 2021 election. Last year, Maoz became the first representative of his party in the Knesset.

The far-right Religious Zionism slate soared to 14 seats in the November 1 election and is expected to be a crucial partner in a governing coalition led by Likud chair Benjamin Netanyahu.

Right-wing activists demonstrate against the annual Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, on June 3, 2021. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Maoz’s views on the Jerusalem parade were also expressed by Religious Zionism MK Orit Strock earlier on Thursday, who told the Channel 12 network: “Regardless of pride, there shouldn’t be marches of people walking down the street naked or half naked.”

Additionally, Religious Zionism MK Ofir Sofer accused the LGBT community of perpetrating “violence” during an interview on the Channel 13 network.

When pressed by the interviewer on what he meant, Sofer said: “Violence means an inability to express an opinion, inability …  to speak truthfully on this issue.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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