NGO files complaint against MK for ‘Gays control the media’ remark

Ometz movement asks Knesset Ethics Committee to intervene after Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich’s controversial comments

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Bezalel Smotrich (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Bezalel Smotrich (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

An Israeli NGO filed a complaint to the Knesset Ethics Committee on Sunday against Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich for comments he made in a recent interview in which he said gays control the Israeli media and the public agenda.

The right-wing lawmaker made the controversial remarks about the LGBT community as MKs across the political spectrum publicly denounced last month’s deadly attack against participants at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade.

In the letter of complaint against Smotrich, Ometz chairman Aryeh Avneri urged the committee to “seek the full extent of justice” in the matter.

Noting the MK’s previous involvement in anti-gay rallies and his labeling of the LGBT march as an “abomination parade,” the letter said Smotrich’s statements and activities amounted to the “continual attack against the gay community.”

During a radio interview last week, Smotrich claimed that mainstream support for the LGBT community stemmed from media coverage, and that conservative beliefs — like his own — were absent from media discourse.

“There are many senior officials in the media market in Israel, among those who hold the mic and tell us what we should think and what we should say, many, many of them are [LGBT] themselves,” Smotrich told Galey Israel, a regional West Bank radio station.

“These people hold immense power in shaping our social consciousness. When you look at the list today, there are many dozens, the most dominant figures today [in the media]… so naturally, an opinion like mine cannot be heard,” he said.

The lawmaker claimed he was certain “95 percent of Israeli citizens would want their kids to raise families and give them grandchildren.

“A healthy person, a normal person, that’s what they want,” he added.

Earlier this month, Smotrich came under fire after terming the pride parade an “abomination,” just days after 16-year-old Shira Banki was murdered at the annual event by an ultra-Orthodox knife-wielding assailant. Smotrich refused to back down, and went on to condemn the “witch hunt” against those opposed to same-sex marriage.

“Anyone who dares oppose same-sex marriage and the abomination parades are arrested by police,” he wrote on Twitter on August 3. “Crazy. A dark day for democracy.”

In February — before he was appointed to the Knesset — Smotrich stirred controversy for his stance on homosexuality when he called himself a “proud homophobe” during a preelection discussion with high school students.

“They don’t have the right — just because they are uncomfortable being abnormal — to demand of us all to redefine the norm and claim ‘there is no such thing as normal,’” he said at the time.

In 2006, Smotrich was involved in organizing an anti-gay “Beast Parade” in Jerusalem in response to the city’s annual Gay Pride parade. Anti-gay activists marched throughout the city with goats and donkeys to spotlight what they called “deviant acts” of same-sex relationships.

The freshman lawmaker has since distanced himself from anti-gay activism. He told Haaretz that he regrettably organized the parade when he was “young and stupid.”

The Jewish Home party came under fire over a January campaign video in which members spoke out against equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. In the video, the vast majority of the party’s candidates flatly rejected Israel recognizing same-sex marriages, saying it went against Jewish values or normative principles.

Jonathan Beck and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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