Second prominent LGBT activist accused of sexual misconduct

2 men say they were teens, but over age of consent, when they met Etai Pinkas Arad, who quits Tel Aviv city hall in response to allegations

LGBT rights activist Etai Pinkas Arad at a press conference at the Knesset, July 11, 2021, after the High Court of Justice ruled that same-sex couples and single men will be able to become surrogate parents within six months. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
LGBT rights activist Etai Pinkas Arad at a press conference at the Knesset, July 11, 2021, after the High Court of Justice ruled that same-sex couples and single men will be able to become surrogate parents within six months. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Etai Pinkas Arad was accused of sexual misconduct on Wednesday, with two men saying he had sexual relations with them when he met them as teens through a youth group. He was the second prominent LGBTQ activist to be accused of misconduct in recent days.

The men said they met Pinkas Arad, who holds the LGBT portfolio at Tel Aviv city hall, a number of years ago thorough IGY–Israel Gay Youth, a leading nonprofit organization serving LGBTQ youth in Israel. IGY’s president, TV personality Gal Uchovsky, stepped down earlier this week amid separate accusations of sexual assault.

One of the men, identified only as by the Hebrew initial Aleph, told the Ynet news site that although he was over the age of consent — 16 — at the time of the encounter with Pinkas Arad, and he did not reject the activist’s advances, there had been a clear power imbalance.

“I really admired him but in my life I never thought it could or should go in that direction,” he said. “He told us he was a family man with a spouse and everything. He knew I was in high school.”

The man said he met Pinkas Arad over a decade ago through the youth movement, but emphasized that he believed that if the instructors had known about the relationship, they would have taken action.

“He arrived at one of the activities and told us about himself and his background. I was a sensitive teenager, and he was the first person I could look up to as a model for family life, for success in life and the ability to progress even though you are LGBT,” said Aleph.

Illustrative — The annual Pride parade in central Jerusalem on August 3, 2017 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The man said that he was having difficulties in high school so he asked Pinkas Arad for help. He said the council member had eagerly given him his phone number.

“But the correspondence slowly shifted to sexual content. He moved it in that direction. I did not think in that way at all,” said Aleph.

“I never thought it could or should go in that direction. But as soon as it came I was a little excited. I got excited and impressed,” he said. ‘”He asked me how old I was and I admit I told him ‘I’m almost 18’ while I was under 17. But he knew I wasn’t 18. He knew I was in high school.

“During the meeting itself, I did not say ‘no,’ clearly, but I believe that a person his age understands that there is something here that is wrong and inappropriate,” he said. “On the one hand, it’s fun, but on the other hand I feel uncomfortable with the situation and I feel disrespected.”

“For his part, he can say that there was consent, but again, this is a 17-year-old boy. One has to understand the power relations. This is not an introduction through [a dating] app. We met through a youth organization,” the man said.

Aleph said that he had not spoken out before now because Pinkas Arad was a senior figure in Israel’s LGBT movement, but then he told the story to a friend who had another friend with a similar story, so he believed it established a pattern.

Aleph described Pinkas Arad’s actions as “hunting.”

“I asked for help about something related to high school, and how he took it from there to something sexual, God knows. And he’s a very smart guy. He knows how to do the mental manipulation of ‘you did not say no.’ That is the greatest psychological difficulty,” he said.

The second accuser, identified only by the Hebrew initial Yud, said that he met Pinkas Arad at an IGY meeting when he was 17 and the activist was over the age of 30.

He said Pinkas Arad joined a group of teens for pizza after the meeting, and that they exchanged phone numbers and continued to correspond until it was suggested they meet.

Yud said the two met at a Tel Aviv café before they visited Pinkas Arad’s office at the municipality.

“In the elevator he asked if he could kiss me and I said yes and we kissed. He suggested we go to his parents’ house,” Yud said.

“He put his hand in my pants and touched my penis. When we got to the apartment we had sex there. He did it without a condom and without asking me,” he said. “Then he drove me to a point from where I took a communal taxi home. Since then there has been no contact between us except for a few messages on Facebook.”

Pinkas-Arad responded to the Ynet report, emphasizing that the teens were over the age of consent.

“The events in question took place more than a decade ago and therefore I do not clearly remember every detail. It is necessary that a sexual encounter be consensual and respectful, even more so with young partners, even if they are over the age of consent, as in this case,” he said.

However, hours after the report was published, Pinkas Arad, who was a leading figure in the fight for surrogacy rights for same sex families, said he was stepping away from his position holding the LGBT portfolio at the Tel Aviv municipality.

“I cannot change the past but I will do everything to change the future,” Pinkas Arad said in a statement. “Fifteen years ago, I saw things differently, in a culture that was prevalent in the community, and today it is clear to me that these were acts that should not have happened.”

IGY said in response to the Ynet report: “Today IGY is a safe place.”

The allegations came a day after police opened an investigation into accusations of sexual assault leveled against screenwriter and producer Uchovsky, one of the most prominent LGBT rights activists in Israel.

Filmmaker Gal Uchovsky at the Knesset , June 4, 2012 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The police investigation came after the Kan public broadcaster on Monday published testimonies of two men who say that Uchovsky sexually assaulted them in recent years.

In response to the exposé, Uchovsky, a popular TV personality, apologized and said he would be stepping down as president of IGY.

Writing on Facebook Tuesday following the announcement of the probe against him, Uchovsky did not deny sexual interactions with the accusers but said, “I’ve never tried to force myself on anyone, and I’ll take any polygraph test to prove it.”

He stressed that he had “never, ever, intended to hurt anyone.”

“When the allegations of misconduct were made against me, my stomach tightened. I felt a severe sense of personal disappointment, for not realizing it in real-time, and especially great distress over the fact that my dear friends in the community had been hurt by me,” Uchovsky said. “I ask for direct, honest and pure forgiveness from anyone who has felt discomfort or embarrassment or disappointment from me.”

The first of the anonymous members of the LGBTQ community claimed that Uchovsky assaulted him a year and a half ago during a prearranged sexual encounter between them, during which the IGY chairman violated the boundaries the two had agreed upon previously.

“It happened from the first moment,” he says. “Some button was switched and he communicated like an animal, not like a human. More than five times, he tried to forcibly flip me over, to insert his fingers inside of me, to touch and to reach that area in every way possible.”

The complainant told Kan that he clearly stated his refusal, but that Uchovsky did not stop.

A second complainant told the broadcaster that, several years ago, during a work meeting with Uchovsky, the latter suddenly “leaped at me and started kissing me.”

“I tried to shove him away. He forced himself on me despite my objection, until he finished,” the second complainant recalled.

The allegations came the week that Israel’s LGBTQ community was additionally rocked by a data dump by the Black Shadow hacking group of what it said was the full database of personal user information from the Atraf website, an LGBTQ dating service and nightlife index.

The personal information of users who have not publicly disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identification, as well as the HIV status that some posted on their profiles, were uploaded to Telegram on Tuesday.

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