US said to slam covering of Jerusalem embassy Pride sign as sovereignty breach
Official decries act by municipal inspectors; deputy mayor reportedly says parade’s nixing due to pandemic means city shouldn’t hang Pride flags
The Jerusalem Municipality’s covering of an LGBT pride banner from an external wall of a US Embassy facility in the capital continued to draw protest on Wednesday, with one American official comparing the issue to Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank.
“While Ambassador Friedman is fighting for annexation in the United States, are you invading our sovereign territory here?” the senior embassy official fumed to Channel 12 news, referring to the envoy’s trip to Washington for talks at the White House on whether the Trump administration should back Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to begin the process of annexation from July 1.
According to the report, the US deputy ambassador spoke with Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion about the issue, who was said to declare the incident an “unfortunate mistake” by his deputy who sent the inspectors to cover the banner.
The outlet reported that US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman is expected to raise the issue upon his return.
The row began after far-right Deputy Mayor Arieh King sent inspectors to cover up the sign at the embassy’s Palestinian Affairs Unit on Agron Street in central Jerusalem. The sign had expressed support for “tolerance and diversity.”
The reports quoted a municipality statement as saying that putting up the banner required approval, and “unfortunately we cannot deviate from the rules with anyone seeking to put up a sign.”
“If approval is requested, and the sign adheres to the rules, it will be given without any delay,” the statement said.
But another deputy mayor, Fleur Hassan Nahoum, asserted on Twitter that no such approval was required.
The sign was uncovered late Tuesday night.
#Exclusive: Israel police ordered United States Embassy to cover #Pride flag displayed every June, according to knowledgable source who said about 20 motorcycle cops drove up & demanded banner be removed. Have requested explanation from @israelpolice & @usembassyjlm ????️???? pic.twitter.com/0DlV8BWqvq
— Noga Tarnopolsky (@NTarnopolsky) June 23, 2020
King maintained the embassy had broken the law, telling NPR on Tuesday that he had asked for the banner to be covered after complaints from residents.
“I am surprised that the embassy decided not only to break the law, but also to put up a sign that the majority of residents oppose. Why take sides on a controversial issue and put up a sign on our street?” he said. “Most of the Jews, Christians and Muslims in the city oppose it.”
He told the right-wing Arutz Sheva website that “nobody is allowed to break the law, whether you are an anonymous private person or a senior official.”
Open House Jerusalem, a LGBT rights group, said the sign was put up at the same spot every June to mark Pride Month, when pride marches and other pro-LGBT events are held throughout the country.
The compound on Agron Street is a separate complex from the main embassy building. It resides in a heavily trafficked area of downtown Jerusalem, next to the route of the capital’s annual Pride Parade. The parade was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the Open House attacked King for “trying again to marginalize the LGBT community instead of working for the benefit of all Jerusalemites. This attempt is doomed to fail.”
According to an Army Radio report Wednesday, King has also said that because there is no approved Pride parade this year, and therefore any such event would be considered a protest, the city should not show support by hanging flags.
In 2019, the US State Department refused permission to the US Embassy in Israel and three other places to fly a Pride flag on a flagpole.
US Vice President Mike Pence defended the decision, saying that only the American flag could be hoisted on the flagpole. He said that that there was no ban on the pride flag, or other flags, flying elsewhere at US embassies.
Days later, the embassy branch office in Tel Aviv decked out its facade with rainbow flags which did not appear to run afoul of the ban.
The U.S. Embassy Branch Office in Tel Aviv is ready for the PRIDE parade tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/pmc50wBli8
— USEmbassyJerusalem (@usembassyjlm) June 13, 2019