Right-wing Yachad Party leader Eli Yishai brushed off criticism from opponents Wednesday over an anti-gay campaign apparently initiated by his followers, saying reports he was behind the effort were “fake news” — but failing to actually distance himself from the sentiments expressed therein.
An election poster widely circulated on social media throughout the day showed Yishai alongside the slogan “So there won’t be a child with a father and a father.” Yishai, who split off in 2014 from the ultra-orthodox Shas Party, is known for his opposition to gay rights including same-sex marriage.
Sharing the image, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid tweeted: “With a father like you, preferably not.” Labor MK Merav Michaeli tweeted: “How much fear and hate a person must have to run such a campaign.”
That prompted Yishai to tweet back that Lapid “fell for fake news from a campaign that is not from me.” He slammed Michaeli, a former journalist like Lapid, saying she’d abandoned her ethics by failing to check the poster’s source.
But in an interview with Ynet, Yishai would not condemn the image’s contents.
“The aspiration is for every Jew to have a father and mother,” the former Shas Party leader told Ynet. “In the Jewish tradition, there is a father, a mother, children and a generation of continuity.”
It was not clear who was behind the poster, though it was speculated that supporters of Yishai were responsible.
The poster was met with further derision online.
Channel 13’s Knesset affairs reporter Liran Levi commented on Facebook that gay bashing filled the gap for Yachad’s lack of polices. “Such a thing wouldn’t happen without Eli Yishai’s blessing,” he maintained.
The head of the Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, Chen Arieli, attacked Yishai as a marginal has-been politician, asking if he had a plan to remove thousands of children of single-sex families from their homes and to send them to orphanages.
Yishai’s Yachad is not currently projected by any pollsters to win seats in the next Knesset in the April 9 general election.
Earlier this week Likud party candidate Shlomo Karhi assailed Israel’s annual gay pride parades, saying such events promoted an unnatural lifestyle, Ynet news reported.
Karhi, an orthodox Jewish professor who comes from a family of 17 siblings, said: “Everyone has the freedom to choose (how to live their life). But I don’t think it’s appropriate to publicly display this behavior.”
Arieli said: “It is a disgrace for the Likud party that Shlomo Karhi, a candidate who has yet to be elected to the Knesset, has [already] become the sad joke of the next parliamentary session.”
Karhi has at least two gay cousins. His aunt, Shosh Tuchfeld, said she “is not surprised” by her nephew’s remarks. “But I view these remarks as a challenge, and I’ll continue fighting against people who speak and think in this way.”
“There are members of the LGBT community who are religious, and their situation is far worse because of this sort of reaction,” Tuchfeld said.