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Bank says it won't give credit to discriminatory businesses

Yesh Atid MK warns ‘anti-LGBTQ incitement from lawmakers will end in murder’

Yorai Lahav-Hertzano calls for scrapping plans for a law that would enable discrimination, says Netanyahu will be responsible for consequences

Blue and White MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzano in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 14, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Blue and White MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzano in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 14, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Yesh Atid MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzano said Monday that he was concerned that escalating rhetoric by lawmakers against the LGBTQ community would lead to deadly violence.

“I really think it will end in murder,” he said. “Irresponsible elected officials are inciting against members of the community just because of who they are, just because they are LGBT,” Lahav-Hertzano told Army Radio.

“Words will not be the end of it. Words have power,” Lahav-Hertzano, a member of the LGBT community, told Army Radio.

Lahav-Hertzano’s comments came in response to a coalition agreement between the Religious Zionism and Likud parties, which includes a clause stipulating that the incoming government will seek to amend discrimination laws to allow business owners to refuse to provide a service if it violates their religious beliefs. The deal has yet to be officially signed.

Israel’s LGBTQ community has suffered violence in the past, including in 2015, when teenager Shira Banki was murdered by an ultra-Orthodox extremist at the Jerusalem Pride Parade.

Netanyahu has denied that his incoming government will have a negative impact on LGBTQ rights, but Lahav-Hertzano said the Likud leader had a bad track record when it came to the community, with a number of “lies” and broken promises.

Participants in the annual Jerusalem Gay Pride parade place flowers at a memorial for Shira Banki, who was murdered during the parade in 2015, on June 6, 2019. (Times of Israel)

“If he doesn’t cancel the legislation, he will be responsible for what happens,” Lahav-Hertzano warned. “If Netanyahu is serious about what he is saying, he needs to cancel these agreements that cause real harm to the LGBT community.”

“We don’t believe what Netanyahu says. We are waiting to see the signed agreements,” he said.

On Sunday, Religious Zionism MK Orit Strock, who is set to become a cabinet minister in the incoming government, sparked an outcry by saying that doctors should be allowed to refuse to provide treatments that contravene their religious faith, as long as another doctor is willing to provide the same treatment.

Strock made the comments in the context of the reported agreement by members of the incoming coalition to enshrine that right in legislation.

Backing up Strock, fellow Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman asserted that if a hotel wanted to refuse service to gay people on religious grounds, it would be entitled to do so.

“A business owner can do whatever he likes in his business. He created the business and he doesn’t owe anyone anything,” Rothman told the Kan public broadcaster.

Religious Zionism MKs Simcha Rothman (left) and Orit Strock in the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 9, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich has previously boasted of being a “proud homophobe.”

Strock’s and Rothman’s comments were castigated by numerous members of the incoming opposition and described as racist, homophobic and discriminatory.

Despite Netanyahu’s denial that LGBT rights would be harmed, Kan journalist Michael Shemesh tweeted an image of the coalition agreement clause in question, which states that the law against discrimination will be amended “in a way that will prevent injury to a private business that refrains from providing service or a product due to religious faith, on condition that it is a service or product which is not unique and for which an alternative can be found nearby and for a similar price.”

According to Kan, the clause appears in every coalition agreement between Likud and the other parties of the incoming government, although only the deal between Likud and Agudat Yisrael, one half of the United Torah Judaism party, has been formally signed so far.

The law as it stands forbids discrimination by providers of public services or products on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and other similar considerations, and anyone doing so is liable to be fined.

Lahav-Hertzano also called for the scrapping of the appointment of the leader of the anti-LGBT Noam faction to head up an Education Ministry unit in charge of approving extracurricular educational programs, who play a critical role in school activities.

“Giving Avi Maoz the keys to [the minds of] all the students in Israel — this must be called off,” Lahav-Hertzano said.

It was reported last week that Noam had prepared a list of dozens of LGBT television anchors, reporters, radio hosts, and other professionals working in the news and entertainment industries.

The party also wrote a roundup of “extreme left-wing” women who it says are part of a “secret team” in an army unit in charge of gender equality, as part of an internal document from 2019 that appears to outline the party’s perceived opponents in the media and in civil society.

The lists were prepared for unknown reasons, online news site Ynet first reported on Thursday.

MK Avi Maoz, left, and Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu after signing a coalition deal on November 27, 2022. (Courtesy, Likud)

Noam ran on an anti-LGBTQ, anti-pluralist agenda as part of the Religious Zionism party ahead of the November 1 election, which handed the Likud and its far-right and ultra-Orthodox partners 64 seats in Israel’s 120-member Knesset.

In a bleak and bitter address on Thursday, outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid made a reference to Noam’s “blacklists” and warned against the agenda put forward by Netanyahu’s coalition, accusing the Likud leader of being weak and beholden to extremist partners.

Lapid called Noam’s leader, Maoz, “an ignorant racist, a man who, it was today publicized, has blacklists of LGBTQ people and activists in women’s organizations.”

Yet Moaz, he said, “will be in charge of the education of our children.”

Meanwhile, Israel Discount Bank, one of the country’s leading financial institutions, said Monday it would not grant credit to any business or organization that acts in a discriminatory manner.

“We found it appropriate to amend the bank’s credit policy, so that what is already obvious will now become official,” said Shaul Kobrinsky, chair of the bank.

“According to the policy, Discount Bank will not grant credit to businesses or entities that discriminate against customers in the State of Israel. This is our commitment and responsibility as a significant business entity within the Israeli economy,” Kobrinsky said in a statement.

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