First, a few clarifications, which for some reason have not been heard often enough: The Gay Pride parade planned for next Friday in Jerusalem is a local event, not the WorldPride march. The ultra-Orthodox already won their battle against WorldPride; now, they are also trying to deprive homosexual residents of Jerusalem of the right to march in their own city.
The march will take place far from any Haredi neighborhood. It will not be the first such march, but the fifth: There have been Gay Pride marches in Jerusalem since 2002. And another clarification: Jerusalem's Gay Pride marches are modest and conservative, bearing no resemblance to the exhibitionist marches held in Tel Aviv.
A sort of scare contest has developed over the past two weeks between the Haredim and the police. Haredi sources threaten there will be deaths during the parade, and police sources warn of a massacre. The Haredim threaten to block the roads, and the police announce continual increases in the number of troops guarding the march. In practice, since the march will take place far from Haredi neighborhoods, the police should not have difficulty preventing Haredi or even religious Zionist demonstrators from approaching its route. It coped successfully with challenges no less daunting during the disengagement.
Prior to the massive demonstration against the High Court of Justice in 1999, the Haredim made every effort to ensure there would be no violence. This time, it seems as if every effort is being made to persuade people there will be violence. Sources involved in the planned anti-march demonstrations are leaking threats of the "stop us before we kill somebody" variety. The ultra-Orthodox are now being portrayed routinely as a lunatic, violent public, and no Haredi public figure has uttered a protest.
Horror scenarios such as those now being published routinely have never actually occurred during any religious demonstration. When deaths or injuries have occurred during religious demonstrations, they were almost always due to error or negligence. During the last Gay Pride march, a fanatic Haredi, Haggai Schlissel, ran wild and stabbed four marchers. The Haredi public did everything in its power to distance itself from him.
The campaign of intimidation is best exemplified by the reports of Haredim storing rotten eggs in order to throw them at the marchers from the rooftops. You have to know Jerusalem to understand that a Haredi who tried to ascend any rooftop along the route of the march would stand out roughly the way a woman in a bikini would in Mea She'arim.
What has not been heard from police commanders is a declaration that the march is being held legally, as part of the marchers' freedom of expression, and therefore, the police will ensure that it goes forward, because that is how things work in a democracy; that the police will do their job even when it involves protecting homosexuals; and that the police do not like being threatened.
There has also been no statement that lawbreakers will pay for their crimes, and no reminder about the conditions in police lockups, which would greatly cool the ardor of Haredi rioters.
Therefore, it is hard not to conclude that the police and the Haredim, between whom an unnatural love affair has developed, are not really dealing with the question of what will happen on the day of the march, but are trying to bring about its cancelation. The police are actually delighted to be threatened. Ultimately, what do they have to lose? Even if the march is not canceled, fewer people will participate. Or perhaps the police will ask the High Court of Justice to turn the march into an assembly, even though a march that does not march is like a songfest in pantomime. The police are not wise enough to understand that it is not just the Gay Pride march that is at stake, but the rule of law, and that if opponents succeeding in thwarting the march by threatening murder, they will be able to thwart anything.
A week of threats has passed, and the public and its representatives have been silent. No meaningful denunciation of these intolerable threats has been uttered. It is hard to escape the feeling that against homosexuals, threats are permissible. Just as it is permissible to announce a plan to hold an "Animal Pride March," and no one asks who the real animals will be in this event.
The organizers of the battle against the Gay Pride march are grasping both ends of the stick: They are organizing ostensibly peaceful marches, but also threatening outbreaks of violence and disturbances of the peace. This is an intolerable situation. If they are interested in holding a legal demonstration, the police must demand clear guarantees that there will be no violence. Experience shows that when the rabbis do not want violence, none occurs. And with regard to the death threats, those making such threats must be dealt with accordingly. The police know how.
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