Israel Actually Ranks Low in Tolerance of LGBT People, Survey Says

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Israeli security forces reach for an ultra-Orthodox Jew attacking people with a knife during a Gay Pride parade Thursday, July 30, 2015 in central Jerusalem.Credit: AP

Israel ranks low in tolerance of LGBT people and support for equal rights for gays and lesbians, according to the European Social Survey.

Compared with 17 European countries, Israel has the highest percentage of people who consider themselves part of a group that suffers discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to the survey. Israel ranks 15th in support for the statement that gays and lesbians should be free to live their lives as they choose — despite Tel Aviv’s reputation as a mecca for the LGBT community.

Greater religiosity is linked to less tolerance — a link that has strengthened over the years. In contrast, the connection between political opinions and support for LGBT equality has weakened.

“The fact that Israel tops the list of European countries in which people experience discrimination based on sexual orientation is further testimony — like the hate crime at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade — that LGBT-phobia is running wild in Israel,” said Imri Kalman, an LGBT leader.

“The data show that there is no single political base for the struggle against this phobia, against racism and hatred of the other, and that the gay community is growing stronger and finding partners and supporters across the political spectrum.”

Kalman called on the government to allocate resources to LGBT groups and launch a plan to fight homophobia and racism.

The survey has been conducted in Israel in 2002, 2008, 2010 and 2012, querying 2,500 people age 15 and over from all segments of the population.

In response to a question on whether gay people should be free to live their lives as they choose, Israel scored 3.7 on a scale of 0 to 5, little changed over a decade. It ranked fourth from the bottom, followed only by Eastern European countries — Slovenia and Poland at 3.3 and Hungary at 3.2.

At the top of the list were northern European countries — Denmark and the Netherlands at 4.5 and Sweden at 4.4.

According to the survey, women are more likely to agree that gays and lesbians should be free to live their lives as they choose. Israeli women’s score gradually rose to 3.9 in 2012 from 3.5 in 2002, while men’s score remained at 3.5.

The percentage of Israelis who said they belonged to a group discriminated against based on sexual orientation is climbing. In 2002, 0.3 percent of respondents declared this, compared with 0.4 percent in 2008 and 2010 and 1.3 percent in 2012 — the largest proportion in Europe.

Following Israel are Britain and the Netherlands at 1 percent. In the Czech Republic and Hungary the number was only 0.1 percent in 2012 and 0.2 percent in Ireland, Slovenia and Portugal.

“We don’t know what to attribute this sharp rise to,” said Irit Adler of the B.I. and Lucille Cohen Institute for Public Opinion Research, who directed the survey.

“It could be that there are more people who feel they belong to a group suffering from discrimination based on sexual orientation, or maybe more people are willing to admit this, or maybe both. The social protest in the summer of 2011 may have changed things — people became more aware, more willing to stand at the front of the stage.”

Since last year the Science, Technology and Space Ministry has overseen the Israeli segment of the survey, conducted by the B.I. and Lucille Cohen Institute.

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