Apple Backs Campaign Against anti-LGBT Israeli Legislation

Tech giant voices solidarity with employees 'seeking equality' following legislation excluding gay men from law expanding surrogacy rights

Protesters in Tel Aviv after the passage of the surrogacy law, July 18, 2018.
Tomer Appelbaum

Apple Inc. released on Saturday a statement supporting an Israeli campaign against legislation recently passed in the Knesset, which excludes gay men from a law expanding surrogacy rights.

“One of Israel’s greatest gifts is the creativity, diversity and talent of all of its people," the statement by Apple said. "Unfortunately, recent legislation passed by the Knesset undermines those values. Apple will always maintain its values of fairness, dignity, and mutual respect, and we stand with all of our employees seeking equality under the law."

Apple employs some 1,000 people in its R&D center in Israel, which opened in 2011. CEO Tim Cook, who is openly gay, has been vocal about LGBT rights.

Thousands of people are expected to strike Sunday to protest discrimination against LGBT individuals in Israel in general, and the exclusion of gay men from the surrogacy law passed last week. Events are scheduled across the country; the main one will be a rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square at 8:30 PM.

The strike call and demonstrations were sparked by the amendment to the surrogacy law and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions — saying Monday that he supports surrogacy births for single fathers — before voting against it Wednesday.

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But it seems that the protest, which has increased over the past few days, goes far beyond opposition to a specific law, touches on the violation of the rights of LGBT individuals in many areas.

On Thursday, a day after the law passed, dozens of major companies and Israel’s main labor federation announced that they would join the strike.

Two major tech companies, Mellanox and Microsoft Israel, vowed to help their employees fund surrogacy. Both companies vowed to give 60,000 shekels ($16,400) to any employee seeking to create a family through surrogacy.

“My heart is with each and every employee in their desire to create a family,” said Assaf Rappaport, CEO of the Microsoft research and development center in Israel, who spearheaded the move.

IBM issued a statement Friday on the law, saying: "No one should be denied one of the most basic human rights – the right to start a family – for being who they are. We support IBMers who wish to stand in solidarity with the LGBT community in advocating for legislation that is inclusive of ALL."

Dozens of other companies agreed to give their employees the day off on Sunday to protest.

The reaction suggests that the surrogacy law may be leading to the first instance since 2011, when Israelis took to the streets to protest the cost of living, in which a protest movement in Israel receives backing from the business world, spearheaded by tech companies.

Salesforce echoed the support, saying that "we believe everyone should have equals rights in starting a family and stand together with Israel's proud LGBTQ community. Salesforce believes in equality for all and will support our employees who campaign for change to this law."