Opinion

Gideon Levy Is Wrong: The LGBT Protest Is About Basic Rights

To be listed as a mother on a child’s identity card, to get married at city hall – these are not demands for privilege, but the basic demands of a person in a secular Western country

Demonstration by LGBT community members against discriminatory surrogate bill in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 22, 2018.
\ CORINNA KERN/ REUTERS

Theoretically, everything is great here. They let us march and dance in Tel Aviv in our underwear and Assi Azar is on prime-time television, so what’s there to complain about? And anyway, we are “the only democracy in the Middle East,” so just say thank you.

But all this is, of course, only in theory. Because I’m forbidden to marry my partner, and the adoption law discriminates between heterosexual and homosexual couples, and the Interior Ministry abuses lesbians who are required to “prove” their maternity and even retracts the birth certificates it issued to their children, and transgender people suffer from violence and discrimination – and let’s not forget that the most common epithet uttered in this sparkling villa in the Middle East is still “homo.”

Most of the Israeli public supports LGBT rights. A poll by Walla News published Sunday shows that some 57 percent of the public supports amending the surrogacy law that currently discriminates against gay men. The government, which is under pressure from United Torah Judaism and Habayit Hayehudi, is light-years behind the public when it comes to our rights.

And it’s known that the enormous achievements of the gay community over the past decades is the result of a stubborn and persistent struggle – not in the legislature, but in the High Court of Justice. Last week we saw the stream of companies and organizations that rose up against the undermining of the principle of equality (Bibi, doesn’t Apple Inc. scare you more than UTJ chairman Yaakov Litzman?)

And there are those on the sidelines who would tell us what to protest about and what not to protest about. Because the nation-state law is a more important issue, and the Gaza Strip is burning – but to them we say that it’s good that the LGBT community is taking to the streets to protest at all.

May this protest become a spearhead for the liberal public in Israel, which on the whole remains apathetic and drowsy, although it has been fed up for a long time with the control that small religious parties exert over every aspect of life in Israeli society.

Saturday night I was too excited to sleep. In the morning, instead of showing up in the newsroom where I work, I rode my bike to the protest tent on Rothschild Boulevard. En route I met a friend who gave me a little pride flag to hang on my bike. I’ve never sported a pride flag, even though I came out of the closet in my early 20s.

But in the morning there really was pride. What amazing and uplifting power there is in a community that joins hands and takes to the street together. After 20 years, the Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade has become a regular ritual. The tourists arrive, the city is decorated with flags. But this time it’s different: This is not just another party whose aura fades quickly. This is a demonstration of the power of Israel’s LGBT community, which is no longer prepared to make do with the bizarre status quo that’s been created here. The community has launched a battle for the image of this country and I hope that this protest will not stop until we achieve equality.

So no, Gideon Levy, this is not a “strike of the pampered.” To be listed as a mother on a child’s identity card, to get married on the steps of city hall without fearing for one’s life – these are not demands for privilege, but the basic demands of a person who lives in a secular Western country. The LGBT protest is a genuine protest by people who are sick of having the state treat them like second-class citizens.