Members of Israel's LGBT community were up in arms Sunday over a Foreign Ministry-sponsored booth at the Gay Pride Parade in Berlin. The booth handed out gay pride flags with a Star of David in the center, and invited participants to tour Israel.
The display came only days after the LGBT community in Israel protested across the country against discrimination, which followed the government scrapping an amendment that would have permitted gay men to be surrogate parents.
The LGBT Task Force described the ministry's decision to sponsor the booth as an act of cynicism, saying that while the Knesset passes laws that insult LGBT people, it simultaneously presents Israel to the world as liberal and open.
“The hypocrisy knows no bounds,” Ohad Hizki, director of the LGBT Task Force, said. “With one hand, the government takes away basic rights to a family and parenthood from the LGBT community, and with the other, it markets the state as an LGBT tourist destination. Instead of working for equal rights for Israel’s LGBT citizens, they are courting members of the LGBT community abroad. The time has come to apply in Hebrew what the state says so nicely in English, German and French,” Hizki said.
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Yair Hochner, who was until recently the director of Tel Aviv’s LGBT film festival, took part in the parade in Berlin. “It irks me so much to see how the week after the mass protest in Rabin Square, the Foreign Ministry is promoting the next parade in Tel Aviv on huge screens on the center stage. They’re simply taking advantage of us to promote an economic tourism agenda and false propaganda as if everything’s great for the LGBT community in Israel,” he said.
Hochner added that until LGBT people have full rights in Israel, he will not organize Israeli LGBT film programs for festivals abroad funded by the Foreign Ministry.
This year’s Eurovision Song Contest winner, Netta Barzilai, cancelled her planned appearance at the Berlin parade due to the weather, her managers said. Instead, she appeared at a club in the city that is popular among the LGBT community.
Some 80,000 people, gay and straight, took part last week in a rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square protesting discrimination against the LGBT community. The rally came a day after protests and a country-wide strike called by the LGBT Task Force in light of the Knesset’s decision to vote against an amendment to the surrogacy law that would allow gay fathers to become parents by means of a surrogate.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voted against the amendment, proposed by his party colleague MK Amir Ohana, although a few days before he had told Ohana he would support it and try to get it passed before the Knesset took its summer break. A statement that came out near the time of the vote said Netanyahu would support the amendment “later on.”