Gay Activists Call to Cancel Tel Aviv Pride Parade Over State's Preferential Treatment of Tourists

Backlash follows Tourism Ministry's $2.9 million investment in campaign to attract tourists coming to Israel to participate in the parade.

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Israelis and foreigners celebrate during the 17th annual gay pride parade in Tel Aviv on June 12, 2015.
Israelis and foreigners celebrate during the 17th annual gay pride parade in Tel Aviv on June 12, 2015. Credit: AFP

In protest over the wide gap between the resources allocated to attract gay tourists to the country and the limited support for local LGBTQ organizations, members of Israel's gay community are calling to cancel this year's Tel Aviv Gay Pride Parade.

The call comes following the Tourism Ministry's announcement this month that it would invest 11 million shekels (more than $2.9 million) in a campaign to attract tourists coming to Israel to participate in the parade. As part of the campaign, the ministry will set up an international competition whose winners will be flown to Israel in a plane specially painted in gay pride colors. State support for LGBTQ organizations, meanwhile, amounts to 1.5 million shekels a year.

The Tourism Ministry's announcement caused outrage in the gay community. In a popular Facebook post, gay activist Netanel Azulay asked of the community to unite and announce that "it would not allow the government to profit at its expense and won't allow the government to use it and lie to everyone that LGBTQ people have it good here.

"Once and for all we're setting conditions and fighting for what we really deserve: If there won't be fully equal rights here then there won't be profitable gay tourism," he wrote.

The Tel Aviv municipality, which organizes the parade, clarified that it will take place as scheduled on June 3, and will mark the empowerment of women in the LGBTQ community. The municipality estimated that 180,000 people will take part in the parade, among them 30,000 tourists.

A simulated image of the plane promoting Tel Aviv Pride 2016.Credit: Facebook screenshot

The Tel Aviv municipality responded to the call to cancel the parade, noting its longstanding relations and cooperation with the gay community.

"We hope that the parade will take place and that a solution will be found to the community's just claims against the government for equality.

"The municipality welcomes the Tourism Ministry's decision to allocate a budget of 11 million shekels for pride events, it's an expression of the community's strength, and we hope that the move will also become an indicator for other ministries."

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni expressed her support for the gay community's call.

"Will the colorful plane to advance gay tourism be the same plane with which gay couples will travel to marry abroad because the government voted against the civil union I proposed only during the last [Knesset] session?" she asked.

"Full equality is created through education and legislation. We can't be proud of gay people in tourist branding or UN speeches without showing a drop of willingness to advance full equality in Israel. The gay community is our natural partner, not only when we need it, but the whole year round," she added.

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