Tel Aviv Council's LGBTQ Portfolio Resigns After Sexual Misconduct Accusations

Testimony published Wednesday said that Etai Pinkas-Arad had sex with two teenage boys over a decade ago without their consent and without a condom

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
Etai Pinkas-Arad in the Knesset, in July.
Etai Pinkas-Arad in the Knesset, in July.Credit: Emil Salman
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

A Tel Aviv-Jaffa city council member suspended himself on Wednesday from his position as holder of the LGBTQ portfolio after testimony was published accusing him of sexual misconduct.

The Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper published testimony Wednesday by two men who say Pinkas-Arad had sex with them without a condom when they attended events sponsored by Israel Gay Youth as 17-year-olds more than a decade ago.

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The men say Pinkas-Arad, 47, a prominent figure in the LGBTQ community and leader of the fight for surrogacy rights for same-sex couples, took advantage of his position to have sexual encounters with them. These reports have come right on the heels of a KAN 11 investigative report about gay journalist, screenwriter and activist Gal Uchovsky, in which allegations were made that he sexually forced himself upon two men.

In a Facebook post, Pinkas-Arad wrote that he had informed Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai “of my decision to suspend myself as holder of the LGBTQ portfolio,” and added, “15 years ago, I saw things differently, in a culture that was prevalent in the community, and today it is clear to me that these were acts that should not have happened.” He also said: “These are difficult hours for me and for my family. But I am not the story here, the people who were hurt by me are.”

Huldai responded on Twitter: “We live in a time in which social norms are being reshaped, and this is a good thing. Etai’s decision is the correct one.” Health Minister and Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz commented: “We must say it repeatedly and clearly – sexual abuse has no place in the gay community or anywhere else.”

One of the men, called Y. in the article, said he was 17 when he met Pinkas-Arad, who was then in his thirties, at an IGY meeting, and that Pinkas-Arad was someone whom he and his friends looked up to as a central figure in the LGBTQ community. Y. described how in the elevator after leaving Pinkas-Arad’s office at the municipality, Pinkas-Arad “asked if he could kiss me and I said yes, and we kissed.” According to Y., Pinkas-Arad then suggested they go to his parents’ house, since they were away. And that in the car on the way there, “he put his hand in my pants and touched my penis. When we got to the apartment, we had sex there. He did it without a condom and without asking me,” Y. said.

In the second incident, A., who was also 17 then, says he asked Pinkas-Arad for help with promoting LGBTQ content at his high school. A. says that when they met, “in the course of the act he did things without asking and … I couldn’t manage to react or resist. … On the one hand, I enjoyed it, on the other hand I felt terrible about the situation. During other encounters he also acted without asking me, and didn’t use a condom.”

In the early 2000s, Pinkas-Arad served as chairman of the LGBTQ Task Force and later electeded to the Tel Aviv city council representing Meretz, and for several years now has held the city’s LGBTQ portfolio. In June 2020, he spearheaded a move enabling couples to register with the municipality without having to be married through the Chief Rabbinate. He has also been a leader in the fight for surrogacy rights for LGBTQ parents.

Following the report about Pinkas-Arad, the IGY administration sent a letter to members saying, “We firmly condemn any behavior of the sort that was revealed in recent days and denounce all types of sexual violence, especially when it hurts our youth. … IGY was meant to be a safe space for LGBTQ youths, and if these youths did not feel safe enough to talk to anyone about this until now, it means the space was not safe enough, and this is our responsibility.”

Pinkas-Arad responded: “The events in question took place 15 years ago, and therefore I do not clearly remember every detail. It is necessary that a sexual encounter be consensual and respectful, even more so with young partners, even if they are over the age of consent, as in this case. ... I am very sorry about these incidents …”

In the wake of the report about Uchovsky, police are looking into the claims against him and will decide whether to open a criminal investigation.

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