Speaking ahead of the swearing-in of the new government on Thursday, incoming deputy minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Avi Maoz declared that despite his harsh rhetoric on the topic in the past, he has nothing against leftists or members of the LGBTQ community.
Addressing the Knesset plenum, Maoz, whose Noam party reportedly compiled black lists of LGBTQ individuals working in Israeli media, had recently declared that he intended to cancel the annual Jerusalem pride parade, which he termed a “shame and disgrace.”
Accusing his critics of “deliberately and maliciously” trying to portray him in a negative light, Maoz stated that he has nothing against LGBT people and leftists, but rather that he “opposes LGBTQism as an idea and the left as an ideology.”
“In my public actions and statements there is nothing directed against specific people, even if I feel pain for those who live and act contrary to the Torah,” he stated.
“My criticism is always about the ideology, the agendas and the organizations that use private individuals for the benefit of those agendas. I’m not talking about any of those who are attracted to their own gender personally, but about LGBTQism as an idea and as a political movement. I’m not talking about anyone from the left personally, but about the ideology of the left.”
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Maoz was recently tapped for his new position at the PMO in order to promote “National-Jewish identity” and will be given control over “external” educational programs and the choice of who operates them – including enrichment programs, special activities and even school trips in thousands of schools – allowing him to potentially purge such lessons of LGBTQ content.
Following last month’s election, he went on a tour of Israeli media panels, calling for an “national authority for Jewish identity,” attacking the Education Ministry’s new guidelines to help transgender youths and the ban on conversion therapy.
In his speeches, Maoz has attempted to undermine the efforts to normalize LGBTQ families, asking why the education system teaches children “that deviant relations between two men or two women are normative and constitute a desired family model?”
He has also come out strongly against what he says is the damage caused by the Israeli left.
An internal party document which recently came to light contained the names of justice ministry personnel who participated in training courses with organizations promoting Arab integration into Israeli society and other groups the party labeled “extreme left.”
Designated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his support for the Jerusalem pride parade in the wake of Maoz’s comments earlier this month, tweeting that “the government headed by me will not harm the LGBT community and the rights of every citizen in Israel.”
It was one of several efforts at damage control in which the Likud leader has been forced to engage in recent weeks in response to controversial policy proposals and positions coming from his new coalition allies.
On Sunday, Netanyahu pushed back against statements by Religious Zionism MK Orit Strock, after the lawmaker – who’s slated to become Israel’s first National Missions Minister in the new government – declared that a doctor shouldn’t be forced to provide treatment that contradicts his religious beliefs, “as long as there are other doctors who can provide the same service.”
Stating that he “completely rejects MK Strock’s statements,” Netanyahu asserted that “there’ll be no situation in a country that I lead that any person, either a him or a her, LGBTQ, Arab, ultra-Orthodox or any other, will go to a hotel and not be served or go to a doctor and not be treated.”
Simcha Rothman, another member of the Religious Zionism party, also supported the right to refuse service on religious grounds. When asked by a Kan radio anchor if a religious hotel owner could refuse to host a gay couple, he responded: “If it goes against your beliefs, and it hurts your religious sentiments and it’s your private hotel, then the answer is yes, that’s the law.”
However, despite Netanyahu’s statement, Likud’s coalition agreements with the United Torah Judaism and Religious Zionism parties both contained clauses stating that private businesses could refuse to provide a service due to the seller’s religious beliefs, as long as an alternative can be acquired in geographical proximity at a similar price.