The High Court of Justice’s ruling on Be’er Sheva’s Gay Pride Parade, in which it denied a petition to overturn a police decision to change the parade’s route, is riddled with holes.
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The first is the black hole regarding classified intelligence. As Justice Hanan Melcer wrote, despite the police’s earlier approval of the parade, they received information that raised concerns about life-endangering violence between “circles” opposing the event and “participants wishing to join the parade and rally who seek to protect themselves.”
This is how the ruling begins, under the cover of classified information, creating a false symmetry between those who oppose the parade and threaten it and those who seek to protect themselves.
We’ve never heard of violence by participants in Gay Pride parades. Since classified material was submitted to the court in camera, in the presence of only state prosecutors, we don’t know what the police told the judges – not regarding the threat of violence by opponents of the parade and not regarding the alleged “life-endangering” violence by those seeking to defend themselves. There was no explanation on how moving the route a few hundred meters would better protect the participants.
A second hole relates to arguments presented by the state that didn’t find their way into the court’s ruling. The state claimed that according to the internet there were numerous religious institutions along the parade route and that this could gravely offend religious sensibilities.
The state’s response to the petition claimed that there were a few synagogues along the route, as well as a Chabad center and a Bnei Akiva youth-movement clubhouse. The state must have done a Google search and found a few religious institutions nearby, using this to claim that the parade would hurt people’s feelings. But hurt feelings can never justify the harming of the rights of others.
A third hole lies in the lack of reference to pressure applied by the Be’er Sheva rabbi, who vociferously opposed the parade. In its response, the state denied that the police decision was reached after pressure was applied by the rabbi.
But the police’s decision came right after a meeting of rabbis headed by the municipal rabbi, who decided to take action to foil the parade. The justices asked state prosecutors about a meeting between the mayor, the district police commander and the rabbi, after which it was decided to reroute the parade. But they accepted the argument that this meeting was unrelated to the rerouting.
So what do we have here? Groundless arguments about “offended sensibilities” and threats, whether political ones by the municipal rabbi or threats of violence, concealed in classified material, as if this were a case of state secrets, all of which led to routing the parade from Be’er Sheva’s main street.
A year after the murder of Shira Banki at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, the police are telling us that they can’t protect marchers and a march should be rerouted. They base this on a strange story that can’t be refuted because it rests on classified material and far-fetched claims of a risk of violence by participants seeking to defend themselves.
Thus the parade was rerouted and the organizers decided not to hold it at all. It was moved because the opposition by some circles to equality is defined as a sensibility that deserves protection, enabling damage to the struggle for equality.
This decision was based on creating a spurious symmetry between those wishing to demonstrate in their quest for equality and those wishing to thwart them. It was based on the puzzling stance taken by the police, who know how to protect provocative events in dangerous locations like the annual flag parade in East Jerusalem.
When it comes to a peaceful march for granting equality to the LGBT community, the police let the people making threats win. Thus, while the prime minister, in his speeches abroad, continues to tout the fact that Israel holds Gay Pride parades and has a vibrant LGBT community, the murderer Yishai Schlissel has won and Shira Banki has been murdered again.
Still, as we learned in our struggle to hold a Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, and to borrow from the Jewish partisans’ song, “Our march will thunder on, we are here.”
The writer is a board member for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which was one of the petitioners to the High Court.