Sunday’s protest by the LGBT community, widely supported by the business community and the wider public, is the only encouraging aspect of Israel’s current reality, which is growing increasingly dark with its ultra-nationalism and discrimination.
The protest broke out when gay men were excluded from a new surrogacy law approved by the Knesset last week. Under the law, in addition to heterosexual couples, single mothers can benefit from surrogacy services.
But the protest isn’t limited to this issue; it also involves thousands of families headed by same-sex parents, whether male or female, and their right to enjoy equal status. Such parents are waging legal battles for their rights, in contrast to heterosexual couples who already benefit from the services of fertility clinics, sperm banks and surrogacy providers.
Surrogacy is a serious matter, but raising it now as a battering ram against the struggle of the LGBT community – considering that the surrogacy law favoring heterosexual couples was passed in 1996 – is a hypocritical and homophobic step.
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If at the end of a learned debate Israeli society finds that surrogacy is a morally repugnant practice, it should be forbidden to everyone. If this isn’t the case, it should be permitted for male couples just as it is for straight couples and single mothers, obviously under appropriate supervision and monitoring.
The inspiring mobilization to this cause of the business community – one that usually shuns politics for fear of hurting business – comes in the wake of decision by the CEO of the Nice software company, Barak Eilam. He said his employees wouldn’t fly El Al as long as the airline agreed to segregate women from men on its planes if asked to do so. This should be an opening for the liberal camp’s increased involvement in the fight for its life.
Israeli diplomats cynically exploit the business and LGBT communities for propaganda purposes. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees them as a source of great pride. While secular and liberal Israel is being crushed under the boot of religion and ultra-nationalism, these communities should fight back and refuse to serve as a fig leaf for the military theocracy that is growing in Israel under right-wing rule.
Last week, along with the discriminatory surrogacy law, the Knesset passed the racist nation-state law, as well as other bad laws such as a law muzzling human rights groups and a law limiting the rights of Palestinians to appeal to the High Court of Justice. The LGBT community’s struggle and the struggle for democracy and human and civil rights are inextricably linked. Not for nothing did the nation-state law counter the Declaration of Independence’s commitment to equality for all citizens regardless of religion, race or gender.
The battle is over Israel’s character as an egalitarian state, and one can only hope that the LGBT community’s campaign and the recruitment of others to it are the first steps in this battle.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.