Haaretz Editorial

Israel Cannot Allow MKs' Anti-gay Remarks to Pass Quietly

All of Israel's achievements are insufficient as long as public figures keep allowing themselves to heap abuse on gays and lesbians.

The shock waves generated by the campaign of incitement and fear-mongering against African migrants have yet to subside, and already, another target for incitement has been found: the gay and lesbian community. Last week, it was MK Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu ), and on Monday, the chairman of the Knesset State Control Committee, MK Uri Ariel (National Union ), followed suit. The two are vying over who can make baser and more ignorant remarks.

Michaeli asserted that "most gays suffered sexual trauma as children" and "commit suicide at age 40," while launching a broadside at Channel 10 television over programs "that present a false reality about gays." Ariel went a step further: He urged the Israel Defense Forces not to draft gays and lesbians who "stress their sexual orientation and are proud of it ... The issue here is the values on which the army is based, and in my view, it ought to conduct itself in the spirit of Judaism."

If Michaeli's remarks were based on embarrassing ignorance, Ariel's assault was based on intolerable arrogance and a benighted attitude: In his view, homosexuals' values contradict the spirit of Judaism, and certainly the spirit of the IDF, and therefore, they shouldn't be drafted. This is obviously utter nonsense. But once again, it has become necessary to remind Ariel and his ilk that gays and lesbians are just like any other people. Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar thus did well to quickly condemn these statements.

Israel has often boasted in recent years about its liberal attitude toward the gay community. And in truth, the gay and lesbian community has racked up some impressive achievements in its battle for equality. Israel has enacted enlightened legislation, and as a rule, society's attitude toward the community is markedly liberal. The Gay Pride Parade that took place in Tel Aviv a few days ago amply proves this: It was not just a free-spirited and colorful parade; it was also a show of power.

But all these achievements are insufficient as long as public figures keep allowing themselves to heap abuse on gays and lesbians. Obviously, such remarks say more about their speakers' benighted world than they do about the gay and lesbian world. But no enlightened society can allow such remarks to pass quietly.

Gil Eliyahu