Israel's First Openly Proud Lawmaker Too Terrified of Gays

According to Likudnik Amir Ohana, the real threat to the LGBT community comes from 'leftist thugs.' What nonsense.

Avner Bernheimer
Avner Bernheimer
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Amir Ohana speaking in Knesset, December 28, 2015.
Amir Ohana speaking in Knesset, December 28, 2015.Credit: Knesset spokesperson
Avner Bernheimer
Avner Bernheimer

Likud MK Amir Ohana is a coward. He’s a coward as a public figure, as a Knesset member and as a person who sees himself as representing the LGBT community on the nationalist right. Ohana proved this in the past when he ran like crazy from votes on bills designed to grant equality to the community, and he proved it again Friday when he showed up heavily guarded at Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Parade.

The first time Ohana proved his cowardice came soon after he was sworn in to the Knesset. Those “controversial bills” were important for the LGBT community, like a prohibition on sending children for “conversion therapy” to change their sexual orientation, or the recognition of same-sex bereaved families. Ohana’s excuse for this shameful absence was that even though these bills wouldn’t have passed anyway, there was no justification for breaking coalition discipline, something that maybe would have gotten him temporarily suspended from a Knesset committee.

To Ohana, suspension from a committee is a terrible price to pay in a war for human rights – in this case his own rights, his partner’s rights and his children’s rights. If he had a single drop of pride in him, as he claims he does, he would have taken a temporary suspension while backing the LGBT community that he pretends to represent.

If it were possible to attribute his absence from Knesset votes to the fact that he was a rookie parliamentarian, along came the Gay Pride Parade, where Ohana took his relations with the community to a new low. The day before the event, and on the morning of the parade itself, headlines appeared that Ohana would be arriving with bodyguards because of death threats against him.

I have no disrespect for threats on anyone’s life, but the threats on Ohana’s life reportedly came from members of the LGBT community. Or so the news stories said. I’m against every kind of violence, but the purported threats to Ohana’s life from members of the LGBT community are a bad joke that rely on a familiar strategy of the right: try to create an equivalence between “extreme right” and “extreme left.”

Ohana learned from the best of the best, his extremist friends in the governing coalition who equate the threat to leftists from rightist thugs with an alleged threat to rightists from “leftist thugs.” This is the same mean strategy that makes it possible even for opposition leader Isaac Herzog to call Meretz and certain members of the Zionist Union “extreme left.”

The most extreme left in Israel isn’t violent; it’s not the Baader-Meinhof gang. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a right-winger. Peace activist Emil Grunzweig was murdered by a right-winger; the Jewish underground and the “price tag” retaliations are right-wing phenomena. Israeli left-wingers might be unbearable nuisances, but they’re not murderers or violent thugs. This of course doesn’t deter rightist inciters from depicting them as such.

People dance during the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, June 3, 2016.Credit: Oded Balilty

Nor is the LGBT community a violent community, despite Ohana’s fears. I’ll sign a statement that the only violence that might have befallen Ohana from his many justified LGBT critics would be a few taunts or a spritz from a rainbow water cannon. In the very, very worst case, someone might have spritzed some Red Bull on his shirt, which might have left a stain.

Ohana’s arrival at the parade with bodyguards did tremendous damage to the community. By arriving heavily guarded, Ohana sent a twisted and mendacious message that the real threat to Israeli LGBT people comes not from the likes of Yishai Schlissel, who killed someone at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade last year, or the murderer at the Barnoar LGBT club in 2009, who hasn’t yet been caught.

No, according to Ohana the real threat to the LGBT community comes from members of the community itself. They’re the problem. They’re the ones who are violent. They’re the knife in the nation’s back, just like the “leftist thugs” the right has invented.

Gays even scare him more than Arabs. After all Ohana, the fearless former Shin Bet guy, volunteered to guard the Knesset’s new big-ticket acquisition, the guy who makes pilgrimages to the Temple Mount, Likud MK Yehudah Glick. It turns out that the real danger to Ohana’s life comes from one of his homeboys. By the skin of his teeth he survived the parade.

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