Court-backed Homophobia Canceled Be'er Sheva's Gay Pride Parade

Security concerns were cited in the decision to divert the march, but so was its proximity to religious institutions and other reasons that don't add up to legitimacy.

The LGBT protest in Be'er Sheva, July 14, 2016.
Eliyahu Hershkovich

Exactly 10 years after a parade failed to proceed in Jerusalem, another Gay Pride Parade has been canceled, this time in Be’er Sheva. The organizers decided to cancel yesterday’s parade and hold a demonstration instead, following a request by the police – approved by the High Court of Justice – to divert it to a side street rather than let it take place on the main thoroughfare.

A year after the murder of Shira Banki at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, the police claimed there was a risk of violence by parade opponents as well as from some marchers (they backed up this claim with classified material that was shown to the justices).

But while the High Court ruling focused on this claim, the police also cited concern for the feelings of the religious community, noting that the parade’s original route was to pass close by several synagogues and religious institutions.

It’s impossible not to suspect that the security arguments were largely a cover for surrender to political and religious pressure.

The police bolstered the position of Be’er Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich, who refused to allocate funds for the parade, called it a “protest march” and essentially caved into pressure from the city’s rabbi, Yehuda Deri, and other zealots and conservatives.

The practice of making judicial decisions on the basis of intelligence material submitted by one side is familiar from administrative detentions. It is a deeply flawed practice, since it doesn’t allow for any objections to the arguments.

But even without seeing the classified material, one has to wonder about the contention of the police – who are often required to control complicated and provocative events, such as the Flag Parade in Jerusalem – that they could not adequately secure the parade if it went down the main thoroughfare.

Instead of applying lessons learned from the police’s failure to prevent the stabbing attacks at last year’s Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, the police chose to award a prize to the people issuing the threats, and the High Court gave its stamp of approval.

The “fear of violence from some marchers” claim is also puzzling, and sounds instead like it was invented in order to create some artificial balance between assailant and target.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fond of using gay rights as a fig leaf that “proves” how enlightened and democratic Israel is, the sequence of events surrounding the Gay Pride Parade in Be’er Sheva just goes to show how thin that veneer of enlightenment and liberalism really is.

The parade in Be’er Sheva was canceled due to homophobic opposition, which was lent legitimacy by the police, the municipal authorities and the High Court.