Right-Wing Israeli Extremists Using Gay Rights to Justify Incursions Into Arab Villages
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Gay Pride parades in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are being invoked as the legal basis for ultra-right wing Jewish extremists to march through 15 Israeli Arab communities this weekend, waving Israeli flags and asserting their "Jewish pride."
Organizers of the 11th annual Tel Aviv Pride Parade estimate as many as 30,000 people may have participated in the June 14 march through Israel's largest city and cultural capital. Although their unions won't be recognized by the state of Israel, five gay couples exchanged rings and took commitment vows in a group ceremony on Gordon Beach, adding a new dimension to the event.
A smaller and more subdued hourlong march was scheduled to take place in Jerusalem between 5 and 6 p.m. on June 25, followed by a low-key rally.
These demonstrations of gay rights in Israel are being exploited by rabidly homophobic, ultra-right wing Jewish extremists, who plan to parade through Arab cities, towns and villages in the next few days, asserting their "Jewish pride."
Knesset member (parliamentarian) Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union party, and provocateurs Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben Gvir are framing and justifying their march as retaliation for the desecration of Jerusalem by gays.
"This year, the police have taken the unprecedented step of allowing the parade to take place in the center of the city," they pointed out. "We will use this precedent to call for our marches to take place in the center of Arab cities."
In some ways, the marches can be compared to Ku Klux Klan rallies in the downtown streets of major American cities, or neo-Nazis parading through the Jewish neighborhood of Skokie, Ill., in the late 1970s. In the U.S., such events have often put civil libertarians in a painfully awkward position, forcing them to choose whether to defend the constitutional rights of free speech and assembly -- even for unpopular causes and hate groups -- or to protect vulnerable minorities from calculated expressions of political extremism and violence. The dilemma of democracy, after all, is that the principle of free expression depends upon, and makes possible, the right to express beliefs that decry democratic values.
But Israeli Arabs have no recognized right of free speech or peaceful assembly. More often than not, they are legally constrained (on the basis of "national security considerations") from holding rallies, let alone protests, in their own towns and villages, let alone marching through Jewish towns and neighborhoods. Although Israel touts itself as, and is widely considered to be, a "Western-style democracy," its citizens have no uniformly recognized "constitutional rights," since Israel has no constitution.
The expansion of Arab cities, towns and villages within "green line" Israel -- the boundaries of the state between 1948 and 1967 -- is held firmly in check, in contrast to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which apparently need to keep doubling in size to accommodate their "natural growth."
Israeli Arabs find it both difficult and expensive to obtain the necessary building permits from Israeli zoning officials to modify their homes when their children marry and cannot find their own homes nearby. Any house (particularly if owned by an Arab) that is built, remodeled or expanded without a proper permit is subject to demolition by authorities.
The "Jewish pride" marchers claim the right to assist authorities in discovering and dealing with "zoning" violations in Arab communities.
Gays, on the other hand, do have recognized rights of speech and assembly in Israel, and the "Jewish pride" activists are determined to both undermine and arrogate them.
"The law needs to be the same for everyone," Ben Ari is quoted in several Israeli news sources as saying. "Freedom of speech isn't just for members of the Open House (gay organization) and the radical left. It's our right to march and to examine the illegal construction in those communities."