Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A gay old time in Jerusalem

Here we go again. Several years ago a gay pride parade was staged in Jerusalem, over the objections of its mostly religious citizens. A haredi goon took it on himself to stab several participants, creating a hillul Hashem but not stopping the parade. Last year, amid threats of violence, the parade was canceled at the last minute and a gathering held at the Teddy Kollek stadium on the outskirts of the city instead. And this year the parade organizers again plan to exhibit their aberrant lifestyle on the streets of the Ir Ha-kodesh and the usual extremists are out with their usual fire and brimstone. Naturally, American Jews must weigh in even though we do not live in Jerusalem (or anywhere in Israel) and will not have to deal with the consequences.
Many of us instinctively want the Israeli authorities to stop the parade, as the lifestyle being trumpeted is (or seems to be) antithetical to Torah, indeed an aveirah for which we are warned that the land will vomit us out, ר''ל. However, the American Constitution as interpreted by many Supreme Court decisions does not allow our government to suppress expression of this sort; if one group gets to parade in the streets then no group can be barred because of the views they intend to express. I would not feel comfortable urging a foreign government to act in a way that our own could not; the same holds for urging European governments to suppress neo-Nazi expression that would be legal in our own country.
What about the threats of violence? These threats cannot be taken lightly, since there was actual violence at previous gay parades in Jerusalem, violence that haredi rabbinic authority condones if not tacitly authorizes with their intemperate rantings. The American courts ruled that the government may constrain people from falsely shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater, but do not take kindly to a "heckler's veto," whereby those opposed to a particular viewpoint can enlist the government to suppress it by themselves creating a threat to public safety. The fact is that New York City has a gay parade every year on the last Sunday in June and so far the sky has not fallen. What then should our response be, in light of a sensitivity to civil liberties that many Israelis, especially religious ones, do not share?

1. The parade should be held as scheduled. Israel, like America, is founded on the rule of law. Indeed, the rule of law is the first of the seven commandments binding on all mankind (sheva mitzvot b'nei Noah). The Israeli Supreme Court has spoken and, as much as we may not approve of its decision, it must govern.

2. The police must protect the safety of marchers, watchers and protesters. This is hardly earth-shattering; New York's Finest do just that for every parade including our own annual Salute to Israel. Anybody who takes it on himself to engage in violence against people with whom they disagree must be promptly arrested and prosecuted.

3. There is a Higher Law than the Israeli (or American) Supreme Court. If religious Jerusalemites feel so strongly that the gay parade offends that Higher Law, they can peacefully protest, up to and including lying down in the street in front of the marchers. If they do that, they must be prepared to "take medicine" without undue complaint, in the spirit of Martin Luther King and his followers, who willingly went to jail for their beliefs. Nonviolent protest of that sort would be a kiddush Hashem, while trashing the city and physically attacking others engenders precisely the opposite.

4. There are laws against public lewdness and they can be enforced at the gay parade as well as in any other public setting. The civil liberties of parade-goers does not extend to displaying private body parts and engaging in sex acts in public.

Finally, we should remember that gay people do not choose their sexual preference, just as heterosexuals do not choose theirs. And we can pray that God will allow scientists to discover the causes of that aberrant (and, from a Darwinian perspective, maladaptive) sex drive and find a way to help those afflicted live normal lives.

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9 Comments:

Blogger DrMike said...

Last year one of the posters on FailedMessiah noted what I thought was the best way to deal with the parade. He suggested that the Chareidim should line the parade route and stand there silently, holding placards saying "Repent thine sins. We want you to return to Hashem because we love our fellow Jews." It's subtle but it would make its point, as well as drive the homosexual activists crazy.
Of course, no one has ever accused the chareidi world of subtlety.

I think another problem which we're seeing here isn't the application of the rule of law but rather, unequal application. Poltical correctness, enlightenment, whatever you want to call it, means different interpretations of the law for different groups. Thus a high court judge in Israel can call chareidim parasites and lice but that same judge would throw anyone calling an Arab a racist name in jail. Whether or not it's true, the chareidim see themselves as being disadvantaged by the Israeli legal system with groups they despise having all the advantages. This is one reason for their outburst.

Fri Jun 15, 01:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Neandershort said...

Given that hilonim have children putting their lives on the line while those of the haredim get a free ride, I can't blame them for calling haredim parasites; that's what they are. But from a judge I'd expect judicial temperament. Israeli democracy isn't perfect, but it's a damn sight better than anything else in that part of the world, and our "gedolim" resemble the Taliban more and more each day. As for gays "returning to Hashem," that's no more possible than a man born without arms "returning to Hashem" and putting on tefilin.

Fri Jun 15, 06:07:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Garnel Ironheart said...

I recall reading an article about a chiloni guy stopping for gas and seeing a chareidi family with the usual 29 kids having a picnic nearby. Now, he had apparently recently lost a son who was a soldier and the sight of this famil peacefully eating together, including the sons who should have been doing time in the army was very distressing to him. I can't fault him for feeling bitter at that moment.
However, in terms of judicial temperment, I do expect more despite the part of the world Israel is in. In some ways, there is almost no difference in personal attitude between Aharon Barak and Rav Eliashiv. Both have a comprehensive world view, both believe that their world view is THE proper view and that people who don't agree with them are unenlightened sinners. The only difference is one believes in secular liberalism and one in halachah. What was that about the Taliban again?

Sun Jun 17, 09:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Neandershort said...

I doubt if Aharon Barak would question anybody's right to live a halakhic life, as long as they do their part for the defense of the state and earn an honest living. Rav Elyashiv, or perhaps those who act in his name and whom he is too old and weak to stop, are engaged in intellectual repression and physical violence against those who don't live as they do. They also would reduce women to near slavery, working AND raising the kids while their husbands learn full time, even as they forbid women from pursuing any meaningful education that might enable them to find work that can support a family. In that they resemble the Taliban.

Mon Jun 18, 01:30:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

the LGBT parade in Jerusalem has never resembled similar parades in other cities. the people who march there are Jerusalemites who understand and respect the religious character of the city, and therefore do not flaunt body parts or acts of intercourse. they're just as tzniusdik as anyone else.

Tue Jun 19, 10:00:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Jacob Da Jew said...

I agree, Zev.

Mon Jun 25, 08:22:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Yes, speaking as a person who went to this year's gay parade in Jerusalem, I can testify that the marchers were dressed in a modest fashion and that there was no undue display of body parts. In fact, Meretz Youth led in singing songs about Jerusalem, including Yershalayim shel Zahav. Not what I, from the U.S., had quite expected from a gay parade, but for that reason I enjoyed it.

Tue Jul 24, 05:02:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Neandershort said...

How ironic that Meretz youth is singing Yerushalayim Shel Zahav. Aren't their elders the ones that are eager to give away half the city to our enemies?

Sun Jul 29, 09:20:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Bessie said...

This is great info to know.

Mon Nov 10, 07:42:00 AM EST  

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