A Time to Celebrate – and to Fight for Democracy

By: Mickey Gitzin, Director of the New Israel Fund in Israel

A decade ago, I could count the number of Israeli cities celebrating LGBTQ Pride on one hand. This year, there will be dozens of marches taking place in communities across Israel, and that’s a powerful testament to the persistent activism of the LGBTQ community.

Amidst all the Pride celebrations, we can’t lose sight of a very real threat to the LGBTQ community and all minorities in Israel — not only to the expansion of LGBTQ equality, but to the very ability to exercise the hard-won rights that minority communities enjoy today.

Before coalition negotiations were called off, we learned that the government would intend to pass an “override clause,” which would dismantle the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review. This clause is not a minor tweak of the justice system, rather, it’s an all-out attack on democratic principles.

We know that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is desperate to undercut the Supreme Court so that he can avoid accountability for the corruption charges against him. But this measure would not only affect the prime minister — the first people to be harmed by the override clause will be minorities and underprivileged groups.

From the LGBTQ community to Palestinian citizens of Israel, victories for rights and recognition have almost always relied on the power of the Supreme Court to oppose unjust government policies.

Take Jerusalem Pride, for example. In 2007, the Supreme Court rejected attempts to cancel the event and enabled the Pride Parade to go on as planned in Jerusalem. Three years later, the court ordered the Jerusalem Municipality to provide funding for the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance, a prominent LGBTQ organization that organizes the annual Pride Parade in Jerusalem — despite the Municipality’s attempts to close it. Earlier this year, political and religious leaders again tried to prevent Israelis from marching in Jerusalem Pride March by pressuring the city to cut off funding for the Open House. In the end, Jerusalem City Council approved the funding for the Open House, but it took a determined and courageous effort from local LGBTQ activists.

Without an independent judiciary, it is possible that Jerusalem Pride would never have never taken off. The threat to the court is a threat to the rights of the entire LGBTQ community in Israel.

Pride Month is a time to celebrate – but not to rest on our laurels. We should be proud of the achievements of the LGBTQ community in recent years. But this year, our marches must also stand for something else: protecting Israel’s democracy and preserving the independence of our judicial system.

We must not forget: Stonewall was a riot. A Pride parade is a political act.

So as we celebrate the victory of another Pride in Jerusalem and cities all over Israel, we can’t lose sight of the fact that the struggle for equality is far from over.

Without the Supreme Court, I don’t know if the LGBTQ community in Israel would have any rights at all. So in this year’s parades, we will march for equality, for the independence of the judicial system, and for Israeli democracy.

 

This blog post is adapted from an article that originally appeared in Haaretz’s online Hebrew edition on June 2, 2019.

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