Israeli ‘liberals’ aren’t doing the LGBTQ flag—or democracy—proud

The outrage over a proposed Religious Zionist Party amendment wasn’t spontaneous. It’s been cultivated over time to combust on command.

MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzanu at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 14, 2019. Hadas Parush/Flash90.
MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzanu at the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 14, 2019. Hadas Parush/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Credit: Courtesy.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, an author and award-winning columnist, is a former adviser at the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a Army Radio interview on Monday, MK Yorai Lahav Hertzanu—an openly gay member of outgoing caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party—warned that the coalition deals currently being finalized could be deadly for the LGBTQ community. He was referring, in particular, to a Religious Zionist Party (RZP)-proposed amendment to existing anti-discrimination laws. The updated version would enable private businesses not to provide services that contradict their faith.

“I really think it will end in murder,” he said, dubbing the issue in question “incitement” by “irresponsible elected officials … Words will not be the end of it; words have power.”

Funny he should have mentioned that, given the incessant, ugly, anti-Orthodox vitriol his camp has been spewing, not to mention calls for civil insurrection against the not-yet-instated government. But then, Lahav Hertzanu is among the many disgruntled losers of the Nov. 1 Knesset election who distort the language of their nemeses, while displaying bald-faced hypocrisy in the process.

Let’s start with the first half of the double whammy. The latest brouhaha erupted when RZP MKs Orit Strock and Simcha Rothman defended the need to legislate the right of establishments to operate in accordance with their religious beliefs. Strock said that this should apply to doctors, if and when alternative physicians are available to take their place. Rothman gave hotels as an example.

Predictably, the response from the soon-to-be opposition has been to accuse Prime Minister-designate Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu of caving to his “homophobic” and “racist” partners. Petitions and letters rejecting the move, assumed by detractors to be targeting LGTBs—have popped up all over, from the ivory towers of academia and high-tech to the halls of hospitals.

The outrage, like that expressed by the “anybody but Bibi” crowd over the haredi parties’ demand for the right to hold gender-segregated events, wasn’t spontaneous, however. On the contrary, it’s been cultivated and nurtured over time to combust on command.

Under such circumstances, there’s no room for serious examination or debate—certainly none for considering the RZP’s position or taking Strock’s following clarification into account.

“You can calm down over the much ado about nothing,” she tweeted on Sunday. “No one intends to discriminate against LGBT people because of their identity or identification—not in medical care or any other service. LGBTs are human beings who deserve respect and love just like everyone else … It’s not at all about the identity of the patient, but about the essence of the treatment.”

The idea, she added, is that “a religiously observant doctor will not be forced to provide a medical treatment contrary to halacha [Jewish law], regardless of the identity of the patient. Because in the State of Israel, which was established after 2,000 years of exile, thanks to Jews who gave their lives (who were literally slaughtered, hanged, burned at the stake and tortured to death) for observing the Torah, a believing Jew should not be forced to violate [its laws].”

She went on: “I’m sure a huge majority of the nation agrees with this simple truth and identifies with it, certainly on Hanukkah, the holiday that began with a rebellion against anti-religious coercion.”

In conclusion, she suggested wryly that “those who still find it difficult [to accept] do a simple visualization exercise: apply this principle to your [coalition] partners from the Shura Council [the Islamist Ra’am Party]. You’ll find that, suddenly, religious and faith principles become somehow easier to swallow.”

Her dig at the double standard brings us to the second element of the distortion-hypocrisy couplet that characterizes Lapid’s shaky, disparate bloc: the “do as I say, not as I do” practice at which Lahav Hertzanu has demonstrated exemplary skill.

Indeed, the gay parliamentarian denouncing the RZP for “homophobia” is more than tolerant of Ra’am, which labels LGBTQs as “perverts” with an “unnatural lifestyle.”

When asked in July 2021 about Ra’am MK Walid Taha’s statements to this effect, he replied, “Walid Taha is a member of Knesset who represents a sector. He’s legitimate. He’s a member of [our] coalition.”

Pressed further on Taha’s stance, he answered, “I understand it; I can’t accept it.”

Mere weeks later, he abandoned even that pretense of disapproval. Upon Taha’s appointment to the chairmanship of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, the Yesh Atid “progressive” was positively effusive about and toward his Ra’am colleague, lauding him as a “sensitive, caring, committed elected official,” and saying, “I’m very happy for your election and very much looking forward to working with you.”

A few months after that, Taha attacked Labor MK Ibtisam Marana—also a coalition partner—for her efforts to establish a shelter for Israel’s LGBTQ Arab citizens. His method of putting her down was to question whether she was really an Arab, after all.

He proceeded to point out to her that Ra’am follows Islamic law, “which considers same-sex relations to be [among] the most serious crimes in the eyes of Allah, because it is a violation of man’s nature and a blatant defiance of Allah himself.”

The Koran, he added, “recounts the case of Lot and the heavy punishment that Allah inflicted on the sinners, through their complete destruction with fire and brimstone. [And] the consensus among Muslim scholars [of Sharia] is that the punishment for those who have homosexual relations is execution.”

Nary a peep from Lahav Hertzanu, Lapid or the rest of their liberal fellow travelers now carrying on about Strock. If they think that their behavior and bigotry of low expectations do the rainbow flag—or democracy—proud, they’ve got another thing coming.

Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war.

JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you.

The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support?

Every contribution, big or small, helps remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates