Haredi members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, boycotted the swearing in ceremony of new member of Knesset from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party just because the new Likud lawmaker is openly gay.
Above: Amir Ohana (photo credit: Knesset press office)
Haredi MKs Boycott Swearing-In Ceremony Of Openly Gay Lawmaker
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Haredi members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, boycotted the swearing in ceremony of new member of Knesset from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party just because the new Likud lawmaker is openly gay, Israeli media, including Ha’aretz, reported.
Amir Ohana is filling the Knesset slot of ex-Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, who resigned from office and from the Knesset last week due to a sexual harassment scandal.
Ohana is Likud’s first openly gay MK.
“I am here [in the Knesset] with all who I am and what I am, what I chose and what I didn’t, and am proud of these and those too. Jewish, Israeli, Mizrahi, gay, Likudnik, security-ist, liberal and a free market economy man. What came first? Everything came together. When they persecute a Jew with cries, when they shoot, boycott, label and expel - I am a settler. When they want to blur culture, to minimize, hide - I am Mizrahi. When they burn a baby alive along with his family, the hell with it brothers, I am one of you [Palestinians]. When they stab to death a young woman in the parade of love and tolerance - I’m gay. A gay who does not hope for the day that will come, but gets up and brings it. A gay who understands - that the flag we bear, lesbians and homosexuals, trans and bi, is the flag of the rainbow,” Ohana said in his first Knesset speech.
In what is reportedly an unusual step, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended Ohana’s swearing-in ceremony and gave him blessing from the Knesset podium.
“I want make clear a point that may not be clear. In practice, Amir is the first clear, candid representative of the gay community, who was elected in open primaries when he was completely out [of the closet] and he was elected by thousands of voters in the Likud primaries. Amir represents very well our view of liberal nationalism. He believes in the rights of the Jewish people in its land, in protecting the security of the country, civil rights, capitalist economics and a free market. I have had the chance to work with him, he is pleasant but firm in his opinions, steadfast in his principles and I think he will be an excellent Knesset member and a bridge between different parts of the public. I receive him with respect and pride,” Netanyahu reportedly said.
But the Ashkenazi haredi Untied Torah Judaism Party (UTJ) was not welcoming. A source in UTJ reportedly told Israel’s Channel 2 News before the swearing-in that haredi MKs plan to “ignore [Ohana], today and altogether.”
That apparently prompted another UTJ source to try to gloss over UTJ's behavior after the ceremony was over.
"The Knesset members of UTJ did not leave the Knesset hall demonstrably, they simply were not enthusiastic to enter. There is no decision not to cooperate with him. A few [haredi] MKs went up to Ohana after the swearing-in and congratulated him.”
Even outside of the haredi boycott, Ohana’s inaugural speech wasn’t all kindness and roses. In his litany of who he stands with – and those he does not – Ohana lashed out at African asylum seekers.
“When entire neighborhoods are not as they were, and the elderly are forced to live out the remainder of their lives in fear — I am a south Tel Aviv resident,” Ohana, whose Likud Party has been awful to the African asylum seekers, almost all of whom would qualify as refugees under international law if Israel would fairly process their applications.
In almost the same breath, Ohana mentioned the haredi community – the same community whose lawmakers boycotted the swearing-in ceremony just because Ohana is gay – not to attack it but to stand with it.
“And when the outside appearance of a man is considered a good reason to hate him, to distance him from neighborhoods and employment — I am a haredi Jew who is not afraid.”