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Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism

Broad opposition to World Pride in Jerusalem

Religious, gay leaders criticize international event; crisis in Lebanon ends parade plans

Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

An international gay pride event scheduled to take place in Jerusalem in less than two weeks is facing unprecedented opposition not only from religious leaders in the city, but from elements of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities worldwide.

Already, the violence between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon has led to the cancellation of a planned parade, the centerpiece of the five-day World Pride Week. With many of the security personnel needed to guarantee the safety of marchers diverted to northern Israel, city police denied the parade a permit.

The first attempt to hold World Pride in Jerusalem in 2005 was postponed until this year because of tensions surrounding Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

But organizers remain determined to hold the weeklong event in the Holy City, a place of "intense bigotry and opposition," said Hagai El-Ad, executive director of Jerusalem Open House, the gay and lesbian community center in the city that is hosting World Pride.

"People who come to Jerusalem and participate in World Pride are here for a great variety of reasons. The major one that brings us all together is making a powerful statement in the world's city of Jerusalem, claiming this powerful symbol for what we believe in," El-Ad said during a press conference Tuesday.

This will be the second World Pride event. The first took place in Rome in July 2000, during the Roman Catholic Church's Jubilee celebration and was condemned by the pope.

The organizers would not estimate how many people they expect to attend this year's week, which starts Aug. 6. It includes an interfaith conference on religious participation, a youth day with a meeting at the Knesset and a rally at the wall that separates Israel from the West Bank. About 60 Bay Area residents plan to attend, according to a San Francisco organizer.

Organizers are devoting a day of the pride week to "... express(ing) our solidarity with our community's members who will not be able to be part of World Pride," and many mainstream gay and lesbian organizations in the United States support the event.

But the barrier Israel is constructing to create a de facto boundary with the West Bank and the limits Israel places on who can enter the country have alienated some gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups that might have taken part in the event.

Gay and lesbian rights groups in Middle East countries outside Israel have declared they will not participate.

"At the same time that we celebrate our pride, the Palestinians are going to suffer and be under curfew," says a statement from a Palestinian lesbian group called Aswat (Voices).

The Lebanese gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender group Helem is calling for a boycott:

"Human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent, and the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (people) should not be placed in competition with the long struggle of the Palestinian people, including Palestinian LGBT people."

Given the barrier and tight border security, some of the groups opposed to the event have called its theme -- "Love Without Borders" -- unfortunate.

On one Web site calling for a boycott of the event, 22 organizations offer their support, including Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism, a Berkeley group, Queers for Peace and Justice and left wing and pro-Palestinian groups.

Executive director Paula Ettelbrick of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in New York City said, "With all respect to the organization, they put the World Pride event in a city that so many people in the region can't travel to. A lot of people are staying away from the whole thing; it's problematic for a lot of people."

The World Pride name is lent to the event by InterPride, an organization of local pride committees from around the world. Groups that want to host the event apply to the organization for permission, and activists from Jerusalem made the only application after the Rome event, said Russell Murphy, co-president of InterPride.

In addition to the gay and lesbian opposition, religious leaders have called for a counterprotest to the event that could draw as many as a half-million people.

"Even if it's 100,000 to 200,000, that is still the largest anti-gay demonstration in the world ever," said San Francisco resident Julie Dorf, co-leader of U.S. organizers of World Pride.

One orthodox rabbi in New York has blamed the event for the current violence with Hezbollah. Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders in Jerusalem have united to oppose it.

The U.S. State Department is warning citizens to "weigh carefully the risk of traveling to Israel or Jerusalem" and to "remain vigilant while traveling anywhere in Jerusalem." It strongly urges Americans to not travel to the Gaza Strip or the West Bank.

E-mail Wyatt Buchanan at wbuchanan@sfchronicle.com.

 

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