Everything started from a plane. Well, actually everything started much earlier. The plane set in motion the developments, which occur nowadays in the Israeli LGBT movement with many members calling for the boycott of the traditional Tel Aviv pride.
Yes, you have heard it right – the LGBT people are calling for the boycott of the pride. I say more. The City Council is shocked calling on all openly and proud ones not to do it, as it will harm the image of the city, let alone the status of the treasury.
Based on the realities in Ukraine, it is an oxymoron, which is difficult to understand because the situation in Kyiv and Odesa is quite different taking into account more or less successful attempts to hold the prides. Of course, some explanations are necessary in this regard.
So, the plane. About two weeks ago, there was a happy news in the Israeli press that the Ministry of Tourism would intend to develop a gay tourism having allocated an amount of 11 million shekels for that (ca. 3 million US dollars). It decided to hold a contest among the community. The main prize would be a one week stay in Israel and the attending of the Tel Aviv pride, the most mass and bright pride across the Middle East. (It is not like there are other prides in the region). It was planned to charter a special plane to bring the lucky ones to the event; and not just to charter it, but also to paint it in the relevant colours.
They planned to apply the rainbow on the tail and the body with a big inscription Tel-Aviv Pride 2016. It should become an unprecedented step by the country.
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Israel is not the first mover in this regard. Increasingly more airlines (it is not about MAU now) work in collaboration with pride festivals, which take place in all civilized countries at the end of May or at the beginning of June stating their friendly position. The Israeli Ministry of Tourism prepared a task for the contestants wishing to win the prize – a trip to Tel Aviv. The contestants should tell why they want to attend the brightest pride across the Middle East and add pictures and other materials to their story. The social networking sites are involved. The special rainbow plane would bring one hundred eighty winners - “leaders of the public opinion – members of the gay community” to Israel.
It would seem all is nice and chic, and even creative, especially for Israel, where the Ministry of Tourism was going to show such a scope. Many Israeli LGBT, however, were not happy about this initiative and started to protest calling for the boycott of the pride through the social networking sites. What an irony!
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Actually, it is as clear as day. It wasn’t the plane the activists felt indignant at. The reason was the gulf between the investments in the gay tourism and funding of the organizations advocating for the rights of the gays in Israel. The authorities have been reminded of many things, inter alia, the bills rejected in the Knesset recently, which would have to improve the life of the community members; how the organizations and the activists have to camp on the doorstep to obtain partial funding for the relevant projects. The seamy side of the beautiful picture is rather different. They try to present Israel as a super country for the gays and lesbians (that is true compared to Ukraine, but it is about other things now). However, the members of the community are often neglected in the country, since the authorities hamper the relevant progress for different reasons. The authorities have not granted most of the rights the Israeli LGBT have nowadays. They were obtained exclusively through the court. Luckily, there is a case law in Israel. The rule established in a previous legal case is binding on a court when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues. This is how the Israeli gays succeeded that the state recognizes same-sex marriages concluded in the countries, where it is possible.
“This year the government intends to use pride to demonstrate to the whole world, how Israel tolerates the LGBT. But we are responsible to members of our community, and we will primarily protect their interests”, the Association of the Israeli LGBT organizations points out. - “Today we discuss the possible responses to the government; one of them could be a cancellation of pride in Tel Aviv”.
First, the municipality of Tel Aviv endorsed the initiative of the Ministry of Tourism. However, later they said that such events symbolized partnership, and the government should not impose the ways to hold them if the main participants did not like them, informs the website Our Café.
The boycott of the pride could be very painful for the City Council. Tel Aviv is truly called a secular capital of Israel. It is a very free and liberal city with pride being held many years, with tens of thousands of guests (not only gays or lesbians), and being something like an indispensable attribute.
Now some simple calculations. Any public event of such scale brings money to the municipal purse, including taxes coming from tourism. The more guests are in the city, the higher income of the hotels, restaurants, shops, petrol stations etc. Therefore, the cities where the prides are held regularly, and there are many guests, do understand its importance not only for the image but also for the budget. They do not care about all the pouters lamenting about the “family values” of their own understanding.
Mayor of Tel Aviv Ron Huldai at pride
In addition to the above, there is one more important thing to say – Ron Huldai has been the Mayor of Tel Aviv for 17 years. Several days ago, he confirmed his attitude to the LGBT in the interview with Radio Freedom:
— I know Mr. Mayor, Israeli gays and lesbians are making much of you. I can understand why. You have opened a gay centre in the heart of Tel Aviv. Every year you take part in the city gay parade. You strongly advocate for the respect for the rights of the gays and lesbians. Why do you do all that?
Ron Huldai: Because every person should have rights.
— Is that all?
Ron Huldai: Yes.
— Is it a part of your political goodwill? Do you support gays to get their votes in elections?
Ron Huldai: I just believe gays should have the same rights just like everyone else. That is all. When I started to govern the city, gays did hate me, did not vote for me, and called me a homophobe. Later they saw my attitude to the human rights, and the situation changed. Believe me; I would fight for their rights without their votes. Besides, tolerance towards gays is always good for the economy of the city, for tourism. If the gays feel good, there will be tourists.
Please take into account the last phrase. It highlights the above said again.
Some years ago during the municipal elections, a former member of Knesset Nitzan Horowitz, openly gay ran for the mayor of Tel Aviv apart from Huldai. Most citizens did not care that he was a gay. Interestingly, Tel Aviv LGBT people voted for the straight Huldai, 71-year-old grandfather with nine grandchildren, and not for the gay Horowitz. They did not distrust in Horowitz. They just considered Huldai to be more experienced mayor and a “stronger economic person” as they say in such cases, for example, in Kyiv. The homosexuality was not the primary objective, since everyone knew the serving mayor had the same friendly position as the gay candidate. Is it an ideal, is not it?
This controversial story with advertising of the LGBT campaigns of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism did not end only with the rainbow plane. Baffled questions from London, Berlin and Madrid started to come a few days after the news about the plane.
On April 18, a very big billboard reading Imagine London without gays... appeared near the Waterloo station and in other parts of the British capital. Many people were surprised, to put it mildly. No clue could be found. Many people thought it was an insult of another homophobic company. Same billboards appeared on the streets of the Spanish and German capitals. The advertising with a request to Imagine Madrid without gays..., Imagine Berlin without gays... and even Imagine a world without gays... started to pour in on the Facebook users perplexing people. At some point Facebook closed the page calling to Imagine a world without gays...
The British site Gay Star News decided to clarify what is going on. It turned out the advertising company JCDecaux placed these strange billboards in London. They explained that the advertising campaign was “related to Tel Aviv”, and it did not pursue any homophobic purposes.
You have hit it right – the Israeli Ministry of Tourism was behind this campaign, which wanted to produce indignation within people. “They are just teasers”, said the representative of the Ministry of Tourism. - “We wanted people to go into a rage about these billboards; to start asking, “Who has written it?” There will be other posters in a matter of days. Everyone will understand it is only a part of the advertising, whose purpose is to make people think that a world would be grey and boring without gays”. What a creative idea!
According to the website Spain in Russian, posters calling to Imagine Madrid without gays... on behalf of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism appeared in the metro. Many residents - not only homosexuals said they would not like to see these “homophobic posters”. There were debates on the social networking sites. The metro management quickly responded to the upsurge of indignation, explaining that the campaign should be understood in a different way. The advertising makes us think, how bad it would be without gays (and, consequently, to go to the Tel Aviv pride) rather than calls to get rid of gays.
Let us set aside the over-the-top creativity. It is a judgmental factor. The problem is that the advertising, albeit with a positive message, involves a degree of homophobia showing the members of the queer community as people, who “give colours and fun to the world”. In other words, gays can be only artists, actors, entertainers and other creative professionals, who make the world brighter. The “boring” clerks, “ordinary” workers and other professionals, who do not revive other people’s spirits with joy and happiness, cannot be among them.
The moral of this story is that the Ministry of Tourism refused to apply a rainbow on the plane because frankly speaking tourists keep coming to the Tel Aviv pride with regular flights. Moreover, it is not necessary to spend huge amounts of money for the bloated marketing campaigns, which, however, might frustrate the expectations.
“The threat [of the pride boycott] was heard in the Ministry, and they decided to give up the advertising of gay tourism abroad. However, the decision to give to the gay community at least a part of the budget allocated for the PR campaign has not yet made public”, informs the website of 9th channel on Israeli TV.
The only Israeli LGBT group, who was unhappy about the Ministry of Tourism refusal to paint the plane, was the LGBT group of the ruling party Likud, “We regret the decision of the Ministry of Tourism to suspend the campaign aimed at developing gay tourism in Israel”, was reported on their Facebook page. - “It is a direct consequence of the imprudent behaviour of those, who claim to be the voice of the entire community”. Gays and lesbians of Likud promised they would continue to convince their supporters and members of other groups that the problems should be solved through the dialogue rather than through “incitement and promoting of ignorance”.
Likud and LGBT have been a hot topic in recent months in Israel, after openly gay Amir Ohana appeared in the Knesset; he is right wing. It has not ever happened something like that.
Ohana has not lived up to expectations as soon as he became the member of the parliament. As a reaction, some members of the community gave him up. Others urged to wait a bit to see, what steps Ohana would undertake in the future.
The main message conveys one of the oldest Israeli LGBT organization Aguda, “We call on the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and members of government to give us an opportunity to be proud of our authorities. There have been few opportunities for that this year. There have been much more reasons for the protests. Our requirements have not appeared today. The fight is every day. Let the Tel Aviv pride receive a great attention of the tourists from all over the world, who witness there is a community in Israel that fights for own rights”. Aguda underlined they would not push for the withdrawal of funding for the gay tourism. On the contrary, they welcome this idea. This budget, however, should not be spent only for the pride week in Tel Aviv. It should be allocated equally and thoroughly, and above all, it should be commensurate with financial help for the organizations advocating the interests of the community all year round.
I would not like to sum up with a phase “and now compare it with Ukraine”, since I am well aware of the reasons of the diametrically opposed conditions with the LGBT rights in the countries of the former Soviet Union and in the countries, which meet democratic parameters. I am aware that “state of things” in each country generates the problems the local queer community has to face. In the eye of an average Israeli armchair gay, the above problem is as much important as a Ukrainian armchair gay sees that there is almost complete lack of recognition of the LGBT rights. However, I would advise to read once again the phrase that the Israeli gays have made themselves all they have now. To reinforce the material learned.
Pride in Tel Aviv]