Israel was a shining beacon of LGBT+ rights in the Middle East, having enacted LGBT laws 22 years back. But just last week the Knesset led by PM Benjamin Netanyahu reneged on his promises to amend a law that would have allowed gay couples to have children via surrogacy.
This has led Israel to erupt in a sea of wide spread protests.
The PM’s U-Turn
People’s anger was sparked by an apparent U-turn by the PM who had committed to supporting a key change to existing surrogacy legislation but voted against an amendment when it was presented last week in the parliament.Protests were held throughout Sunday as members of the sizeable community also announced a one-day strike that was widely supported across Israel’s workforce and backed by numerous multinational companies.
In Tel Aviv, the heart of Israel’s LGBT community, main roads were blocked for nearly an hour, and a central event in the evening drew thousands of supporters chanting against Netanyahu and his government’s policies. In Jerusalem, protesters clashed with police outside the Prime Minister’s official residence and two people were arrested for disturbing the peace.
Israel: The Flag Bearer Of The Middle East
Tel Aviv has always been a sort of flag bearer for the LGBT community that sees turnouts of around 250,00 revellers each year at the Pride festivities. Although, paradoxically Israel also has a very religiously conservative side to it. One such ultra-orthodox religious fanatic had stabbed at least 6 people during the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem in 2015, killing a teenage girl who was there as a spectator.
Netanyahu has expressed support for LGBT rights in the past. In a recent Facebook post he recognised the need to fix the “unfair” existing surrogacy law. But his coalition partners, including conservative and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, stand firmly against expanding such rights for LGBT families. His critics say that was why he ultimately opted to vote against the change.
Read about 10 LGBT Jews who inspire, here.
The Dual-Face Of PM Netanyahu
After the vote, Netanyahu uploaded an additional Facebook post saying he supported surrogacy for fathers as well as mothers. He said he would support more comprehensive legislation on the matter in the future.
Israel’s laws “do not provide a real solution to all those who want to become parents in this way,” said Irit Rosenblum. He is the founder and chief executive of New Family. New Family, a non-profit group, helps and supports the establishment of alternative families.
Just last week,approval came through for an amendment to the law . It now means single women, in addition to heterosexual couples, can use the surrogacy process to have children. The law does not extend to men who want to become fathers. In a way prompting a sort of reverse gender bias.
Gay Couples Are Not Buying It
Still, Rosenblum says, the law remains deeply restrictive. It places limits on the ages of the intended mother, as well as the surrogate mother. It demands that the religion of those involved is the same. And also, dictates that the relationship status of the surrogate is single.
“In order to become parents, we have to travel abroad and spend many thousands of dollars,” said Shai Davis. He is a board member of LGBTech an organisation of technology professionals. LGBTech enriches the community for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The protests were also in response to a “culture of intolerance and a variety of incidents against the community in recent months.”
“It is coming to a head right now,” said Davis, co-founder of the Israel Diversity Standard to promote equality for all groups in the workplace. “There was great hope for change, and now there is tremendous disappointment. As it has failed to materialise even though there was a promise from the Prime Minister.”
We can only hope that Israel sees sense and the PM puts humanity before political considerations.
Written by: Delshad Master