[Marxism] Unity of sorts in the Middle East

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 31 07:54:14 MST 2005

NY Times, March 31, 2005
Clerics of 3 Faiths Protest Gay Festival Planned for Jerusalem

International gay leaders are planning a 10-day WorldPride festival and 
parade in Jerusalem in August, saying they want to make a statement about 
tolerance and diversity in the Holy City, home to three great religious 

Now major leaders of the three faiths - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - 
are making a rare show of unity to try to stop the festival. They say the 
event would desecrate the city and convey the erroneous impression that 
homosexuality is acceptable.

"They are creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable," Shlomo 
Amar, Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi, said yesterday at a news conference 
in Jerusalem attended by Israel's two chief rabbis, the patriarchs of the 
Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches, and three senior 
Muslim prayer leaders. "It hurts all of the religions. We are all against it."

Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi sheik, added: "We can't permit anybody to come 
and make the Holy City dirty. This is very ugly and very nasty to have 
these people come to Jerusalem."

Israeli authorities have not indicated what action, if any, they might take 
to limit the events. Banning the festival would seem unlikely, though the 
government could withhold the required permits for specific events, like a 

Interfaith agreement is unusual in Israel. The leaders' joint opposition 
was initially generated by the Rev. Leo Giovinetti, an evangelical pastor 
from San Diego who is both a veteran of the American culture war over 
homosexuality and a frequent visitor to Israel, where he has formed 
relationships with rabbis and politicians.

Organizers of the gay pride event, Jerusalem WorldPride 2005, said that 75 
non-Orthodox rabbis had signed a statement of support for the event, and 
that Christian and Muslim leaders as well as Israeli politicians were 
expected to announce their support soon. They said they were dismayed to 
see that what united their opponents was their objection to homosexuality.

"That is something new I've never witnessed before, such an attempt to 
globalize bigotry," said Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of Jerusalem 
Open House, a gay and lesbian group that is the host for the festival. 
"It's quite sad and ironic that these religious figures are coming together 
around such a negative message."

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, co-chairwoman of the festival and the rabbi of 
Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, a gay synagogue in New York City, said the 
controversy was another sign that each religion had become polarized 
between its liberal and conservative wings.

The global Anglican Communion split deeply over homosexuality in the last 
two years after its American affiliate ordained an openly gay bishop and 
the Canada affiliate decided to allow blessings of same-sex unions.

"I reject that they have the right to define religion in such a narrow 
way," Rabbi Kleinbaum said of religious leaders who denounce homosexuality. 
"Gay and lesbian people are saying we are equal partners in religious 
communities, and we believe in a religious world in which all are created 
in God's image."

The festival is planned for Aug. 18-28 and is expected to draw thousands of 
visitors from dozens of countries. The theme is "Love Without Borders," and 
a centerpiece will be a parade on Aug. 25 through Jerusalem, a city that 
remains deeply conservative, though other parts of Israel have become 
increasingly accepting of gays in recent years. Other events include a film 
festival, art exhibits and a conference for clerics.

When the first WorldPride festival was held five years ago in Rome, 
religious opposition came from the Vatican, while secular opposition came 
from a neo-Fascist group that vowed to hold a counterdemonstration. But the 
neo-Fascists canceled their demonstration, the march came off peacefully, 
and even a few center-right politicians joined many thousands of marchers.

One day later, however, Pope John Paul II appeared on a balcony over St. 
Peter's Square and delivered a message expressing his "bitterness" that the 
gay festival had gone forward, calling it an "offense to the Christian 
values of a city that is so dear to the hearts of Catholics across the world."

Both WorldPride festivals were initiated by an umbrella group, InterPride, 
that says its mission is to promote gay rights internationally.

The outcry over the 2005 festival will not be confined to Israel. The 
American evangelical leader who helped to galvanize the opposition, Mr. 
Giovinetti, is the senior pastor of Mission Valley Christian Fellowship, an 
independent church that meets in a hotel in Southern California. A former 
band leader in Las Vegas, he is also host of a radio program heard on 
stations around the United States.

Neither he nor other evangelical American leaders were at the news 
conference in Jerusalem, which was called by the chief rabbinate of Israel. 
But by all accounts Mr. Giovinetti played a crucial role in spreading the 
first alarms among religious leaders about the gay festival.

He said he had first heard about WorldPride from a congregation member who 
had told Mr. Giovinetti that he was gay for many years and still monitored 
gay Web sites. Mr. Giovinetti said he alerted Israeli politicians and 
religious leaders.

Mr. Giovinetti circulated a petition against the festival, titled 
"Homosexuals to Desecrate Jerusalem," which he said had been signed by 
every member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party in the Israeli Parliament. 
Another American who helped bring together the opposition was Rabbi Yehuda 
Levin, of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, which says it represents more 
than 1,000 American Orthodox rabbis. At the news conference in Jerusalem, 
he called the festival "the spiritual rape of the Holy City." He said, 
"This is not the homo land, this is the Holy Land."

Annual marches by homosexuals have become routine in Tel Aviv, a secular 
coastal city. For the past three years, gay parades have also been staged 
in Jerusalem. Religious groups have complained, but the police have issued 
permits for the events, which have been held without any serious incidents.

Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 

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