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LGBTQ+ Pride Parade was spark for COVID outbreak – Smotrich

CM 05/08/2021 1

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Religious Zionist MK Betzalel Smotrich blamed the LGBTQ+ Pride Parade in Tel Aviv for starting the recent outbreak of the coronavirus in Israel, during a speech at the Knesset plenum on Wednesday.”Here there was a huge ‘infection party’ that I think started this whole outbreak, this whole wave. No one has the courage to say this because it’s not politically correct, but the Pride Parade, the large frenzy there in Tel Aviv, was the starter of this outbreak,” said Smotrich.The far-right MK listed a number of other factors he said helped spread the outbreak, including vacations abroad and Muslims who traveled during Eid al-Adha.

Smotrich complained that a lockdown would likely take place during Jewish holidays in September, as well. “On the Jewish holidays, it’s not a big deal. So we won’t pray in the synagogues. So we won’t dance with the Torah on Simchat Torah. So we’ll fast for a full day on Yom Kippur and pray outside under the blazing sun and we won’t celebrate with our families,” said Smotrich.According to Health Ministry data, the upward trend in coronavirus cases had already begun in early to mid-June, before the Tel Aviv Pride Parade took place.”If you forgot what the dangerous combination of ignorance, populism, frustration, and hatred looks like, Smotrich gave another great reminder yesterday,” said Nitzan Horowitz, Israel’s first LGBTQ+ health minister, on Thursday.

“Contrary to the statement by the self-proclaimed epidemiologist, there is no connection between the Delta outbreak and the Pride parades,” said Horowitz. “The man who built a career on homophobia never misses an opportunity to incite and spread hatred.”Yesh Atid MK Yorai Lahav Hertzanu responded to Smotrich’s statements as well, saying “if that’s what you think Betzalel, you’re invited to stay two meters away from me.””Israeli politics has fallen to the sidelines in the last two years. It has been taken over by elements who make much more noise in the media than their representation in public. This morning we again received a reminder from the leader of the National Union who is trying to garner votes and justify his political existence, religious Zionism it certainly is not,” said Yamina MK Nir Orbach on Twitter.”Personally, I oppose the Pride Parade, but linking the coronavirus outbreak to the parade is baseless stupidity, just like they tried to blame haredim in the past,” said Orbach. “Mutual guarantee is one of the coalition lines of the new administration, it will help us get out of the coronavirus outbreak. Not secular people against haredim and not Arabs against Jews. Together.”A press release by the Religious Zionist party referred to the clip circulating of Smotrich as “fake news,” with Smotrich stating in response to the outrage against his statements on Thursday that he mentioned the Pride Parades as just one cause of the outbreak. “It is the mass gathering that spreads the coronavirus, the purpose of the gathering does not matter,” said Smotrich. “What does matter is the lack of courage and leadership by [Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett to make unpopular decisions and impose slight restrictions on gatherings, which will bring about a lockdown for all of us during the Tishrei holidays.”While Smotrich did mention other causes for the outbreak, he singled out the Pride parade as the “starter” of the outbreak. Smotrich also only singled out causes concerning Arabs, left-wing protests and the LGBTQ+ community, ignoring largescale events that took place in other sectors as infection rates spiked, such as the Flag March in Jerusalem or large gatherings in Jerusalem on Tisha B’Av.Smotrich has a long history of opposing the LGBTQ+ community and making LGBTQ-phobic statements.Smotrich helped organize an event in 2006 called the “beast parade” in which goats and donkeys were paraded in Jerusalem in a protest against the LGBTQ+ pride parade in the city.He has since expressed regret for taking part in the event, telling Haaretz “I did it when I was young and I regret it.” In an interview with Arutz Sheva at the time of the parade, Smotrich had stated that the Pride Parade was “worse than the acts of animals.”Despite the party’s strong opposition to LGBTQ+ rights, members of the Religious Zionist Party have stressed that they are not homophobic or promoting hate.Orit Struck, No. 5 on the party’s list, told the Knesset Channel in March that she “never, ever had any negative sentiments toward private people for whom this (meaning being LGBTQ+) is their situation.Michal Waldiger, No. 2 on the Religious Zionist list, told Makor Rishon in February that she has “quite a few friends with children who are religious and LGBTQ+. At the state level – what the public space will look like – it is more difficult. It is a difficult struggle that needs to be thought about.”LGBTQ-phobia spiked during the coronavirus outbreak, with incidents reported once every three hours in 2020 in Israel, as 2,696 new incidents of hate and violence against the LGBTQ+ community were reported, according to the Nir Katz Center of the Agudah – The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel.Blaming LGBTQ+ people for causing or intensifying the coronavirus outbreak, as well as other tragedies, has been a common trope among right-wing and haredi officials.Last March, Rabbi Meir Mazuz, who promised that the virus would not affect Israel, blamed the coronavirus outbreak on pride parades.Mazuz is the dean of the Bnei Brak yeshiva and spiritual patron of Shas renegade Eli Yishai and his Yahad movement.The rabbi claimed that all countries that have parades have been affected by the virus, but that Arab countries which don’t have pride parades do not have the virus. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and a number of other countries throughout the Middle East have been affected by the virus.Haredi communities were also one of the communities hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, as schools remained opened and coronavirus regulations were loosely enforced as large gatherings continued in haredi cities and neighborhoods.Mazuz has blamed a number of tragedies on pride parades, including the terrorist attack in which Eitam and Naama Henkin were killed in 2015.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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