Hundreds of LGBT activists and their supporters took to the streets of Tel Aviv Friday to block the city's pride parade. Activists say the move was in protest of Israel's cynical exploitation of using their community to give the impression of being “liberal and progressive” while, at the same time, infringing upon the most basic human rights of the Palestinian people living in Gaza and the West Bank.
“We came here to protest against the cynical exploitation of the LGBTQ struggle for the good of the Israeli government’s crimes, which is why we came with a fence. While we’re demonstrating here, just a few kilometers away (Israeli soldiers) are shooting people exercising the right to protest,” said Tamar Ben Davi, one of the protest organizers.
Another protester, Yuli Novak, highlighted that the challenges facing the LGBT community “are not disconnected from the struggle for the rights of others. In every struggle that celebrates freedom and liberation, we will be here to (protest against) the crimes committed in our names.”
"(The Israeli) Government markets Tel Aviv as a city of freedom, and yet 70 kilometers away from here there are two million Palestinians jailed in Gaza... Rights are for everyone... Palestinians also have the right to protest, but since the beginning of the Great Return March in Gaza, more than 100 demonstrators have been killed. As members of a community that is still fighting for full rights and equality, we will not be silent in the face of human rights violations and repression of the freedom to protest. We will stand in solidarity with the Palestinians living under occupation and under siege," flyers distributed during the demonstration read.
Over 250,000 locals and tourists participated in Tel Aviv's Pride Parade officials said Friday. Revelers toting rainbow flags flooded the city's streets for that now-annual parade that Israel plays up as evidence of its liberal values amid international criticism for its lethal response to Palestinian protests in Gaza.
The British embassy donated a London-themed float. The United States envoy, David Friedman, said on Twitter that he was "proud of everyone who is marching." While Ohad Nakash Kaynar, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry tweeted: “As #Israel wakes up to #Pride2018, where tolerance and acceptance are thought & celebrated yearly - #Iranian sponsored #Gaza #Terrorists of #Hamas wake to kill maim & burn us all, using women and children as human shields in their riot attempts to breach the border.”
Friday's parade coincided with a new round of weekly anti-occupation protests on the Gaza Strip. Israeli troops have killed at least 120 and wounded over 12,000 Palestinians during the demonstrations, triggering condemnation abroad.
Gazans say the protests are an expression of rage that they are kept away from homes most families fled at Israel's founding 70 years ago. Israel says its army is preventing Palestinian shooters from using the demonstrations as a cover for infiltrations from Gaza.
Israel often points to its social liberalism as a contrast with its regional enemies.