Jewish columnist “inciting homophobia”

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The Jewish gay community has reacted angrily to a newspaper columnist who criticised the upcoming World Pride Jerusalem march branding it “stomach churning.”

Howard Palmer, a writer for The Jewish News, spoke out against the parade in his regular column, calling it embarrassing for Israel and the Jewish people.

He said: “There are occasions when I feel that we should be different from other nations and not pander to the cult of similarity to the profane and frankly disgusting. True, Israel is a democracy and true that there should be freedom of speech, but if one act summarises our plight in exile and that we can be in exile whilst physically living in Israel then it this one. My how the nations of the world must laugh at us as we parade a circus of stomach-churning stunts of sin.

“How powerful our enemies must feel when they see Hashem’s holy people acting in a way that makes female sumo wrestling and treife eating contests actually seem quite civilised and innocent in comparison.

“And, now, maybe its time to say a resounding ‘No’ to those who would schlep us through the gutter in the name of equality.

Karen Newman, a spokeswoman for the Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group, accused Mr Palmer of inciting homophobic violence with his remarks and using the type of language which gave rise to the holocaust, she told “What makes Howard Palmer’s stomach turn is of little interest to rational people. However, language such as ‘disgusting’, ‘stomach-churning’ etc is a direct incitement to homophobic people to attack lesbians and gay men.

“Palmer will bear a clear responsibility for actions resulting from people being inspired by his words to go out and do a bit of gay-bashing. The article is a triumph of precisely the kind of discrimination that gave rise to Nazi Germany; it is no accident that, in the same piece, Palmer quotes the holocaust, and its Jewish victims, and then goes on to manifest precisely the same kind of value system that says it’s OK to discriminate against people who aren’t like us.

“Jerusalem is an excellent place for a Pride march to take place, alongside London, Madrid, San Francisco, Rio, and other world cities that place a value on civil rights, freedom of expression, and non-discrimination. What a pity that Palmer can’t see the divine image in people who aren’t in his image, preaching discrimination, hate and violence isn’t a particularly good manifestation of those Jewish values he claims most to prize.”

Gay Rabbi Mark Solomon said he wasn’t surprised at the actions of The Jewish News, he told “The Jewish News, a free weekly rag distributed to synagogues and other places where Jews gather, is well known for its highly opinionated columnists who use their Orthodox views as a cosh to clobber the non-Orthodox majority of the Jewish community.

“The chief cosher in last week’s issue was Howard Palmer, a “banking expert” whose long beard obviously gives him superior religious and moral insight. In a rambling article that seems to be mostly about female sumo wrestling and bizarre eating contests, he gets to the point a few lines from the end when he reveals that what really turns his stomach is the forthcoming WorldPride march in Jerusalem.

“He ignores the thriving gay and lesbian movement that has been growing up for many years in Israel, the gay pride parades that have taken place before in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the international Jewish gay conference I attended in Israel in 1994-when Orthodox protests failed to prevent prayers for gay people murdered by the Nazis being held at the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem. Somehow this time there is special cause for shame, and he laments, ‘My how the nations of the world must laugh at us as we parade a circus of stomach-churning stunts of sin.’

“He ignores the fact that WorldPride-which I will be attending despite the current bitter conflict in the Middle East-includes a health conference, an interfaith conference, a peace demonstration (mind you, he would see that as a ‘stunt of sin’ anyway) as well as a jolly good party.

“Presumably he would be right there with the Orthodox fanatic who was convicted for stabbing people at last year’s Jerusalem gay pride, or those who threw excrement, or those who have called this year for the killing of the ‘Sodomites.’

“The true sodomites, in Jewish tradition, are not homosexuals, but those who show selfish intolerance of visitors or anyone who is different. The recent history of Jerusalem has been of a gradual takeover by ultra-Orthodox Jews who make everyone else feel unwelcome.

“WorldPride is doing everyone a favour by reminding us that Jerusalem is a universal city, as the prophets foresaw, to which all the nations will stream seeking justice and peace. Let’s say ‘Yes!’ to WorldPride, and leave Howard Palmer his far-more-tasteful dreams of eating 50 hot-dogs while watching a bout of female sumo wrestling.”

Peter Tatchell of gay rights group Outrage told “Given the prejudice and violence that Jewish people have suffered throughout the ages, it’s astonishing that any Jewish people can adopt such bigoted , intolerant views towards another minority.

“Instead of encouraging loathing and disrespectful gay people this rabbi should be promoting understanding and solidarity, the Jewish and gay community share a history of oppression, we should be standing up together united against prejudice, discrimination and violence.”

The criticism comes after the Movement for Reform Judaism refused to distribute copies of the Jewish News in its synagogues claiming the paper is too orthodox in its outlook.

The Jewish News was unavailable for comment.

Jerusalem WorldPride runs from the 6-12 August 2006.