Top Israeli rabbi says first openly gay Knesset speaker is ‘infected with a disease’

New Israeli Knesset speaker Amir Ohana

Israeli Rabbi Meir Mazuz has called openly gay Knesset speaker Amir Ohana “diseased” for being part of the LGBTQ+ community.

During an online lecture on Saturday (31 December) the rabbinic leader of Tunisian Jews in Israel targeted Ohana in a vile rant about the queer community. 

In the rant, Mazuz insinuated that Ohana’s sexual orientation was the cause of the Meron stampede disaster in April last year, which saw 44 people killed and as many as 150 injured. 

At the time of the stampede Ohana was public secretary minister and was in charge of overseeing the event’s planning. 

“Two years ago, something happened at Meron, and they say that the minister who was responsible for the event was touched with the disease. So, do we even need to question why it happened to us?” 

He then went on to comment on the annual Jerusalem Pride, calling its participants “beasts walking upright”.

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“Close the windows and tell your children that this is a parade of beasts, and they shouldn’t look. There are beasts here who walk upright,” Mazuz said. 

Ran Shalhavi, head of the Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel, said Mazuz’s comments against the LGBTQ+ community enable violent acts against it. 

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Israel’s new speaker of the Knesset (parliament) Amir Ohana (C) receives his gavel as the new government is sworn in Jerusalem, on December 29, 2022. (Photo by AMIR COHEN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“Rabbi Mazuz exposes his violent and homophobic tendencies with vile remarks that would be better never to have been said regarding Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana. Rabbi Mazuz, neither you nor your supporters will hold us back,” Shalhavi said.

Ohana is the Knesset’s first out gay speaker and following his election on Thursday (29 December) he told fellow Knesset members: “I pledge to do my best to be worthy of the trust you put in me.”

He also vowed the incoming coalition wouldn’t infringe upon LGBTQ+ rights: “This Knesset, under the leadership of this speaker, won’t hurt them or any other family, period.” 

“If there’s a boy or a girl watching the swearing-in of the government today, know that you can achieve whatever you want, no matter where you come from,” Ohana added. 

Ohana was elected alongside a number of anti-LGBTQ+ politicians. 

Among the appointments to the new cabinet is Avi Maoz, leader of the homophobic Noam party, which has previously linked gay people with child trafficking and compared LGBTQ+ advocates to Nazis.

He recently said that while he wasn’t against LGBTQ+ individuals, he is against “LGBTQ-ism as an agenda and as a political movement”.

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