The in-the-closet Knesset Member

Since the elections in Israel, there’s growing criticism in the LGBT community about the new Member of Knesset who insists on staying in the closet, even though until recently he held an Atraf-dating profile (Israel’s own Grindr) and visited the Evita gay club regularly. “The fact that he was selected requires him to be honest and open,” says the chairman of the LGBT department of the Labor party, Niv Sonis. Journalist Eran Swissa: “There is a difference between a famous actor and an elected official.” The closeted MK refused to comment

Two weeks ago Gal Uchovsky published in his column a post against outing a famous Israeli actor, saying that the LGBT community can wait until this actor figures out his sexual identity. In the same post, Uchovsky strongly  criticised  the MK,  and fired off a debate over whether a famous person, let alone an elected official, has the right to privacy.

“There is still a lot of hypocrisy surrounding this issue of coming out,” says Uchovsky in his post. “Just a reminder: for years, no one asked Yehudah Poliker or Yehudit Ravitz directly about it in an interview. While Moshe Peretz, soon to marry his girlfriend,was forced for years to answer questions on the matter in almost any interview he gave to the press, because of an unclear rumor. And it’s even not clear who distributed the rumor. ”

Entertainment and gossip journalist  Eran Swissa was the one to expose the story in the press. Swissa holds a resume made up of writing and editing  gossip columns. Answering mako Pride’s question as to where the red line of the outing goes, he explains: “There is no red line, we absolutely  do not out anyone, it does not matter if it’s a Knesset member, movie actor, teenage girls’ sensation or a famous female singer.”

“But this is a Knesset member from the party that claims the support of the LGBT  community. A man who had public  pictures of Atraf-dating, which everyone could see. Someone we’ve seen at Evita, anywhere. Suddenly before the elections he removes his pictures, instead of doing the opposite, taking advantage of the place he is, the most important stage in the country, and working for us, doing for the community. This is what angers. ”

To be clear: in terms of the law, it is forbidden to advertise in the media about a person’s sexual orientation, unless that person admits to it. Without  proof, the publisher can be convicted of defamation. And even if there is proof, it’s still privacy intrusion. The only situation where there might be a legal argument justifying outing, is when a gay politician, say, runs consistently against LGBT rights. However, the situation was never in court, and therefore remains a question.

In the UK and the United States, however, tabloids have a lot more freedom. Celebrities do not have the right to privacy, plain and simple. A politician who betrays his wife risks publication. A celebrity in the closet risks outing.

In Israel, even if it’s known that  a politician cheats on his wife, you can not publish it, unless  that same politician runs for the Knesset on a platform of “family values” – a subject that was never the center of the political agenda in Israel (unlike in the United States, for example).