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“The Problem is Not with Israeli Society, But with the Government and Coalition that Runs Its Affairs”

Government officials tried to blame society’s intolerance for their refusal to recognize same-sex adoptions – but the fault is in themselves

The Israeli government’s response to a petition to the High Court to formally allow same-sex adoptions initially cited a debunked claim that children adopted by gay and lesbian couples are bound to suffer because of the stigma attached to their families. They then changed tack and tried to blame Israeli society itself. “It isn’t legitimate enough,” they claimed, citing a well-worn excuse for preserving discrimination: After all, it “wasn’t legitimate enough” in the American south for African-Americans to wash their hands in the same sinks as white people. “There are some areas, like Tel Aviv, in which it is more acceptable,” they added, “and other areas in which it isn’t.” By this logic, ultra-Orthodox Jews shouldn’t be allowed to adopt either, because they would stand out in secular Tel Aviv suburbs, and leftists should be barred from adopting as well, because they would be completely ostracized if they chose to move to a radical Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Gay and lesbian people, like most other human beings, tend to live in places in which they and their children are received warmly and are not considered “deviant,” unless the Israeli government portrays them as such.

As in Texas, fundamentalists and reactionaries who view members of the LGBTQ community as “perverts,” as a respected national religious rabbi recently said, wield enormous political power. In Israel, on the other hand, members of the LGBTQ community can console themselves with the thought that they are not alone. On matters of birth, death, marriage, conversions and a whole range of other issues, their country discriminates against mixed marriages, people disqualified from Orthodox marriages, Reform and Conservative U.S. Jews and more – never mind Arabs and Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.

The public outcry that led Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz to ask the High Court on Tuesday to grant an extension so that the government could reassess its position is proof that the problem is not with Israeli society, which is mostly tolerant and open to persuasion, but with the government and coalition that runs its affairs. On the other hand, it’s quite possible that what forced the government’s hand is the heavy damage sustained by the ongoing hasbara campaign to portray Israel as an LGBTQ paradise, which was so convincing that even gay and lesbian people started to believe it actually existed. Read the full story in Haaretz