Moscow and Jerusalem United In Homophobia

Interfax-Religion carries an interview with acting Mayor of Jerusalem Yigal Amedi, who is currently visiting Moscow. Amedi gushes over his hosts, shrugging off reports of resurgent anti-semitism in Russia and offering some authoritarian-homophobe solidarity with his Moscow counterpart:

What do think about the idea of holding a gay parade in Moscow?

– Last year, some planned a similar event in the streets of Jerusalem. They were going to make it international at that. But Jerusalem is the cradle of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And as soon as the information about the holding of a gay parade was made public, representatives of all the religious and public organizations in our city council expressed their opinion unambiguously. We said this: if you want to organize this event, then do it in some private facilities. But you cannot arrange it in public places since it may not correspond with the outlook of many people.

– That is to say that the authorities in Moscow and Jerusalem are in agreement on this issue…

– You see, don’t we have very good relations with Russia! But it is easier for Mr. Luzhkov in Moscow in this respect because it is winter here now and they cannot come out for a gay parade in fur coats! But generally, it is a nice city; there are different people in it, so why something like this should be arranged here? Let them get together somewhere in the country and hold it out there.

A very nice basis for Russian-Israeli relations, I’m sure…

Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov had dismissed an application for a parade out of hand back in January. Gay.com provides a bit of context:

The mayor of Moscow said Thursday his government will not approve of a Gay Pride parade in the city, citing “outrage” from influential religious leaders.

…The move by the government followed a public diatribe by a Russian Muslim leader, Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin, which called for violent protests if the Pride parade went ahead.

“If they come out on to the streets anyway they should be flogged,” he said. “Any normal person would do that — Muslims and Orthodox Christians alike…[The protests] might be even more intense than protests abroad against those controversial cartoons.”

The Russian Orthodox Church called a possible Pride parade “the propaganda of sin.”

The decision was of a piece with other authoritarian moves in Moscow in recent years, such as the banning of Jehovah’s Witnesses and arrests over religiously-offensive art.

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, attempts to ban a gay pride march last year were overturned, but three participants were stabbed by an ultra-Orthodox protestor. A second, international, gay pride event called World Pride was scheduled for August 2005, but was postponed due to the Gaza withdrawal; it is instead due to take place later this year.

Amedi is himself apparently secular, and he belongs to the Likud party. However, Jerusalem has a large ultra-Orthodox voting block, which he is evidently keen to court. But he’s also very aware of the large numbers of American Christian Zionists who offer unconditional support for the Israeli right, but who are also offended by the thought of homosexuality in the supposed “Holy City”. In fact, the top Google result for Amedi is a picture of his meeting with Rice Broocks, a neo-Pentecostal leader I’ve blogged on before. There was also this report last October:

JERUSALEM – Last Thursday, in front of the Western Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem, high-ranking Israeli representatives of both city and state government presided over the first-ever “Watchmen Commissioning” of Christian pilgrims.

Deputy Mayor Yigal Amedi and Knesset Member (MK) Dr. Yuri Shtern joined religious leaders in recognizing nearly 100 Christians gathered at the Wall, for their dedication and support for the nation of Israel. Many of those recognized were also commissioned – under the sanctioning of the city of Jerusalem – as official “Watchmen on the Wall.”

“These watchmen are a new breed of Christians,” Robert Stearns said from the ceremonies in Jerusalem last week. “With the full weight of the government of the city of Jerusalem behind us, we are witnessing the fulfillment, in a new dimension, of ancient biblical prophecies.”

(Robert Stearns is another player I’ve looked at previously)

The newly-commissioned representatives are members of Watchmen on the Wall, a program organized by Eagles’ Wings, which trains believers to be informed intercessors and articulate ambassadors by completing both the required training curriculum and a “prayer pilgrimage” to the Holy Land. These semi-annual pilgrimages bring to life not only the Biblical roots of Christianity, but also the current situations in the land that need our united prayer.

Americans Christians were perhaps the most vocal opponents of the gay pride march in 2005 (as I blogged at the time), and news of the 2006 World Pride event has not gone down well either. As is required these days, the current complaints employ the language of victimisation – Agape Press reported last month:

Rev. Leo Giovinetti, an American pastor who has longtime connections to Israel, informed the religious community of last year’s planned WorldPride event scheduled for the Holy City…James Hartline, a former homosexual and a member of Giovinetti’s church in San Diego…contends that Jerusalem represents the very foundation of his faith. He cannot understand “why anyone would want to engage in sodomy and pornography at the holy sites of our religious heritage.” Hartline says that people in his church are heartbroken about the news of this event.

“Christians are crying at the sight of our Jewish brothers and sisters being beaten and removed by force from their homes in the pullout from their settlements,” Hartline says. “Then to see, in the midst of this tragedy, nearly naked homosexuals and pornographers march through the city is a cruel display.”

Amedi no doubt understands that Christian Zionist support for Israel is not based on Israel as it is in reality, but is rather the product of a religious imagination that puts Israelis and Palestinians into divinely pre-ordained roles. This imagination has already been strained by Israel’s strategic withdrawal from Gaza; the problem with a gay rights event in Jerusalem is not only that homosexuality is believed to be immoral, but that it shows that the city is really just a part of the mundane universe after all, despite its “Holy City” label. If banning an event because it may “not correspond with the outlook of many people” is what it takes to ease their cognitive dissonance, Amedi more than willing to do it – and to boost similar efforts in other countries.