This week, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer held the second annual Pride reception at the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., welcoming guests to what he said “can now definitely be called our annual Pride event.”
The guests included the Congressional LGBT caucus and the Wider Bridges, an organization that seeks to strengthen ties between the LGBT communities in North America and Israel.
In his speech, Dermer said:
For 40 years, LGBT organizations have been operating openly in Israel.
For 20 years, Tel Aviv has hosted one of the largest pride parades in the world.
In Israel, there are laws dating back a quarter-century that prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and there are courts that protect the legal rights and privileges of same sex couples.
Members of Israel’s LGBT community … have long served openly in our armed services and have been leaders in politics and diplomacy, science and technology, art and entertainment and every other sphere of Israeli life.
Dermer said that in thinking about the horrific attack on the LGBT community in Orlando last year, and the discrimination and violence that community still faces, “it occurred to me that it is not Jews alone who serve as the proverbial canary in the coal mine”:
Just as the noxious fumes of antisemitism ultimately poison all of society, so too hatred towards the LGBT community threatens all of us.
That is why we must stand together to fight that hatred and to defend open societies, tolerance, and equality and dignity for all.
Today, I believe that this solidarity is more important than ever – for both of us.
For if the forces of progressive values do not stand together and strengthen one another, they will only become weaker and more endangered.
And make no mistake about it. Israel is a force for progressive values in the Middle East. In fact, Israel is the only force for progressive values in the Middle East.
You see those values in Israel’s courts when our Chief Justice dons her robes and you see it when an Arab judge sentences a former Israeli President to prison.
You see it in Israel’s Parliament ever day when over a dozen Arab members of the Knesset are free both to criticize the government from the Knesset podium and to pray in the Knesset Mosque.
And you see it in Israel’s society when a Muslim can proudly give her valedictorian address at one of Israel’s finest university and when a pride parade marches 200,000 strong.
Dermer remarked on how absurd is the progressive case against Israel:
After all, we live in a region where women are routinely treated like chattel, where gays are hanged in town squares and where communities of Copts, Yazidis and other minorities are being decimated.
Now imagine a Middle East with three Israels. Imagine what that would do for the rights and values that progressives are supposed to champion.
Imagine a Middle East where it is as easy for the LGBT community to march in Tehran as it is in Tel Aviv.
Rest assured, Israel will continue to stand with you.
Not once a year. Not only after a horrific attack.
But each and every day, Israel will stand with you.
Israel will stand with you to warn the world about those noxious fumes that threaten both of us.And Israel will stand with you against those who seek a world in which there is no place for either of us.
We will stand with you for our sake, for your sake and for humanity’s sake.