Nothing to Be Proud of: Madrid's Gay Pride Parade Bans Israel

Summer's here, and in Europe, that means it is time for rainbow-hued floats to head down the streets of capitals, shirts to come off, flamboyant wigs to come on, and dance music to begin pumping: it's gay pride parade season.

This year's Madrid parade, scheduled for July 3, was going to be a landmark event for the Israeli homosexual and lesbian community. For the first time, the culturally influential gay Israeli community was going to have a representative float at the Spanish parade -- one of the world's largest, with more than a million participants. The invitation was considered so significant that one of the sponsors of the Israeli float in the parade was the Tel Aviv municipality.

The "TLV Love Embassy" bus had been slated to ride in the parade as part of a Tel Aviv-Madrid collaboration, intending to kick off a campaign promoting Tel Aviv as a gay travel destination. Despite the influence of religious elements in the government who are not supporters of gay pride -- to put it mildly -- the Israeli government, over the past several years, has made it a point to encourage gay culture to act as an international ambassador for Israel in leftist circles, where any positive word about the Jewish state is an achievement, and to put Tel Aviv on the map as a travel destination for the gay community. The festivities in Madrid were extensive, including "a large Tel Aviv party to be held in the Spanish capital's entertainment complex led by Israeli DJs and artists, as well as meetings between the Madrid and Tel Aviv community leaders."

But alas, in the wake of the Gaza flotilla incident, the organizers of the Madrid parade folded quickly to pressure to get rid of the Israeli participants.

Before the invitation was officially withdrawn, it was reportedly "hinted" to the Israelis that their participation in the event would be an "embarrassment" and would mean the additional expense of increased security. When the Israelis failed to take the hint and voluntarily stay home, the axe fell on them. The Israeli organizations who had been enthusiastically planning their trips expressed their "disappointment." Foreign Ministry official Yossi Levy called the cancellation of the invitation:

An ugly scandal that turns the pride parade into a shame parade. ... Israel is the only country in the Middle East that holds pride parades, hangs pride flags on the streets, and respects the gay and lesbian community's rights. The primitive politicization and the blatant capitulation to the terror and violence of anti-Israeli elements go against the Pride Parade's principle of preventing discrimination. ... Those who decided to prevent Tel Aviv's representatives from participating are dragging the Pride Parade into the hallways of the anti-Israeli inquisition instead of marching on the path of tolerance and dialogue.

Those who are truly interested in lesbian and gay rights should welcome Israel with open arms as a model of tolerance in an intolerant region.