Israeli politicians and community leaders have called for the resignation of a top Jerusalem rabbi after he said Jewish law prescribed the death penalty for gays.
In in an interview with Yisrael Hayom, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar said homosexuality was a “cult of abomination” which the Torah “punishes with death…This is in the first line of serious sins.”
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Amar’s comments were met with fury by members of the LGBTQ community and champions of civil liberties in Israel.
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Members of parliament have written to the the prime minister to complain.
“A public figure that puts Israeli citizens’ life at risk using incitement and exclusion should be immediately fired,” MPs said in a letter to Benjamin Netanyahu.
Amar added that he didn’t believe in some people having a homosexual orientation, calling such claims “nonsense.”
“There are desires and a person can overcome it if he wants, like all other desire,” Jerusalem’s top rabbi said.
After the release of extracts from Amar interview on Thursday, an LGBT activist, Shirley Kleinman, filed a complaint to the police, blaming the cleric for incitement to murder.
“Let’s try and ensure that this man will not remain in his key public position,” Kleinman wrote on her Facebook page, as cited by The Jerusalem Post.
“This is not an anti-religious issue, I have nothing against religion, every person shall live in accordance with their faith. I do have an interest to protect my rights and your rights to live, and [to live with] dignity,” she said.
The call for Amar’s resignation was backed by Knesset members Yael German and Meirav Michaeli, who wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Religious Services Minister David Azoulay on the issue.
The parliamentarians from Yesh Atid and the Zionist Union stated that the chief rabbi was “exploiting his position” as religious authority “for a campaign of dangerous incitement against a large public group in Israel.”
“A public figure who endangers the safety of Israeli citizens by discrimination and incitement should be fired from their position immediately,” German and Michaeli said in a letter.
Jerusalem City Council member Laura Wharton addressed Amar directly, calling on him to retract on his anti-LGBT statements.