Jerusalem municipal inspectors covered and then removed a banner promoting LGBTQ pride outside the U.S. Embassy after one of the city’s deputy mayors called it an “impurity” on Tuesday.
The incident was reported widely in the media and the banner was rehung later that same day after immediate discussions ensued between the embassy and city officials.
While Deputy Mayor Arieh King initially said the removal was procedural since the U.S. hadn’t applied for a permit for the sign, others accused King of ulterior motives based on his own politics. That became apparent in his own statements.
“Anybody that tries to defile the holiness of Jerusalem needs to be opposed whether it is an Israeli body and of course when it comes to a guest who has come to the city,” King said.
“I am surprised that the embassy decided not only to break the law, but also to put up a sign that the majority of residents oppose. Why take sides on a controversial issue and put up a sign on our street?” he said. “Most of the Jews, Christians and Muslims in the city oppose it.”
The municipality issued a statement saying it must stick to procedures when it comes to displaying a sign.
“As long as a permit is sought and the sign is in compliance with the rules, [the permit] will be issued without delay,” the statement said.
However, another Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum called the incident a misunderstanding and blamed King for causing a row with the American embassy.
“We are talking about a procedural misunderstanding which has been taken advantage of by known homophobe Arieh King who is a member of the city council,” Nahoum said. “The city is working with the embassy to rectify the situation via the appropriate bureaucratic channels and hope to rectify the matter as soon as possible. Jerusalem is a city for all its residents and we will continue to ensure freedom of expression for all.”
In fact, Nahoum said that the municipality itself had planned to erect pride flags in the city on Saturday night ahead of a rally planned for Sunday.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, who is an Orthodox Jew, called the removal of the banner an “unfortunate mistake” in a discussion with embassy officials.
The banner reads, “PRIDE: The U.S. Embassy Jerusalem proudly supports tolerance and diversity” and was hung in advance of a scheduled rally to be held in a park opposite the embassy building. The American embassy had hung the banner in order to mark pride month.