New survey taints Israels gay-friendly image

For a number of years, Tel Aviv has been considered one of the most liberal cities in the world and the gay capital of the Middle East. Both the Israeli public and the media have shown increasing openness and acceptance toward the LGBT community. But data from the American Pew Research Center show another side.

According to a comprehensive survey conducted by the institute in 39 countries, only 40 percent of Israelis believe society should accept homosexuality, while 47 percent believe the opposite. This figure is lower than in any other Western, developed country surveyed, with the exception of South Africa.

Thousands attend the Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv on June 7. photo/ap-oded balilty

Still, Israel is the most accepting country toward gays in the Middle East.

The survey, which sampled 37,653 respondents across the globe between March 2 and May 1, proved once again that tolerance toward homosexuality is higher when religion plays a smaller role in the life of the population.

The study also shows greater tolerance toward LGBT individuals among young people globally; in a substantial number of the countries, women are more tolerant than men.

According to the study, the country most accepting of gays is Spain, where 88 percent of the respondents said society should accept homosexuals. Within the European Union, Spain was followed by Germany (87 percent), the Czech Republic (80 percent), France (77 percent) and the UK (76 percent). Even in Italy, where religion is perceived as playing a major role in life, 74 percent of those questioned responded in the affirmative.

Conservative Greece had a 53 percent affirmation rate.

Among the more tolerant countries were Canada (70 percent support) and the U.S. (60 percent) for North America; and Argentina (74 percent), Chile (68 percent), Mexico (61 percent) and Brazil (60 percent) in Latin America. The Asian Pacific countries had mostly negative responses, but outstanding among these were Australia (79 percent) and the Philippines (73 percent).

The vast majority of respondents in Islamic countries were opposed to acceptance of homosexuals: 97 percent in Jordan, 95 percent in Egypt, 94 percent in Tunisia and 93 percent in the Palestinian Authority and Indonesia. Even in Turkey, a developed country largely considered Western in its ideals, 78 percent of the population opposes homosexuality.

According to the study, tolerance among secular Jews in Israel is more than twice that of people who described themselves as traditional, religious or haredi (61 percent vs. 26 percent). Only 2 percent of Muslims in Israel said they support the acceptance of homosexuals.

In most of the countries surveyed, no significant differences were found between the responses of men and women. But Israel was different. According to the Pew Institute, there is a 17 percent gap between men’s and women’s views on the subject in the Jewish state (48 percent of women believe homosexuals should be accepted, compared with 31 percent of men).

Almost all Western countries surveyed experienced significant improvement in acceptance since the last survey. South Korea experienced a substantial rise of 21 percent, followed by the U.S. (plus 11 percent), Canada (plus 10 percent) and Italy (plus 9 percent). Interestingly, in the PA this time, there was a 5 percent decrease in tolerance toward gays and lesbians.