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Jerusalem gay rights group delays WorldPride events due to Gaza withdrawal

Jerusalem gay rights group delays WorldPride events due to Gaza withdrawal

A gay rights group in Jerusalem has delayed an international gay festival scheduled for August, citing Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip during the festivities, organizers said Sunday. The Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance said it postponed WorldPride 2005, a 10-day gathering that includes street parties, workshops, and a gay film festival, until August 2006. Muslim, Jewish, and Christian religious groups had hotly opposed holding the festival in Jerusalem. But Noa Sattath, the group's head, said the delay was not related to the religious opposition. "The religious pressure only gives us more motivation, but the message is supposed to be of tolerance, pluralism, and equality, and that can't be done in August this year alongside disengagement," Sattath said. The "disengagement" plan to withdraw from all Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements was initially supposed to begin in July. But last week Prime Minister Ariel Sharon postponed the pullout until August 15 because of a three-week Jewish mourning period commemorating the destruction of the biblical temples. Holding the gay festivities during the pullout--which is expected to be fiercely opposed by Jewish settlers and their supporters--would do injustice to the values of the WorldPride festivities, Sattath said. "We have taken this decision out of consideration to the most difficult political climate expected in Israel this August. As a community we are deeply engaged in the complex reality surrounding us," she said. Although the international festivities have been delayed for a year, the annual local Jerusalem pride will take place on June 30. (AP)

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