The organisers of this year’s WorldPride in Jerusaelm have hit out at attempts to “sabotage” the event.

Hagai El -Ad, executive director of Jerusalem Open House, criticised a petition seeking the event’s cancellation and a “modesty parade” being arranged by one of the Israeli capital’s rabbis.

Mr El-Ad said: “This week an orchestrated campaign to sabotage Jerusalem WorldPride has been launched by those who propagate the fallacy that only they have a right to claim faith as their mantle.

“This campaign will fail, as it has in previous years; but the news that the Mayor of Jerusalem has signed a petition calling for the cancellation of WorldPride – accompanied by reports that extremist Jewish preacher Amnon Yitzhak is planning a so-called “humility march” in opposition of WorldPride – should be troubling to anyone who believes in Jerusalem as a welcoming city for all people.

“The Jerusalem courts have decreed that WorldPride deserves the support of the city, and that pride is a protected form of freedom of speech. The Jerusalem public has shown its support for pride by attending it in the thousands over the past years. In addition, WorldPride is receiving the unconditional support of thousands of individuals and scores of groups around the world who will converge in Jerusalem in August to discuss and debate important issues in our community – from religion to politics to health to youth.

“The truth is that WorldPride represents something that should make religious and political extremists very uncomfortable. WorldPride will be a historic and diverse international event bringing together lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied people proclaiming to the world that we too are people of faith and that we will not allow anyone to hijack our religions, our freedom or our rights.

“The Jerusalem Open House looks forward to welcoming in Jerusalem thousands of our supporters this August, for a weeklong, memorable, meaningful, safe, and exciting experience – Jerusalem WorldPride 2006, commencing in 50 days on August 6.”

Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak has arranged the “modesty” event for two days before the gay parade on August 11 2006, organised by Shofar, an orthodox group promoting a “return to religion.”

It will celebrate 20 years of the group, the website states, “Two days before the date on which the vile souls are planning their World ‘March of Abomination,’ thousands of Jews whose souls have been saved and have chosen God’s path will hold a ‘Modesty march’ of incredible proportions.

“Its very occurrence will denunciate the abomination and defilement, will vomit out its participants from among us and will set fire to their infection. Thousands of Jews from Israel and the world, to whom the purity and sanctity of Jerusalem is important, will demonstrate the extraordinariness of the way of the Torah chosen by thousands.”

In another protest against the parade, a councillor for the National Religious Party has filed a petition to Israel’s High Court of Justice calling for the march to be cancelled as it “harms the city’s unique Jewish character.”

This comes after anti Israel groups demanded the UK gay community boycott the event, the UK Coordinator of World Pride, told PinkNews.co.uk: “World Pride is disappointed to learn of this call to boycott the event in Jerusalem, when it is a event that is dedicated to being as inclusive as possible.

Meanwhile gay rights group Outrage also condemned boycott plans

“While supporting justice for the Palestinian people, we oppose calls for a boycott of World Pride.

Successfully staging World Pride in Jerusalem will be a huge defeat for the Christian, Judaist and Muslim fundamentalists who want it banned and who believe lesbian and gay people should be jailed, flogged or executed. Through news coverage, the event will have the positive effect of increasing queer visibility and promoting public debate about queer issues in homophobic Middle Eastern countries and beyond. It will give comfort and hope to isolated, downcast queers throughout the Arab world.

“A cancellation or boycott of World Pride would be a major victory for the religious and political bigots who are wrecking the lives of queers in the Middle East and across the globe. They will rejoice and be uplifted if World Pride fails to go ahead as planned. It will encourage and embolden their homophobia.

“World Pride is in solidarity with the queer liberation struggles in Israel, Palestine and worldwide. A boycott would be a tragic betrayal of this global quest for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) freedom.”

Jerusalem WorldPride runs from August 6-12 2006.