The city of Tel Aviv in Israel has been dubbed the best gay travel destination of last year.

Israel’s second city topped an online poll run by American Airlines and gay travel site Gaycities.com.

Tel Aviv won 43% of the votes, followed by New York City with 14% and Toronto with 7%.

London managed 5% of the public vote.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “Winning this competition constitutes an additional strengthening of the fact that Tel Aviv-Jaffa is a city that respects all people and allows everyone to live according to his/her own principles.

“Ours is a city in which everyone can be proud of who they are.”

In the summer of 2010, Tel Aviv’s Tourism Association launched a six-month initiative called Tel Aviv Gay Vibe, which aimed to encourage gay people from all over the world to visit the city, primarily targeting gays and lesbians in France and Germany.

But Hagai El-Ad, Executive Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, told the Jerusalem Post: “For those at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel who devised the strategy of pitching Israel as a ‘gay promised land’ in the hope that this would somehow make people […] look away from very serious and worsening human rights violations here, that’s a strategy that any decent person should reject wholeheartedly.”

In November, a New York professor said the promotion of gay rights in Israel may be “blinding” people to human rights violations in Palestine through “pinkwashing”.

In an Op-Ed Sarah Schulman wrote for the New York Times, she said gay people were being co-opted by “anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim” forces around the world, calling it a “nefarious phenomenon”.

In response, gay porn producer Michael Lucas said the idea was “ludicrous and offensive”.

“The two issues have nothing to do with each other; it’s like saying that New York legalized gay marriage to divert attention from Wall Street’s banking scandals or the war in Iraq.”

2,000 people attended Jerusalem Pride last year, though the event had attracted violence in the past and there was one police officer for every two attendees on the streets.

Tel Aviv, meanwhile, draws larger crowds at its pride event and usually enjoys a peaceful day, despite calls from some religious conservatives to ban the event.

In other results from the poll, New York came top for night life and dress sense, San Francisco won for its pride event, Paris had the best food and Buffalo, New York was voted the best up and coming city.