Meet Amir Ohana

May 18, 2016 by Henry Benjamin
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Amir Ohana is the first openly gay member of the Likud…and a man who would like to see marijuana legalised in Israel and to see responsible Israelis having the right to carry a gun. He talks to J-Wire.

40-yr-old Ohana was elected in an open primary within the Likud and filled the vacant created when former vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct.

Amir Ohana Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

Amir Ohana Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

AH: I ran for the Tel Aviv district and I won becoming number 32 on Likud’s list. Likud has 30 seats. Danny Danon left to become ambassador to the U.N. and I entered the Knesset in December last year following the departure of those two men.

JW: What brings you to Australia?

AH: I am heading a delegation of Likud activists trying to promote liberal ideas, free market ideas inside the Likud. We are here to meet members of parliament, administrators and the Jewish community whom we appreciate as being highly supportive of Israel. I want to make the ties deeper and closer.

JW: Will you be visiting Jewish day schools?

AH: I will be going to Moriah and last week I visited the Chabad school and Our Big Kitchen run by Rabbi Dovid Slavin. The kitchen project is extraordinary. I appreciate very much what they do there. Rabbi Slavin told me he very open and accepts everyone and that he has gays involved. We are seeing a change in attitude to the LGBT community in Israel even amongst the extreme rabbis. Anyone expressing extreme views about the LGBT community would not have them accepted in today’s Israeli society.

JW: It’s common knowledge that in today’s Iran life is very difficult for the LGBT community. What are your views on that?

AH: Never mind Iran. We can come much closer. What about Gaza? What happens to gays under the Hamas regime? They throw them off bolding. Egypt is a moderate state but gays are imprisoned there. It is a criminal offence.

JW: When did the first openly members the gay community enter the Knesset?

AH: Uzi Even in the early 90s. But I am the first from the Right.

JW: Let’s discuss your campaign to allow more Israelis to carry guns. What is the current process in being able to hold a gun licence in Israel?

AH:  There is a certain image that every Israeli has a tank in his backyard and a machine gun in his kitchen. This image could not be further from the truth. The current restrictions are so tough that only a small fraction of Israelis who are allowed to carry weapons.

JW:  Can you give us examples?

AH: You either live in certain areas, mainly Judea and Samaria or be a captain or above in the rank you achieved in the IDF or be a bus driver who has to work in potentially dangerous area like Judea and Samaria a specified  number of times a month. Only around 3% of Israelis can be licensed to carry a firearm for self-defence. In the U.S there are 112 guns per 100 citizens.

JW: The reasons for carrying a gun in Israel may be obvious but can you elaborate on them?

AO:  Take for instance the terror attacks over the last few months. In the Jerusalem area alone, nine of the attacks were foiled by citizens carrying firearms. Two terrorists started attacking Jews in a supermarket and the first person to confront them was a soldier. But he was on leave and he had no gun on him. He engaged them bare-handed and was killed. The terrorists were eventually killed by a man who had a gun.

JW: Who would you permit to carry firearms?

Amir Ohana at Our Big Kitchen

Amir Ohana at Our Big Kitchen

AO:  Citizens who have no criminal record, no psychiatric or relevant medical record and who serves in the reserves so they have the basic training and know how to use a gun and understand the culture of safety so know when not to use the gun.

JW: How many in numbers should be carrying guns in your view.

AO: I would like to see the number increased from 2-4% to 8-10%.

JW: Would there be a restriction on what type of guns could be used.

AO: Of course, Not machine guns. Not automatic weapons. Just handguns for self-defence.

JW: How easy would it be to buy a gun on the black market in Israel today?

AO: Unfortunately pretty easy. The bad guys have guns. The good guys don’t have them.

JW: And if they did?

AO: IF more people had guns it would be a force multiplier for the police but we cannot have a police officer on every corner.Recently a terror attack took place on the esplanade between Yafo and Tel Aviv . The terrorist ran amok stabbing eleven people killing one of them. This went on for 20 minutes and there was no-one to stop him. One man tried to stop him by smashing a guitar on his head..but it didn’t stop him. Eventually a police officer arrived and shot him. In Dizengoff a terrorist was shooting indiscriminately killing two people and there was no-one to stop him. He fled in a taxi and killed the driver. He wasn’t found for a week. Someone with a gun could have shot him on the spot.

JW: Where does this stand politically today?

AO: I have established a gun control lobby to share new policy in the Knesset and I am pleased to say the Minister of Interior Security who understands the need to change the policy and he has begun to do it. He has already eased some restrictions.

JW: Will Israeli-Arab community members be permitted to apply for a gun licence?

AO:  You know the requirements. They must have no criminal record, be medically fit and must have served in the army and we have Israeli-Arabs who served in the IDF. So why not?

JW:  What is the attitude to your initiative

AO:  Certain elements are very concerned that there would be an increase of murders within the family. It is a concern. But my research shows that the vast majority of domestic killings were not committed with a handgun. They will use an axe or a hammer…if you want to murder you will find a way. If you want to defend yourself there is no other way. I have never seen a terror attack foiled by pepper gas. A handgun is the only one to guarantee ultimate self-defence.

JW:  Let’s talk about the legalisation of cannabis.

AO: If it was up to me I would have taken the penalty code and erased the word “cannabis”.  It shouldn’t be an offence to use it. You should be able to treat it like cigarettes. You can trade them, you can gift them. It should be the same.  It must be surely controlled…and taxed. I take a look at what is currently involved for the State in fighting crime involving cannabis. Investigators. Intelligence. Prison guards. Judges. Public defenders.  Public prosecutors. The cost has been estimated to be around 800 million NIS every year. We could have used this money in so many better ways. When I was criminal lawyer I would often think in court when dealing in a case involving cannabis…where is the victim? It should be legalised and controlled.

JW: And what about medical cannabis?

AO: It is available in Israel but there are very few doctors who can prescribe it. Medical research published in The Lancet reveals that marijuana is led harmful than alcohol or tobacco.

JW: Peace between Israel and the Palestinians. You are 40 years old. Do you see any hope in your generation?

AO: When we talk about peace people must realise that the Israelis not only want peace. We need it. Israel has made very generous offers during the last 20 years. Bill Clinton recently spoke about offers he was involved in which gave the Palestinians the entire Gaza strip and most of Judea and Samaria and to split  Jerusalem. The offers were rejected. What does the other side really aim for?  The PLO was established in 1964. There was not a single Jew, a single Israeli soldier in Judea and Samaria in 1964. It only happened  after 1967. So what did they want to liberate Palestine from in 1964?  Is Palestine Yafo and Haifa and Sfat and Akko?  In every demonstration in U.S. universities and European universities and in Australia you hear the same old slogan: “From the River to the Sea – Palestine will be Free”.  Oh yes…free of Jews.

JW: Is there anyone within the Palestinian administration with whom you are communicating?

AO: No. But peace will come. We need to get rid of this syndrome I call solutionism. There is nothing we can do now to achieve peace but there is a long-term solution. I try to understand the roots of the conflict. What motivates terror? What motivates fighting Israel? It os the belief and hope that we will get out. That they will have the whole area for themselves. They think that we are like the British before us and like the Ottomans before them and that we will just leave. Little do they know how rooted we are in the land of Israel. or maybe they of know and are trying to hide it. I am not religious but treating the bible as a source of history, 80% of the locations quoted in it are in Judea and Samaria. This is the cradle of our existence.

JW: How do you see your generation approaching the peace process?

AO: The only solution is unrooting their wish to see us move out, How do you do that? Not by withdrawing from the territories. On the contrary. This would fuel terror.  Before 1993 and the Oslo Accords, there was not a single suicide bomber in Israel. In 2005 we quit the Gaza strip and some thought they would be schools and hotels and develop the area. Gaza should have been the Singapore of the Middle East. Instead we got tunnels and rockets. How are we expected to believe to would be any different in the future if were to repeat the process?  A two state solution would not be the solution. It would build terror. My solution? We must stay in our borders. We must keep it and the world must know that we are going to keep it. I may not see peace in my life…it could take 400 years. It may sound like a grim vision. But it’s not. Look what we did in 68 years. We have managed to become something extraordinary in the history of mankind. We have become a startup nation, we shine in agriculture we have per capita more Nobel Prize winners than any other nation. We have a lot to be proud of.

Amir Ohana, who also supports the right for Jews to pray on the Temple Mount [Ohana is not religious], says that the common link in his political agenda is…freedom. Being gay, use of marijuana and carrying a handgun. Three of freedom’s components in the MK’s eyes.

Ohana and his partner, Alon Hadad, have a son and a daughter together. Their children were born with a surrogate mother in the US.


One Response to “Meet Amir Ohana”
  1. David Singer says:

    Mr Ohana asks this question:

    “The PLO was established in 1964. There was not a single Jew, a single Israeli soldier in Judea and Samaria in 1964. It only happened after 1967. So what did they want to liberate Palestine from in 1964? ”

    It certainly was not Judea and Samaria (the West Bank ) and Gaza – as article 24 of the PLO National Charter declared:

    “This Organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or the Himmah Area. ”

    Four years later this promise was erased from the Charter – and the world is now demanding that regional sovereignty of these areas be vested in the PLO.

    Seems Mr Ohana – like the rest of the world – have conveniently overlooked the abandonment of any claim to these areas by the PLO and their unilateral attempt to subsequently create claims to an area they had already given up.

    Might I respectfully suggest Mr Ohana spend more time studying up on existential issues such as this one so he won’t ask the same question again.

    Rather he needs to go on the offensive and draw this matter to world attention every time he does an interview such as he did with J-Wire.

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