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Last Updated: Friday, 15 August, 2003, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Gay envoy stirs Danish emotions
The appointment of an openly gay man as Denmark's new ambassador to Israel is dividing public opinion in his own country reports the BBC's Malcolm Brabant.

There is an eruption of intolerance in Copenhagen's Israel Square as an aggressive group of Danes sabotages a protest by Christian fundamentalists.

Carsten Damsgaard
I have no reason to believe that my partner and I will not be welcomed in Israel
Carsten Damsgaard
Ambassador-designate to Israel
Young militants attempt to drown out what they regard as the offensive anti-homosexual and pro-Israel message of the mainly elderly religious right-wingers.

As the police round up the most persistent trouble-makers, the fundamentalists' leader prays for Denmark to reverse its decision to send a gay couple to head one of its most sensitive diplomatic missions.

"We ask you God to give grace for our country in this midnight hour where the manifestations of homosexuality are around us," he said.

The ambassador's appointment appears to be causing more trouble here in Denmark than it is in Israel.

Not an issue

According to the Israeli embassy in Copenhagen, the homosexuality of the ambassador is not an issue for them.

They say he will be made most welcome in Israel.

Ambassador designate Carsten Damsgaard is a now gay role model - a career diplomat specialising in security and terrorism. Will his sexuality be an impediment?

This is like spitting in our faces
Jony Noer
Israeli anti-gay campaigner
"I have no reason to believe that my partner and I will not be welcomed in Israel," says Mr Damsgaard.

"Quite the contrary. Back in May the Israeli Government formally gave their agreement to my appointment as the next Danish ambassador."

"That was at a time when it was very clear to the Israeli Government about my marriage situation."

But Jony Noer, the leader of the so-called Pilgrims Convoy and inhabitant of Israel's Negev Desert, believes the diplomatic niceties belie the true welcome awaiting the ambassador in the Middle East.

"I'm thinking of the normal Israeli citizen and the farmers living out there in the desert and in the kibbutz," he says. "This is like spitting in our faces."

'Racism and homophobia'

And soon enough the police are involved.

"They're standing for racism and homophobia," says one demonstrator against Mr Noer's mission, who lies face down in the road after his arrest.

"They're fascists."

Demark's social commentators believe the biggest danger arising from this battle is the surge of interest in the country's religious right.

And the Christians warn that Denmark's liberal attitude will precipitate a catastrophe of biblical proportions.

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