6 August 2009

The Fruit of Hate – Two Israeli Jewish Teenagers Murdered in Attack on Tel Aviv Gay Club

A response to the murders at the
Tel Aviv LGBT center

It started first in The Netherlands when Muslims and Arabs were characterised as ‘backward’ by the far-right gay populist, Pim Fortyn, who was assasinated in 2002. Whereas previously fascists and racists were the most homophobic of any section of society (bar the religious) the ‘new racism’ encompassed a coalition with right-wing and pro-imperialist gay rights supporters. The latter in turn, as symbolised by New Labour's gay MPS such as Ben Bradshaw and Chris Bryant, were happy to exchange support for gay-friendly measures in return for uncriticial support for Blair's Wars. It is, of course, easy to portray all Muslims and Arabs as anti-gay on the basis of the despicable and murderous record of Iran and Saudi Arabia on gay issues.

So it was little surprise that Israel’s Propaganda Chiefs have also sought to use the issue of Gay Rights in order to further their demonisation of all things Arab and Muslim. And some who should know better, like Brett Lock of Britain’s Outrage group, whose most prominent member is Peter Tatchell, also made clear their support for Zionism and its attacks on Lebanon and Gaza. Lock in particular was an avid supporter of the International Gay Pride festival in Jerusalem in 2007. They had less to say when instead of a march through Jerusalem they were confined to a stadium because of the vehement reaction of Jerusalem’s large ultra-orthodox Jewish majority!

Gay supporters of imperialism seek their own liberation at the expense of third world peoples. In so doing they deliberately turn a blind eye to the fact that racist, settler-colonial states are not the best supporters of gay rights because you cannot support one form of bigotry whilst disavowing another. As Yossi Sarid, an ex-MK of the liberal Meretz party wrote in Ha'aretz after the murder of the two teenagers in a gay club in Tel Aviv last Saturday 1st August, that:

Our foreign ministry plans to enlist the gay and lesbian community worldwide to expose the persecution of homosexuals led by the ayatollahs and their people. We should hope that this campaign is being undertaken with the blessing of the entire coalition, some of whose members have characterized homosexuals as "deviants who should be put to death."

And therein lies the rub. I can remember my own rabbi father telling me that whatever evil Hitler had done to the Jews, he had got it right when it came to exterminating homosexuals. You don’t need to go to Iran and visit the Ayatollahs or Ahmedinajad to understand that religious Jewish hatred of gays is equally as strong and murderous. Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is another anti-gay bigot who has refused to countenance gay participation in the Jewish community.

Below is a talk given by Tamara, a gay activist, in Berlin, at a rally called to express its solidarity with the two murdered gay teenagers in Tel Aviv. Below that is an article in Muzzlewatch about how the Israeli consulate sought to portray Jewish Gays as synonymous with Gay Zionists on the San Francisco Gay Parade and how Jewish Gays opposed to Zionism and Homophobia were ostracised and attacked in the Jewish community for expressing their support for the Palestinians. They describe how ‘toleration’ for being gay by Zionists is conditional on full support for Israel’s genocidal policies towards the Palestinians.

In other word: 'If you don't support bigotry and hatred against Arabs and Palestinians you will face it yourselves.' It is to be hoped that gay groups and activists take the path of Tamara and the anti/non-Zionist Jewish Gays in San Francisco rather than the road to swapping bigotry that Brett Lock and Outrage represents.

Tony Greenstein

The following talk was given by Tamara, a queer activist from Tel Aviv, at a demonstration held in Berlin on August 7th, in solidarity with the Lesbian Gay Bi Trans community in Israel, following the mass shooting at the Tel Aviv LGBT youth center, killing two and injuring 15.

Tamara's words at the Berlin demo, attended by some 2000 people, expressly and clearly linked the gun violence let loose at the LGBT center with Israel's militarized hypermasculine gun culture and connected the institutional persecution of queers in Israel with the violent institutional persecution and oppression of other groups and minorities; Palestinians, migrant workers, dissenting protesters. "Homophobia is racism," Tamara said. "Racism is homophobia."For a video of the Berlin demonstration and Tamara's talk,

Rela Mazali

Last Saturday a nightmare came true: we were hunted down. A faceless man went into a room full of youngsters and opened fire. Now 2 of them are dead many wounded. Some teenagers outed on a hospital bed.

When the news of the murder came, it was all too easy for me to picture the scene - I used to spend most of my waking hours in this secluded basement flat in central Tel Aviv, the offices of the Israeli GLBT association, Haaguda, working on Pride and AIDS awareness events.

We felt very safe there. Confidant. We had the of City Tel Aviv on our side, hanging rainbow flags on demand. We had the police doing our bidding instead of detaining and forbidding.

Ok, we had to swallow a few LGBT - phobic jokes from officers, bureaucrats, and commercial sponsors. But we thought it was a small price to pay for ten's of thousands marching in the streets of Tel Aviv, safe and proud, landing courage to countless kids across the country.

The price we paid now isn¹t small. It is immeasurable. The life of 2. the health of 15 , a collective trauma.

I do not feel safe now In Tel Aviv. Our strong hold. Our ghetto. I feel grief stricken and furious and betrayed.

I want to know who was this man in a ski mask dealing death in whose name. Was it a homophobic zealot? A fascist? A crazed family member or even a lover? How can I spot his kind and seek shelter when I recognize danger?

Maybe I should simply watch out for man with machine guns.

But this if far from simple In Israel, where most young men are drafted at 18, many issued a gun. Reserves soldiers ­ the entire able boded male population ­ often take their gun home too. There are guns on the bus, guns in Cafes, guns in restaurants, guns on the trains and the beach. Security guards and police have pistols. Settlers carry fire arms where ever they go.

In fact, there are probably only 3 segments of the population in Israel that are less likely to have access to guns: Work migrants, Palestinians, and ultra religious Jews.

Yesterday the Israeli police accused the LGBTQ communities of prematurely calling the murders a hate crime. Of inciting hate against other minority populations.

I agree with the police- it is too easy to point the finger at the extreme religious parties. Or at immigrants. Better look for the real villains: Better accuse the policemen who on Sunday called the supporters of the evacuated families in east Jerusalem, filthy fagots - When Many of them arrived directly from a memorial demo protesting the murders in Tel Aviv. Better investigate law enforcers calling conscientious objectors stupid dykes while smashing their heads on the pavement. Better be ware of the police arresting and bashing queer activists in Central Tel Aviv on the very same day as the murders, after they have tried to protect refugees and their children from being deported.

Better point the finger at the soldiers who kill peace loving men and youth in none violent demos in Palestine, and round up others in the dead of night.

I accuse them of creating a society of hatred and brute force where no minority is safe.

But it is also too easy to blame the police. The police is only a symptom, a tool of the government and the state. The same government who did nothing when calls for our blood where heard from its benches. The same state thatit’s president, Shimon Peres, objected in 2007 to the Pride parade in Jerusalem in ­ where 3 people where stabbed only 2 years earlier.

Many of us in the Jewish LGBTQ community in Israel believed we would be safe if we will be like everyone else be mothers, solders, consumers. Be poster boys and girls for the only democracy in the middle east. Be a tourist attraction.

We were told that we could be safe if we distance ourselves from any hint of otherness. Because ‘the other’ draws fire.

We are not safe. We are being murdered. And in order to protect our self we should be nothing like everyone else. We should demand they put away the guns they use to shoot us. We should denounce violence and repression of other minorities. We should honor the murdered by remembering ­ Homophobia is Racism. Racism is Homophobia.

Earlier this summer, Israel launched what can best be described as a queer-washing campaign to promote its more tolerant approach to gay rights over the anti-gay, mean, evil, Iranians and Palestinians. Israel’s right-wing supporters may hate Palestinians but this summer, they just LOVE THE GAYS! It’s one of the more cynical uses of liberal and progressiveissues as both distraction and wedge.

Whether the organizers were aware of being used or not, it’s likely that the push for a strong Jewish LGBT presence at this year¹s San Francisco Gay Pride parade was part of this initiative. Hence the multitude of Israeli flags in the contingent - the Israeli Consulate was all over it.

A group of queer Jews, most of whom work or worship inside the Jewish community, decided to join the contingent but with their own signs which read Pride in Israel when Palestine is Free and Feygele for Free Palestine. They had a rude awakening after the parade, learning that while gay may be great in the mainstream Jewish world, Jews-who-acknowledge-Palestinians-as-humans are expected to stay in the closet.

They write in JVoices:

We, Queer members of the Bay Area Jewish Community and our allies, are deeply saddened by events surrounding the Jews March for Pride contingent in this year’s San Francisco Pride Parade.

We wanted to march with ‘Jews March for Pride’ because we are proud to be Queer Jews and allies. We felt excited and privileged to have a place in the San Francisco Pride Parade to celebrate our whole selves as Jews and Queers.

However, our sense of pride in the contingent was shattered when we learned that not only would the Israeli Consulate be marching with Israeli flags, but also that ‘inclusion monitors’ would censor anything that deviated from the narrow message of ‘Jews support LGBT equality.’ We see this as a contradiction. Support for the Israeli government is a political position that is not synonymous with support for LGBT equality, and is not synonymous with Judaism. Because these strong Israeli symbols would be dominating the contingent, we felt we could not in good conscious march without publically repudiating those messages. And although the planners reached out to include us, we felt excluded when any disagreement we voiced was declared ‘off-message’ and inappropriate.

Not surprising. However, they were allowed to march in the parade (Yay!) Here's the boo part:

But the real consequences of our action have occurred in the days and weeks following the parade. Many of us have faced social sanctions in our personal and professional lives. Those of us who work in Jewish organizations have been harshly shamed in our workplaces and our political views have become a topic of discussion amongst our peers and supervisors. We feel vulnerable in the very community that had supposedly organized to support us as Queer Jews.

I know at least one of these stories and it's a real whopper. If and as soon as they decide to make it public, we'll let you know. Suffice it to say, the battle within the Jewish institutional world over the ability to simply think for oneself in terms of Israel and Palestinians is at times medieval.

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Cecilie Surasky

Jewish Peace News editors:

Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman

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