Guest Blogger

LGBT Teenagers Slaughtered by Tel Aviv Gunman

Filed By Guest Blogger | August 03, 2009 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics, The Movement
Tags: gay youth, hate crimes against LGBT people, Israel, LGBT community, Tel Aviv

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Susan Ferman-Austin is a writer, blogger and LGBT rights activist. profile pic.jpgShe has served on the Board of Directors of Washington State Stonewall Democrats and the Moscow-Pullman LGBT Pride Festival. Susan is married to Phyllis Austin and they have two children, ages eleven and twelve. Susan is Jewish-American.

As my family prepared to celebrate Havdallah Saturday night, I sat down to relax at my computer for a few minutes and saw the news that three LGBT teenagers were murdered and another ten injured in an attack on a meeting for LGBT teens in Tel Aviv. These were teenagers murdered; children, killed in what at least one witness is certain was a hate crime and so are most of the people speaking to the press. Tel Aviv police obviously agreed, as all gay bars have been closed as a precaution; the suspect is still on the loose.

Like my friend Louise, from whom I heard the news, at first I had no words to describe how I feel. As the shock wore off, the heartbreak set in.

Watching my wife and children happily preparing for Havdallah and our Saturday night dinner, all I could think is that the kids killed are not much older than our own; the traumatized witnesses to this event are almost all children, too. The trauma they have suffered will be with them the rest of their lives. I pray to God that the long-term result of this horrific attack is not more hatred, yet I fear that that will be the case. The Israeli police are taking this very seriously and no doubt are as horrified and angry as I am, but much will depend on whether the attacker is caught and justice is served. Righteous anger, unsatisfied, will lead to hatred that goes both ways.

There has already been a protest march by the Tel Aviv LGBT community. The Pink News reports:

Thousands of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) Israelis have held an impromptu march through the streets of Tel Aviv after a masked gun man opened fire at a centre for gay teenagers, killing three late last night.

What kind of a monster murders children? I know that people like that exist, but (perhaps naïvely), it would never occur to me that such a thing could happen in Tel Aviv. To be sure, Israel is not immune to anti-LGBT hate crimes, but Tel Aviv is such an open and progressive city that I honestly would have considered it safe from a crime as horrific as this.

My worst fear is that this won't be an isolated incident, but a sign of things to come.

The extreme right-wing Yisrael Beitenu has garnered too much power as of late, as has the right-wing Shas Party. While most of their hateful rhetoric is aimed at Palestinians, the pervasive bigotry they are encouraging has found a new level of legitimacy after the last election. The results of that election saw the party win 15 seats in Knesset, making it the third largest after Kadima (28) and Likud (27). In March 2009, Yisrael Beitenu joined Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition and party leader Avigdor Lieberman became Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister; the party also received four other ministerial portfolios, and one deputy minister post.

Bigotry and prejudice breeds more of the same and with "respected" members of the coalition parties feeling safe enough in their bigotry to make comments such as when Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, referred to President Obama as "a slave" who seeks to rule the world, it has become obvious to the world that their hatred and bigotry is directed at more minorities than just Palestinians and Haredim.

There is no telling what influence such things had on the monster who perpetrated this crime, but when any bigotry becomes legitimized, acceptable to a large segment of a society, it inevitably leads to hate crimes against all minorities becoming more likely. Let us hope and pray that this does turn out to be an isolated incident and the swift action of Tel Aviv police prevent the person (or persons) responsible for these murders from killing again.


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Thank you for this post. I was planning to write about it myself. When I drove a rental car from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in June, I turned down a major street as I entered Tel Aviv, only to see double rainbow flags on every street post. It was gay pride month and the city of Tel Aviv was observing it.

My friend Aeyal Gross, a leading LGBT lawyer and law professor in Israel, has published an op ed about this horrific act, describing much about gay life -- especially for youth -- in Tel Aviv, demonstrating the impact this hateful incident will have, and calling on those in power in Israel to look at their own actions in the past and respond for the future. Read it in English here: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3756024,00.html

Thank you Nancy, for your comment and the link to the op-ed by Aeyal Gross. I found it very insightful; I think he is dead-on right in what he says.

Religiously based hatred of us is the same in its power to incite violence, whether it comes from Christians, Jews or Muslims.

We end up dead, no matter what the faith of the hater may be.

These were our brothers and sisters, our youth, who were killed, for the bonds of the LGBT community should and must transcend nation, religion, race, and politics. We arise from a common unknown cause, we suffer from common known prejudice.

Whether it is the Atlanta bombing, the Admiral Duncan attack, the Moscow Pride beatings, the ceaseless stream of trans victims of violence, or this, our latest blood sacrifice for equality, we have a common cause, for we possess a commonality as the survivors within our family.

We bear witness to the fate of our fallen
We carry the torch of their dreams of equality.

Maura, I agree with your comment whole-heartedly, however I would like to caution that it is too soon for any of us to assume that this was a religiously based crime.

Remember that there are factions in Israel that would be delighted to kill LGBT people and see Haredim or other religious group get the blame. Perhaps it could be a neo-Nazi (four were arrested in Tel Aviv just a couple of days ago), or a fanatical anti-Haredi, homophobe who is an Yisrael Beitenu supporter (Yisrael Beitenu is a right-wing political party, not a religious group), a member of some other organization or even someone with a personal dispute (although that last possibility is unlikely, given the nature of the crime).

As of 11pm (Tel Aviv time), Haaretz was reporting that the police still do not have enough information to even be certain that this is a hate crime, let alone who is behind it. While I am personally certain that it was a hate crime, what the police are asking for is simply for us not to make assumptions yet. They still don't know anything for sure.

I know this is an extreme example, but do you remember the story about the fire at the Reichstag? Even today we do not know if that was a set-up, but the entire Communist party was shut-down over what may have been a Nazi plot or the individual actions of one man, acting alone.

Can we at all doubt that the endless stream of preached hatred lowered the threshold for violence?

I have not a doubt that you are correct about that; hate fosters hate. I just (personally) don't want to make any assumptions about what specific group of people the murderer belongs to.

it's just a sad, horrifying commentary on how glbt people are treated. when intolerance is as tolerated as it is, innocents suffer mightily. weaponry is so easily had in this world that any deranged person can fire off a few rounds at any of the groups that he might hate.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 4, 2009 1:28 AM

One - The three Abrahamic cults are equally homohating and totally responsible for violence against us. That includes christers, islamists and judaists, the ones who started the whole homohating thing.

Two - this should put to rest the idea that the zionist state is somehow gay-friendly. It most certainly is not. A large part of the population are religious fundamentalists in terms of their attitudes towards women and GLBT folks. The fact that they 'allow' gays and lesbians in the military is simply an extension of their need for cannon fodder in their endless wars of conquest and colonial occupation. When the zionist secret police discover GLBT Palestinians they always blackmail them into becoming agents. Etc.

Three - This level of violence against GLBT folks is new but it has plenty of precedents in a society awash in the blood of Palestinians. Zionist settlers, police, secret police and military forces routinely engage in the wanton murder of Palestinians, especially targeting children, to enforce the bondage of apartheid. They practice ethic cleansing.

The same violent levels of homohating can be seen in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan where military bunker states and large scale violence create an atmosphere that promotes bigotry and violence. The sharp differences in the treatment of GLBT folks in Iraq under Sadaam Hussein secular state was relatively mild compared to the huge number of murders under US control. Here in the US violence against children rose sharply in the aftermath of Vietnam (remember all those school yard mass murders) and we can expect more as a result of the wars in South Asia.

Our brothers and sisters throughout the region are in for hard times.

Four: non religious Jews are no more at fault here than the citizens of muslim and christer countries. In fact we have no idea who did the shooting or why. But we do know that it occurred in one of the culture of extreme violence that mark the region and reflect US influence there.

Robert J. Ganshorn | August 4, 2009 5:54 AM

An additional facet of the Israel "way of doing business" has been demonstrated on this mornings news of a family that has lived in the same home in East Jerusalem for over 50 years being evicted by court order. They had rights to live there from 1956 onward, but suddenly they are thrown out on the street, their posessions dumped on the side of the road a kilometer from where they lived by the zionists who immediately occupied the building.

This is a country that is a powder keg with nuclear capability. It was just our turn to be oppressed by these powers. They do it with great regularity.

There is an informative (and speculative) article in Time Magazine about these murders:

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1914391,00.html

I really thought Tel Aviv was a "safe" place. This is a tragic turn of events and very sad.

It's worth noting that one of the slain victims, Liz Trobishi, identified as a straight ally, and was at the Center in support of friends. Anti-LGBT hate crimes have an impact beyond just the LGBT community--and I think that's an important point to be made in gaining wider support for hate crimes laws. Everyone's children are at risk.

dana, you are so right. for everyone who is glbt, there is a relative somewhere who worries about this sort of crime; and though they may try not to admit it, every straight person knows someone who is glbt. acts of violence such as this one affects every citizen, whether local to the scene in israel, or in america or any other locale.

one of the most disturbing things i have read about this tragedy is from the Los Angeles Times:
"Some of the public discussion of incitement against gays focused on statements by lawmakers with Shas, the ultra-Orthodox Jewish religious party. One lawmaker had suggested establishing "rehabilitation centers" to "cure" gays of their sexual orientation. Another said homosexuals had caused Israel's most recent earthquake and were "poisoning" the Jewish state."

and we have read that israel is one of the more supportive of nations in dealing with glbt issues. wow!

The op-ed that Nancy linked to in the first comment brings up the very issues you are all discussing.

Brief excerpts:
"Nobody thought something like this could happen. Yet the stabbing attack in Jerusalem was a warning sign; and not only the stabbing itself, but also what took place – or rather, didn’t take place – in its wake: The homophobic statements made by ministers, Knesset members, and others continued with no shame. And the shame should be felt not only by the regular homophobes from Shas and other places, but also by those who kept silent.

"Every prime minister and minister who did nothing when some of his government ministers expressed themselves in a violent and inciting manner against homosexuals, lesbians, and transgenders should also be ashamed; anyone who grants homophobia legitimacy, as though it’s an acceptable view that is worthy of being heard in order to “counterbalance” other views; anyone who kept silent when we saw the “beast parade” being held in Jerusalem as the haredi response to the pride parade. All these people should be ashamed today."

Read the full post by Eyal Gross here: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3756024,00.html

Its pretty cool friend i like reading it very much..Nice updates.