Israel: Gays murdered amid rise of the right

August 15, 2009

At 10:40pm on August 1, an unidentified man with a ski mask walked into a weekly meeting of Gay Lesbian Bisexual Trangender teenagers in Tel Aviv and shot indiscriminately with an automatic weapon. Two people were killed and a dozen wounded.

The police still have no clue who the killer is, yet it is highly likely the killer knew specifically about the GLBT centre and the weekly meeting.

The attack, the worst against gays in Israel, comes after many years of struggle in which the gay community won some hard-fought gains. These gains have come despite a sharp rise in power of the religious extreme right.

Four years ago, in a highly contested gay pride parade in Jerusalem, an anti-gay spectator jumped into the march, and stabbed and wounded four participants.

The gay rights movement in Israel is highly splintered. The dominant Zionist ideology in Israel, which wants to keep Israel as an exclusively Jewist state based on the dispossession and oppression of Palestinian people, has coopted many of the movement's leader.

This capitalises on the relative openness towards gays in the Tel Aviv area to parade Israel's "openness" to homosexuality.

However, many young gay activists make the connection between oppression of gays and other oppressed sectors — including Palestinians.

Activist and journalist Shlomi Laufer said on Ynet the day after the killings it was "not a unique event; it's merely an extreme one, but make no mistake about it, incidents like that take place on Tel Aviv's streets time and again with no interruption".

"About two months ago, two guys were chased by a group armed with baseball bats; before that, two youngsters were stabbed outside a gay club. Meanwhile, numerous cases go unreported."

The night after the killings, thousands of people took to the streets of Tel Aviv in a spontaneous march. But by the following week, Zionist politicians had coopted the new, rising gay rights movement.

A mass rally was organised in Tel Aviv. Israeli President Shimon Peres, Tel Aviv's Mayor Ron Huldai and education minister from the right-wing Likud party Gideon Sa'ar all spoke.

Organisers prevented Issam Makhoul, former Knesset (parliament) member for the left-wing pro-Palestinian Hadash party, from speaking at the rally.

This exposed the great contradictions tearing at Israeli society: a facade of "openness" and liberal policies on some issues, while maintaining a brutal and racist apartheid regime.

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