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, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQlxsH43zDQ
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 isn't 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 that it's president, Shimeon 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.
Jewish Peace News editors:
Sarah Anne Minkin
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Jewish Peace News archive and blog: http://jewishpeacenews.blogspot.com
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