Sunday, August 02, 2009

3 killed in attack on gay center in Tel Aviv

Update: According to the Israeli news sites this morning (Sunday, August 2), two were killed, not three. The original reports must have been wrong that the man in the hospital had also died. The murderer has still not been captured.

Haaretz reports that three young people were murdered at an event for youth from the gay and lesbian community in Tel Aviv. The event occurred in the basement of the Association for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Israel, at the corner of Ahad Ha'Am and Nahmani Streets in Tel Aviv. The dead were a young man of 24, a young woman of 17 and another man who died of his wounds in the hospital. About 15 other people were injured, 4 of them in serious condition. Eyewitnesses at the scene reported that a masked gunman entered the basement of the building, began to shoot in all directions and then escaped. At this point the gunman has not yet been located and the police are searching for him with a helicopter and many police vehicles.

Another report in Haaretz says that activists in the organization have gathered tonight at the corner of Nahmani and Rothschild streets and have lit candles. Members of the gay community did not hesitate to say that "there is no doubt that this is a hate crime." Mike Hamel, the head of the Aguda, said that this was an unprecedented event for the gay community in Israel. "We have joined the 'enlightened' countries in which hatred is the standard."

Hamel said that the club was located on a quiet street and that there was no obvious sign out front, to allow youth who are dealing with their sexuality to come to the place securely. For this reason, the Aguda had not thought of hiring security for the place.

Knesset Member Nitzan Horowitz from Meretz, who is gay (and who spoke at the gay pride march in Jerusalem in June) said that "there is no doubt that this is the harshest attack ever against the gay community in Israel."

I had been thinking today that I felt lucky to have been in Israel at a time when no terrorist attacks have occurred - unfortunately that feeling of safety has been violated. While the police define this attack as having a "criminal" rather than "nationalistic" context, attacking gay youth in the headquarters of the national gay and lesbian organization in Israel strikes me as a hate crime intended to terrorize gay people of all ages in Israel.

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