Article from the (secular) NY Jewish Week
(Compare this with the hatred-spewing blog of AJN editor Ashley Browne http://tinyurl.com/l284us )
Rush To Judgment in Gay Club Killings
by Jonathan Mark - Associate Editor
On August 1, a masked man burst into a gay club in Tel Aviv, spraying bullets, killing two. The killer escaped, his identity unknown. According to the Associated Press (Aug. 1), Tel Aviv police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said it was “most likely a criminal attack and not a terror attack.” The AP even pointed out that “Tel Aviv has been a target for Palestinian militants in the past.” The Tel Aviv police commissioner, David Cohen, cautioned against speculation.
Everyone’s speculating anyway. But let’s go back a few years. We live in an era in which it is considered inappropriate to characterize religious or racial groups because of the criminal acts of one, or even many. After the planes hit the World Trade Center, but
before the buildings even fell, news anchors said we shouldn’t blame Islam. The next day, Secretary of State Colin Powell went on NBC’s “Dateline” to say that what happened “should not be seen as something done by Arabs or Islamics; it is something that was done by terrorists...”
More recently, when four Islamic men were arrested for attempting to blow up two Riverdale synagogues, the Daily News headlined (May 23), “Riverdale Rabbi: Don’t Blame Islam...”
But in Tel Aviv, let’s blame the Orthodox. After the murders, an editorial in Haaretz (Aug. 3) admitted, “it is still to early to draw conclusions,” but so what. After all, the ultra-Orthodox and even the regular “religious,” said Haaretz, “openly incite against gays and lesbians and their rights.”
Time magazine online (Aug. 3) headlined, “Gay vs. Orthodox,” reporting that Tel Aviv’s gay community “was not hesitant about assigning blame... [pointing] to Orthodox Jewish gay-bashers.”
As far away as Australia, Orthodox Jews were blamed. The Sydney Morning Herald (Aug. 7) headlined, “Hate from the right stoked gay murders,” an opinion piece that compared the killings to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Commentator Yossi Sarid echoed in Ha’aretz (Aug. 3), “Here they don’t just shoot the prime minister. They also shoot homosexuals.”
Rabin’s murder, of course, was blamed on Orthodox incitement in ways that the assassination of Robert Kennedy is never blamed on Palestinian incitement. Kennedy’s assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian, said he timed Kennedy’s killing (June 6, 1968) to coincide with the first anniversary of the Six-Day War, but who in the media ever brings that up?
Maybe the police didn’t know the Tel Aviv killer’s motive, but Haaretz reported (Aug. 2) that opposition leader Tzipi Livni knew. It was a “hate crime” born of “homophobia,” she said. MK Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) told a rally: “The pistol did not act on its own, the gunman did not act on his own — what stood behind him was incitement and hatred,” hatred by guess who?
In the United States, news agencies quoted a statement from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the (Conservative) Rabbinical Assembly who charged that “some voices in [Israeli] society seek to incite violence against the gay and lesbian community; they should be held to account.” Which voices? Take a guess.
Maybe you’re guessing wrong. In 2006, Time reported that Israel’s Islamic clerics were quite vocal against Israeli gays parading in Jerusalem: “Not only should these homosexuals be banned from holding their parade,” says Jerusalem’s Sheikh Ibrahim Hassan, “but they should be punished and sent to an isolated place.” And “Christian groups were also upset,” reported Time, “by what they saw as the deliberate flaunting of sexuality in Christendom’s most sacred place.”
Some Christians say the current charges of incitement unfairly smear Christianity. In the Christian Post (Aug. 6), Linda Harvey, president of Mission America, said people “have the right to oppose homosexuality for religious or other reasons without being called accessories to murder. The motive is still unknown; why engage in slanderous speculation?” The speculation is itself “bigotry ... wildly irresponsible, unjust and inaccurate.”
Why blame the Orthodox? A recent Haaretz-Dialog poll has found that 46 percent of Israelis consider homosexuality a perversion while only 42 percent do not. In fact, less Orthodox Jews (44 percent) think it a perversion than do local Arabs (64 percent) or Russian-speaking immigrants (57 percent). Maybe the killer is a secular Israeli; one of four (24 percent) secular Israelis believe homosexuality a perversion, too.
In Yediot Ahronot (Aug. 3), Michel Dor, who is neither gay nor religious, wonders if the killer was a jilted lover, “maybe someone who wasn’t loved back? Or maybe a mentally unstable individual who decided to take action?”
If someone were to shoot up a shul or yeshiva, “and there was uncertainty in respect to the perpetrator,” asks Dor, “who would the religious community have to blame? Members of Meretz? The radical left?”
Yediot Ahronot (Aug. 4) headlined an Orthodox complaint: “Haredi Public Used As Punching Bag.” Moshe Glasner, editor of the Kikar HaShabbat website, said Israel is experiencing “an unprecedented incitement campaign against the haredim.”
The Jerusalem Post (Aug. 2) also sensed something was wrong. Their editorial said, “Some in the media and in the political establishment have jumped to the conclusion that the rampage was motivated by homophobia.... We reserve judgment...”
Imagine that. That’s what old-fashioned journalists – and rabbis, for that matter -- used to do before they had the facts. They reserved judgment.
Said the Jerusalem Post, “it is important to maintain perspective. Whoever did it — gay or straight, observant or secular — was a wild weed and not indicative of their community.”
In any case, Israeli gays “are not oppressed,” said the Jerusalem Post. “Same-sex couples can today legally adopt children. Gay marriages abroad can be registered as legal in Israel ... Contrast the situation in Israel to gay life in neighboring Arab and Moslem countries.”
If anyone is persecuted in Tel Aviv it is the ultra-Orthodox, which may explain the rush to judgment. The Los Angeles Times (Aug. 6) noticed that secular Jews in one Tel Aviv neighborhood “organized a campaign to drive the haredim out,” the secular anger aimed even at the genial Lubavitchers.
Back in the spring, Haaretz headlined (May 14), “Anti-Semitism is Rearing Its Head in Tel Aviv;” anti-Orthodoxy, to be more exact.
Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, noted that “the entry of a handful of ultra-Orthodox Jews to [one] lovely, modest and tranquil neighborhood has provoked an unlovely wave of racism, tearing the thin veil of openness and liberality from this seemingly left-wing community. If anyone were to behave this way toward Israeli Arabs, the residents might raise a hue and cry, but when it comes to haredim the gloves are off because attacking the ‘blacks’ is the fashion.”
Haredim, he writes, are “the punching bag of the left. What nationalist Israelis do to the Arabs, the left does to the ultra-Orthodox. There’s no difference. Demonization, dehumanization, scare tactics and the sowing of hatred. Hatred of the Other is the same, whether the Other’s name is Mohammed or Leibele, whether he wears a kaffiyeh or a shtreimel. It makes no difference whether the racist is an Arab-hating Kahanist or a Haredim-hating leftist: He is still a racist.”