Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Homophobia is Racism--Racism is Homophobia"

Vigil in Tel Aviv
I want to include here a talk, given by Tamara, a queer activist from Tel Aviv, at a demonstration held in Berlin on August 7th and distributed by Rela Mazali and Jewish Peace News.
"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. Confident. We had the City of 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 tens of thousands marching in the streets of Tel Aviv, safe and proud, giving 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 this kind and seek shelter when I recognize danger?
Maybe I should simply watch out for men with machine guns.
But this is far from simple in Israel, where most young men are drafted at 18, many issued a gun. Reserve soldiers--the entire able-bodied 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 faggots," when many of them had arrived directly from 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 beware of the police arresting and bashing queer activists in central Tel Aviv on the very same day as the murders, after they 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 non 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 are only a symptom, a tool of the government and the state. The same government who did nothing when calls for our blood were heard from its benches. The same state whose president, Shimeon Peres, objected in 2007 to the Pride Parade in Jerusalem--where 3 people had been stabbed only 2 years earlier.
Many of us in the Jewish LGBTQ community in Israel believed we would be safe if we would "be like everyone else," be mothers, soldiers, consumers. Be poster girls and boys 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 an 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 every one 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."

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