A lesson for the LGBT community from Jerusalem Pride stabbing

  • by Julie Dorf
  • Wednesday August 5, 2015
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Julie Dorf, and her daughter, Hazel Olson-Dorf, attended<br>a protest during World Pride in Jerusalem in 2006. Photo: Hagai El-Ad
Julie Dorf, and her daughter, Hazel Olson-Dorf, attended
a protest during World Pride in Jerusalem in 2006. Photo: Hagai El-Ad

Last Friday morning I sat in shock reading my email from Israel and Palestine. My heart and soul hurt all weekend as I tried to make sense of the two gruesome murders of children at the hands of Jewish Israeli extremists " the stabbing death of 16-year-old Shira Banki during Jerusalem's LGBT Pride march and the burning to death of Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh in the West Bank a few hours later. There is no sugar-coating this " both of these murders were acts of terrorism committed by Jews, misguided by extremist ideology that has been growing in Israel for decades and is now much closer to its power structure than ever before.

For those of us in the LGBT community " whether Jewish like me or not " we cannot look at the tragic stabbing during Jerusalem Pride as simply an act of extreme homophobia or minimize it as the act of one fringe lunatic. We cannot divorce this tragedy from the broader context that bred it, nor shed our responsibility as Americans. We are Israel's closest ally and support them politically, economically, and militarily more than any other country in the world.

This week many political and religious leaders in Israel have rightly and forcefully spoken out against these two horrific acts. But as Israeli political analyst David Grossman wrote this week in Israel's leading newspaper Ha'aretz, "What is difficult to understand is how the prime minister and his cabinet ministers are able to distinguish between a fire that they have been stoking for decades and this most recent conflagration. It is hard to conceive how they are capable of not seeing the connection between the occupation regime that has been continuing for 48 years, and the dark, fanatic reality that has been forged at the frontiers of the Israeli consciousness " a reality whose agents and disseminators grow more numerous each day, a reality that is now growing closer and closer to the mainstream, and is becoming increasingly more acceptable and legitimate in the Israeli street, in the Knesset and at the cabinet table."

Over the years, I've marched in Jerusalem LGBT Pride twice with my own daughter, who is now 16. I even co-chaired World Pride in Jerusalem during a war with Lebanon in order to bring needed support from the U.S. Jewish and LGBT communities to the movements in Israel and Palestine. During my visits over the last decade, I've also marched in protest against the house demolitions, the "security fence" that keeps Palestinians from their jobs and land, and observed soldiers' behavior at checkpoints in the West Bank. I've seen with my own eyes the human impact of the Occupation and of the expansive settler movement, which is supported with private funds by my own American Jewish community as well as through Israeli government policy and funding. As a lesbian and a Jew, with relatives and friends in a country I love, I believe with all my heart that these are interrelated oppressions. A single-issue, LGBT-only approach misses the most important lesson of these horrific and inter-related events.

In the midst of the heartache I felt last Friday, the email that upset me the most was the one that just had to add in the line: "This march would not be permitted in any other capital city in the Middle East." The insistence of perpetuating the view of Israel as superior to its Arab neighbors, in the moment of such Jewish extremism, is not only offensive, but it cuts to the core of what is wrong with this perspective. As Grossman went on to write, "In this sense, both acts of violence that took place a few days ago " the murder and stabbings at the Pride event in Jerusalem and the murder of the baby " are interrelated, and derive from a similar worldview. In both, hatred itself " bared and primal " constitutes among certain people a legitimate, ample reason to commit murder, to annihilate the hated human being." As LGBT people, we must do better than that " because our lives actually depend on it.

Kate Kendell recently argued in her opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle that the American LGBT movement must now turn to fight racism after our long-fought marriage victory. So, too, must we as LGBT people understand and commit to fighting holistically against both the racist and homophobic policies in Israel and Palestine.

I believe enough in Israel's imperfect democratic systems that next year's Pride will be a safer event. I believe in the strength and courage of Israel's LGBT activists that they will continue to march in Pride. My own 16-year-old will be back in Israel next summer during Jerusalem Pride and I hope she marches with pride, in protest, and in safety. I must believe that the next generation will do a better job understanding difference and working for peace than we have.

I also believe in our own imperfect democracy that gives us the privileged opportunity to voice our dissent in safety and security. It is therefore our responsibility to make the most of that privilege and speak out against the systems of oppression and hatred here and abroad. May Ali and Shira's names be for a blessing " and may they inspire all of us to take action toward a more just and sane world.


Julie Dorf is the former co-chair of Jerusalem World Pride 2006 and founder of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. She is currently senior adviser for the Council on Global Equality, although the views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the council.