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Painful Irony in Tel Aviv LGBT Teen Center Shooting
In their own words, Stand With Us and other Zionist organizations "play gay card"; "Tel Aviv's burgeoning gay scene may be the single most effective Israel-advocacy instrument in the Zionist toolbox."
On Saturday evening, August 1, a shooter (presumably a Jewish Israeli, based on police reports' language, but no confirmation yet) injures 15 and kills 2 (with 3 more in critical condition) in LGBT teen center in Tel Aviv (as reported in Ha'aretz).
The mayor of Tel Aviv says "we will fight for every person's right to live their lives as they see fit."
I wonder what he means by "every person."
The irony makes me furious and scared. Furious at Stand With Us and organizations like it, furious at the shooter, and furious at the Jewish community here in the U.S. for pressuring me to "love Israel," when every bone in my queer body is screaming to run for safety.
(But, oh yeah - youth centers like the one where the shooting took place are exactly where I ran for safety when I needed it. And violence happened there, too. Machine guns are harder to come by in the U.S., but fucked up power dynamics are easy to find. And we did get hurt, in those moldy church-basement youth centers.
I've learned that safe spaces aren't always safe - for Jews, for queers, for anybody. That's because safety isn't a matter of place and walls. Safety has to be made some other way.)
Stand With Us wants you to love Israel. If you love Israel, love it for what's true about it. Not for an ad campaign.
Hey, queer Jews: Do not let them fool you! Israel is no more gay-friendly than any small, non-coastal U.S. city, and is less friendly than most. Don't let Tel Aviv's bar scene trick you into thinking it's some kind of San Francisco. (Not that San Francisco's perfect, either.)
Hey, straight Jews: Talk to your queer Jewish friends. Talk to queers from Israel. Just because Israel can wave a rainbow flag, doesn't make it a friend to the queers. (Remember HRC?)
Hey, queer Jews: Here in the U.S., we are doubly (at least) marginalized. In Israel, Jews are privileged. When Stand With Us says they dig the gays, which gays do you think they mean? When the mayor of Tel Aviv says he'll fight for "every person's right to live their lives as they see fit," do you think "every person" includes Palestinians? Do you really want to ally yourself with people for whom a Palestinian doesn't count as a person?
Hey, queer gentiles: Talk to your queer Jewish friends. Most of us are farther left on Palestine/Israel than you might imagine. Most of us are not fooled by the rainbow flag waving. You can support us best by hearing our concerns about these issues, and making your own thoughtful and informed decisions. To be an ally to the Jewish community, support the Jews you are in community with. This may or may not align with supporting Israel, in general or on any particular issue.
Hey, queer Jews: Check where you're standing! We don't need Tel Aviv to be our queer / Jewish homeland. We have been building homeland and building family wherever we go for generations. Who's your queer / Jewish community, here and now? How will you protect and nurture it? How will it protect and nurture you? How will you make your community what you need it to be?
Hey, everybody: It's not so complicated. Well, okay, it is. But you're smart! Don't let "it's complicated" become an excuse for not having an opinion. Gather information. Share news sources. Exchange perspectives. Listen. Speak. Don't be afraid to say something you might later think is wrong. Don't believe everything you're told. Question. Argue. It's the Jewish thing to do! It's the queer thing to do! And if you're not Jewish or queer ... you know, this is something we've got right. Give it a try. Don't let someone do your thinking for you. Don't let someone else define "home" for you. You gotta do it yourself. We gotta do it together.