It’s taken four years, thousands of hours of police work, and the most expensive investigation in the history of the Israeli police, but they finally appear to have cracked the case of the Tel Aviv gay community center killings in which a counselor and young member were killed by weapons fire that was sprayed throughout the room. Ten others were wounded that day with at least one paralyzed for life.
The unofficial Israeli police web forum has revealed further information (in case this is taken down due to a gag order here is a screenshot) on the attack, suspects, and the motive for it. At the time of the shooting, the center’s director was Shaul Ganon, 49, an 18-year activist in the gay community. According to the source posting to the web forum (which again is a police source and should be suspected of some anti-gay bias), Gannon was suspected of rape of a 15-year-old (minor). Brothers of the victim determined to get revenge. So they traveled from their home in Bnai Brak to the Center and attacked it with the intent to avenge the alleged crime.
UPDATE: Since I wrote the paragraph below, Walla reports that the suspects did have a Haredi upbringing, but that lately they’d abandoned it. They live in Pardes Katz, a largely Mizrahi “pocket” of Bnei Brak. Their family name sounds clearly Mizrahi as well. The hatred of homosexuality inherent in Jewish Orthodoxy rubbed off on them.
UPDATE I: This article implies that of the four suspects arrested, one is Ganon, two are the brothers of the victim, and the fourth is the gunman, hired by the brothers as the hit man. The latter reputedly has an organized crime background.
Since the attackers didn’t harm Ganon, I have to suspect that the killers were motivated by a hate crime, since they attacked others who had nothing to do with Ganon or his crime. Given that the brothers are from Bnai Brak, a highly-Orthodox community, one may assume that the victim comes from such a background (though there are non-Haredi pockets in Bnai Brak where homophobia would be just as rampant). If so, this would only exacerbate the hatred the victim’s family would feel toward not only Ganon himself, but the entire gay culture, which they might feel victimized their brother.
The victim’s brothers are identified as Hagi (23) and Benjamin Felician (20).
According to an Israeli source active in the gay community, Ganon didn’t rape the boy, but rather had a consensual sexual relationship with him. The boy in turn “came out” to his family. And this is when the revenge plot developed. I should note that any sex act between a 46 year old man and a 15 year old might legally be construed as rape. But according to my source the relationship was consensual.
An Israeli commenter in the thread for this post notes that Ganon has been accused of similar unprofessional conduct with other young people. For that reason, he was dismissed from his post at the Center. So he appears to have a history of exploiting young gay men.
I want to make very clear that this information completely explodes the claim by the police that this was not a hate crime. It was indeed precisely that. But clearly claiming this merely involved revenge against an accused rapist (the police are falsely calling it “a personal vendetta”), it would allow the police to treat it as purely a sex crime and so limit the fall-out, if they could exclude homophobia as a motive.
To further rebut the police version: when the gunman couldn’t find Ganon at the Center (he wasn’t there that night), if he had gone home it would not have been a hate crime. But when he sprayed the entire hall indiscriminately with gunfire after he couldn’t find his intended victim, he killed for one reason and one reason alone: hatred of gays.
My source further notes that Ganon was one of those who inadvertently led to the notion of pinkwashing. He gave shelter to Palestinian gay youths who fled their families for fear of persecution or violence. In doing so, Gannon didn’t just offer shelter, he went further and heaped abuse on the homophobia of Palestinian culture and pointed to the superiority of Israeli attitudes on the subject.
This crime certainly will give the lie to that claim, since it proves there is a huge amount of gay hatred among the Israeli Orthodox community. You’ll recall there have been several acts of violence including a stabbing at a Jerusalem gay pride parade some years ago in which the attacker was Orthodox. Rabbis from the community have denounced the gay pride movement in vitriolic ways that would only exacerbate these sorts of reactions.
Ganon has also been arrested, though not, according to my source, for rape. But rather because he knew of the attack and attackers and did not divulge this to the authorities.
UPDATE: The Haredi news portal, HaTzofar, published two (Hebrew) articles justifying the Bar Noar murders. In the first, it judges Shaul Ganon a “Sodomite” rapist, as if the crime was proven. The second article is entitled, “This is Sodom.” Several Israelis have attempted to publish similarly vile comments here (which I’ve refused to publish). This is precisely the sort of environment out of which these murders were conceived.
UPDATE I: There is a claim by Israeli commenters in the thread here that attitudes toward homosexuality in the U.S. and Israel are comparable. That doesn’t accord with my own sense of the realities. Offering further support for my view, I note that the Pew Center released a new poll on global acceptance of homosexuality. The percentage of those accepting it in the U.S. is 60%. In Israel it is 40%.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.