Tonight offers another bit of unintended hilarity that goes by the name of Israeli judicial hypocrisy.
They say in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Well, in the land of secrets, the gag order is king.
I reported here about the Bar Noar gay murders, which happened in 2009. I also reported the latest developments in the case, which featured Israeli police arresting three suspects in the massacre and a fourth individual, Shaul Ganon, the former director of the gay youth center. He was suspected of having misled authorities or not provided pertinent information that could’ve helped solve the case much earlier than the four years it ended up taking.
Unfortunately, there is a gag order in effect regarding the case. The names of none of the suspects may be reported in the media. That’s why it’s so important that I published the earlier post which names them all (I did that with the help of an unofficial police web forum and a member of the Israeli gay community who provided these details). They are the Felician brothers (Hagi and Benyamin). The third suspect was named by the police before the gag order was reimposed. His name was featured on a Channel 2 news report as Tarlen Khankisheyev. This is probably the only media source standing which hasn’t removed his name from the public record.
I produced a video version of that last post for Israel SocialTV and even it can’t air it for fear of jeopardizing its legal status.
An Israeli journalist tells me the judge is expected to rescind the gag order sometime in the coming hours. We’ll have to see whether that happens.
Now here’s the bit of hilarity I referenced above: the Israeli police, desperate to tell the world that this was not a homophobic crime, but rather a simple crime of sex and revenge (as would befit the seamy Israeli view of homosexuality), held a press conference about the case. It put forward its version of the case. The reporters there, dutiful scribes that they mostly are, wrote down the details and filed their stories. But then a strange thing happened. The judge called the police to remind them a gag order was still in effect on the case. The police called all the papers and media outlets to tell them to take down all the articles. They did so dutifully, slaves as they are in the land of secrets.
In what may be the most ironic aspect of this whole circus, the police themselves originally requested the gag order. So when they were ready to abandon a gag order they initiated, the judge refused to allow it.
Even Bibiton, aka Yisrael HaYom, a newspaper not known for casting a jaundiced eye on the Israeli establishment took these strange events in stride, calling it the “Gag Circus.” All of it only reinforces a running theme of this blog: the Israeli media are shackled by outmoded, authoritarian laws inspired by the very nature of the Israeli State as one obsessed by national security and secrecy. Until Israel has real press freedom, it can never be a normalized western-style democracy.
The original uncensored Hebrew version of the story is still available in Yahoo cache. If that disappears it’s available here (the censored version is here). It is, as I said, the police version. And it bugs the hell (I was going to use a stronger word) out of me. First, it claims the reason for the murders was that Shaul Ganon raped a minor. It doesn’t say “alleged” or “suspected” or “accused.” It says, right there in the headline that he raped a 15-year-old boy.
On further reading of the article, it becomes clear that the charge of rape came to the police not directly from the victim, but rather from witness, who claimed that the brother saw the victim at the Bar Noar and asked him what he was doing there. It was only in the conversation between the two that the charge of rape originated. In this version, the victim himself asked for vengeance against his alleged rapist. In other words, the brother of the victim who is a known member of the Pardes Katz criminal community, was angry that his brother was frequenting a gay club. The youth, in order to lessen the stigma may’ve blurted out the claim of rape to protect himself from further harm. Is this a genuine charge of rape? Or little more than a hoax?
But there is one interesting aspect of the police version I hadn’t known: the police solved the crime through a witness who came forward after falling out with the criminal group which carried out the attack. The witness himself was a member of the gay community and provided the attackers with the layout of the Bar Noar facility and means of entrance and escape.
Now, Ganon may’ve raped the boy. If he did, he deserves to be punished. But he hasn’t even been investigated for this alleged crime, let alone questioned, charged, tried or convicted. This is trial by innuendo. Trial by police. Trial by headline. My main problem with this is that it fits nicely into the traditional mindset so common among many, if not most Israelis–that the gay “life-style” is reflects the seamy underbelly of humanity. That it involves corruption of minors, exploitation, and even rape.
That’s why the police version is so rank, so unprofessional, so homophobic. Now, let’s get to the use of that term. The police deny this was a hate crime. They call it a “personal vendetta” involving a sex crime. It’s a lot more comfortable for the police to investigate a crime involving the gay community if they can call it a sex crime. That way, it reflects only on the motives of a few individuals. Calling it a hate crime or admitting it was based in homophobia forces society to admit that there are those in Israel who would kill innocent gay people not because they raped someone, but because they were simply gay and present at the Bar Noar on the night that tragedy took place.
The true homophobe (and that includes the Israeli police) refuse to acknowledge homophobia. They refuse to acknowledge the validity and normality of homosexuality. In doing so, they only make crimes like the Bar Noar murders more likely to recur in future.
There is one major fact that blows the police version of this case out of the water. If Ganon raped the boy and the victim’s brother went to the community center to avenge the crime, why didn’t he attack Ganon? Why, when he found Ganon not present that night, did he turn his gun indiscriminately on scores of innocent bystanders killing two and wounding ten (paralyzing two)? That’s the proof that this is a hate crime. And the fact that the police refuse to admit this is a schandeh, a deep miscarriage of justice.
If you are Israeli. If you are a gay Israeli, you must not let this stand. You must force the police and authorities to investigate this as a hate crime. You must.