Re: Hatred; a message to America after three days in the Middle East, reacting to LGBT hate crimes, acts of terror, a vigil in Jerusalem

On July 30, at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade, Yishai Shlissel–an ultra-Orthodox Jewish Israeli–violently assaulted paraders with a knife, stabbing six. After fighting for her life for three days in a Jerusalem hospital, 16 year-old Shira Banki succumbed to her injuries and passed away. The five other victims of the attack are now recovering.

For those of us with friends and loved ones who are members of the LGBT community, this violence is personal. It is not local (it’s more than 6,000 miles away from Ohio); but gay people, gay communities, and gay support structures exist all over the world. In this new and globalized international community, we are all connected. However, one thing became sadly clear to me on July 30: We did not reach a state of equality when the United States legalized marriage.

In Ohio, we’re used to hearing stories of indiscriminate violence from this part of the world; we tune it out. We can activate a script in our minds that allows us to chalk modern Middle Eastern violence up to an endless history of violence between peoples long-acquianted with each other, without hope of resolution. “People just hate each other:” that’s the implicit belief behind our tacit acceptance.

There is so much violence in this part of the world that it can be almost numbing to the people who live their lives inside it. Palestinian terrorist organizations kidnap Israelis and launch rockets at their homes. Extremist Israeli settlers perpetrate violent attacks against Palestinian families. There is no peace. Yet, in America, most of the time, we blissfully ignore it. This specific brand of violence is one we take for granted–after all, it has been going on for a very long time. Many people don’t take it upon themselves to understand that the hatred perpetuating this cycle of violence stems from the same baseless prejudice that fueled the attack on the marchers at Jerusalem Pride.

#LoveWins – this phrase carried the day on June 26 of this year. It reappeared in Israel after July 30, and it reappeared in a big way. On August 1, before midnight in Jerusalem, LGBT Israelis and allies gathered in a BIG way to show the State of Israel, the Middle East, and the world, that violence will never stop the community from showing its pride.

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Politicians, rabbis, activists, musicians, and some exceptionally vocal young people gave speeches, prayed, and sang in unison. One young Israeli activist spoke with such passion and conviction that she stole the attention of the thousands of people gathered in the square. Her speech in this video is in Hebrew, but she says something to the effect of:

“Those who choose to hate me because of the person that I love, explain – what are you fighting for?! Because I fight to be who I am, I fight for my elementary right to love, I fight for turning this world, this country, this city into a safe place for me and for my friends.”

Not all were supportive of the gatherings across Israel. Haaretz reported: “Four Jewish youths were arrested at a police barricade nearby. One was arrested for breaching the barricade and charging toward the crowd. Two others were arrested for attacking police. The fourth youth was arrested for trying to free the others.” Similar instances of counter-protest against LGBT Israelis happened across the country.

Additionally, between the stabbings on July 30 and the rally on August 1, extremist Israeli settlers committed arson at the home of a Palestinian family in the West Bank, terrorizing the community by burning down the home of a family of four. Sa’ad Dawabsheh was able to locate and save the life of his 4-year-old son, Ahmed. Sa’ad, Ahmed, and his mother Reham suffered debilitating burns. In the darkness, Sa’ad was unable to locate his one and a half year-old son, Ali, who burned alive.

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This vigil was planned as a response to the stabbings at Pride–though equal time and equal depth of feeling was paid Ali and his brother, who remained in critical condition. The sentiment of the vigil held in Jerusalem on Sat., Aug. 1 expanded from countering the hatred of gays to expelling all hatred and bigotry. It is difficult to explain the level of humanity I felt personally, as these two inexplicable, senseless tragedies coincided with my first two days in country. They happened over two days.

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It’s not a cake-walk to be LGBT in most parts of the world (including in America, and especially for transgender women of color). HOWEVER, it becomes so easy for us to turn off our minds to the continuous violence perpetrated toward the LGBT community all around the world. I’m guilty of it! We all are. The problem with this tendency to dissociate is that when we ignore these acts and chalk them up to “people hate each other,” we ignore the critical fact that all hatred heeds the same call.

For some of us, it seems that this time, it all started in Ohio. With Obergefell v. Hodges, marriage equality became the law of the land in a day. We took time to celebrate a hard-fought victory for equality, and remembered those activists who came before us–whose shoulders we stood on–as we watched the White House light up in rainbow. And then, a lot of us shut down. “Mission accomplished,” some felt…but mission not accomplished. 

As LGBT activists, we still have much more to do, especially in our duty as global citizens. We are already hard at work (and have been since before marriage equality) to fight for anti-discrimination laws, endorse equal employment laws, push back against gender identification laws, expand access to healthcare, and work on behalf of a whole host of other hurdles unique to LGBT individuals.

We must also realize that as we’re fighting for a fairer society for LGBT people, lives are being destroyed on account of hate and repression all over the globe. LGBT people are persecuted, prosecuted, and executed in many parts of the world–especially in the Middle East. The United States has recognized the moral commitment that “human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights;” but, that truth does not end at the water’s edge.

Every little bit you can do to bring instances of hatred–however small–into the light helps to make the violence visible. It tells people that violence is an unacceptable and ineffective tool–and it shows people that the world is watching.

Do you want to help? Share this story. Go online here, and learn about violence against LGBT people across the Middle East. Or, go here and learn about it worldwide. Even more importantly, don’t cast away what happens “over there” as an entirely different and more complicated beast than the hatred we experience in Ohio, or in Baltimore, or in New York, or in Tampa, or most explicitly, in Charleston. It’s all the same. And it all heeds the same call. It’s time the peace-loving, humanity possessing people of the world answer that call with swift, unabated, and actionable justice.