Bar Hanoar Limor Edrey 26082011
Police collecting evidence from the scene of the murders at Tel Aviv’s Bar Hanoar gay center in 2009. Photo by Limor Edrey
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Two of the people wounded in the 2009 shooting attack on a gay center in Tel Aviv have filed suit against the National Association of Gays, Lesbians and Transgenders in Israel, the Tel Aviv municipality and the Israel Police. The plaintiffs are claiming negligence for what they say was a complete absence of security at the site, the Bar Noar center.

Two people were killed in the shooting and 10 were wounded. The gunman has never been caught.

The national association of gays and lesbians, also known by its Hebrew name, the Aguda, maintains its Tel Aviv branch at Bar Hanoar. The plaintiffs' lawsuit alleges that Aguda was negligent in not having security at the site in light of threats against the gay community.

For their part, the police responded in court that they had no information indicating that right-wing extremists intended to harm members of the gay community or gay-community institutions. The police said they did not know about the Aguda facility at the location before the shootings, but documents obtained by Haaretz show that the police had a wealth of evidence about a number of anti-gay incidents around the country before the Bar Noar shooting.

A wave of violence hit the gay community 2005 when three participants in the Jerusalem gay pride parade were stabbed by Yishai Shlisel, an Orthodox Jew. An investigation showed that Shlisel acted alone and that the stabbing was not premeditated. But the incident was followed by other anti-gay acts. These included, in 2006, the distribution of flyers with instructions on how to attack gays. In 2007, two explosive charges went off ¬ one in Jerusalem>s Ramot neighborhood and one at Beit Jamal near Beit Shemesh.

The police later believed it was possible to link anti-gay literature to the explosives. In 2008 three people were attacked near a gay club in Tel Aviv, and an attack was carried out that year against gays on their way home from a party in Haifa.

In response to queries from Haaretz, the police said it was inappropriate to comment on the matter to the media in light of the pending litigation in the Haifa District Court. They did not comment on the specifics of the lawsuit.

But they said general information about a particular matter «is not the same as concrete information regarding intent to carry out a specific act at a specific location. The Israel Police receives various information all the time about an intent to harm individuals or groups, and it acts to enforce the law, to prevent crime and to identify criminals. That does not mean that it is possible to prevent every crime and apprehend every criminal before the commission of an offense."

The Israel Police's Jerusalem branch took the threats against the gay community seriously, did investigative work and kept the Shin Bet security service informed.

In the two weeks before the 2007 gay pride parade in Jerusalem, two years after the stabbing incident at the same event, the police dealt with 14 potential threats against the gay community.

This included information from a man who said he had overheard one side of a telephone conversation at Jerusalem>s central bus station. He said the discussion was about attacking gays with weapons. Meanwhile, someone told the police that someone planned to start a fire in the Jerusalem Forest in an anti-gay protest.

The police also arrested two people in possession of spikes; the two were suspected of planning to use the weapons against the cars of members of the gay community. The police arrested a resident of the city>s Mea She>arim neighborhood on suspicion that he planned to detonate an improvised explosive device at the gay pride parade.

In September 2008, the police began to link many of these incidents on the theory that they were committed by one person or group. They set up a special Jerusalem-based investigative team to examine in detail threats against the gay community.

The findings, however, were not sent to other police districts. A police intelligence official in Tel Aviv told Haaretz that in the period before the Bar Hanoar shooting in August 2009, no intelligence information was circulated about the gay community. This was the case even though the police, as a general practice, warn potential targets of violence.

The police suspected that the Bar Hanoar was linked to other anti-gay incidents. Two months later, based on information from the Shin Bet, the police arrested Jack Teitel, an American immigrant who had lived in the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel. He admitted to laying explosives charges.

Under interrogation, he also confessed to the shooting at Bar Hanoar, but Shin Bet investigators do not believe him and the investigation is at a standstill. A gag order bars disclosure of some of the difficulties the police are facing.