Public Security Minister: Fatal Jerusalem Gay Parade Stabbing Could Have Been Prevented

Gilad Erdan also condemns fatal West Bank arson attack, as teen killed in pride parade laid to rest.

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Participants of Jerusalem's Gay Pride parade react after six people were stabbed at Thursday's march, July 30, 2015.
Participants of Jerusalem's Gay Pride parade react after six people were stabbed at Thursday's march, July 30, 2015. Credit: Reuters

The fatal stabbing at last Thursday’s Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade could have been prevented, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan admitted Monday.

“There’s no doubt it was possible to prevent the murder of Shira Banki,” Erdan said in an interview with Israel Radio. Banki, 16, was critically wounded in the stabbing and pronounced dead on Sunday. She had accompanied a friend from the LGBT community to the parade, in which five others were stabbed. Yishai Schlissel, a Haredi Jew from Modi’in Ilit, was arrested for the attack, weeks after being released from prison for an almost identical crime 10 years ago.

In the interview, Erdan also decried last Friday’s West Bank arson attack, in which an 18-month-old Palestinian baby was killed and his family seriously wounded. That attack, Erdan said, was carried out by “religious anarchist extremists who believe the country’s laws don’t apply to them.”

Hope in the storm

Thousands of people attended Banki’s funeral at Kibbutz Nachshon Monday evening. In their eulogy, her parents, Uri and Mika, stressed that they had “no quarrel with people in skullcaps ... We know how many honest and emotional prayers were said publicly and privately for her recovery. Our quarrel is with intolerance, hatred and sanctifying one’s ends at the expense of another’s pain.”

Schlissel had openly called for devout Jews to prevent the pride parade even at the risk of imprisonment.

The Bankis added that even though the enormous media attention the incident garnered “doesn’t ease our pain one bit, had such a murder passed without a huge, ongoing storm, our despair over the place where we live would have been unbearable.”

President Reuven Rivlin eulogized Banki Monday night at an event in Haifa marking the 90th birthday of the Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed youth group.

“Shira, a victim of a hate crime ... was murdered, her organs were donated and are saving lives,” he said. “Shira was your age, she loved to enjoy life, she loved animals, and she believed in life. Shira was also a girl of principles. She joined the parade in the name of the values in which she believed – tolerance, equality, hope, and love. Her life, which was deliberately cut short, was that of a young citizen who was involved, engaged, active, interested, and responsible.”

Banki, a resident of Jerusalem, studied at the Hebrew University High School. She leaves behind her parents and three brothers. Her family decided to donate her organs.

Police lapse

The police set up a special committee Monday to investigate the lapse that allowed Schlissel to perpetrate his crime. It will be headed by a former police major general, Yisrael Yitzhak, and include senior officers from several different departments.

The committee will examine intelligence gathering prior to the parade, the police’s interface with the Israel Prisons Service in general and over Schlissel’s impending release in particular, operational plans for the day of the parade itself, how police responded to the attack and any other issue it sees fit to investigate. It has been asked to submit its conclusions to Erdan and acting Police Commissioner Bentzi Sau within two weeks, and is empowered to hold senior Jerusalem cops personally responsible for any lapses.

Intelligence assessments submitted to the Jerusalem police after Schissel’s release from jail mentioned him as a problematic individual who might take action against the LGBT community, but did not specifically mention the Jerusalem Pride Parade. The police only recently admitted to knowing that he had been released after serving his sentence for the 2005 attack.

A major lapse also occurred in security at the parade itself. In briefings beforehand, police were explicitly ordered to stop any ultra-Orthodox person approaching the marchers, ask for identification and ascertain why they were at the parade. Officers were also told to be on the lookout for ultra-Orthodox Jews dressed as secular Israelis. Yet footage from security cameras at the scene shows that Schlissel managed to get through all the layers of security without being approached even once.

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