Compensate the Barnoar Victims

The Barnoar attack cannot be divorced from the homopobia in Israeli society, and legislation to compensate its victims is one important step in the war against it.

The investigation of the 2009 shooting attack at the Barnoar gay youth center in Tel Aviv, as well as last Friday’s Gay Pride parade in the city, remind us that homophobia and discrimination against the gay community have not disappeared from this world. Regardless of whatever personal circumstances might have sparked the hatred inside the perpetrator of the Barnoar murders, his crime was not directed against one specific individual. Instead, it took the form of indiscriminate gunfire into a center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth − a place where they were supposed to feel secure.

This crime cannot be divorced from homophobia in society, and exception should be taken to any attempt to dissociate the case from broader homophobic attitudes. Health Minister Yael German should be commended for announcing that she intends to promote legislation that would provide compensation to the victims of the Barnoar attack. The families of the two people killed in the attack, as well as the other young people who were injured, including two confined to wheelchairs, have been assisted by contributions and the support of volunteers. But Israeli society must take responsibility for their care.

Until more general legislation is passed that would require compensation to anyone harmed by hatred against a defined group of people − something similar to the law providing compensation to victims of terrorist attacks − a law should be passed urgently that specifically pertains to the victims of the Barnoar attack.

This legislation has to be part of a broader shift by politicians from rhetoric to action. Israel takes pride in showing the world that its gay community enjoys equality, but this remains a partial equality, most of which was imposed by the courts. Israeli politicians also take pride in demonstrating their support for the gay community to the public, but for some of these officials, this support consists mainly of talk.

It’s no coincidence that Finance Minister Yair Lapid was met with a strong backlash at last week’s Gay Pride parade. Many in the gay community have voiced disappointment that he and his Yesh Atid party have not submitted legislation that, for example, would create a procedure through which same-sex couples could be married here or enter into a domestic partnership.

The lack of equality when it comes to subjects such as marriage, surrogate pregnancy and adoption in Israel is evidence of the yawning disparity between the boasting over the gay community’s achievements and the rhetoric about equality on one hand, and the reality on the other. This disparity must be dealt with in a consistent manner rather than just when a tragic incident such the Barnoar attack occurs.

There is also a need for a policy of equality when it comes to transgender individuals. The barriers erected by the health and interior ministries that make it more difficult for people to change their gender must be eliminated. And legislation compensating the victims of the Barnoar attack should be just a first step in the war against homophobia and the beginning of a proactive approach to providing full equality to the gay community.

Ofer Vakhnin