How Dare Benny Ziffer Blame LGBT Israelis for the Gay Pride Murder

The Haaretz columnist's latest article goes beyond classic victim-blaming to ridiculing the very legitimacy of the LGBT community’s struggle for equality.

File photo: A memorial service held for Shira Banki in Jerusalem, August 2, 2015.
Nir Keidar

Benny Ziffer has struck again. In his latest column, he insinuates that the murder of 16-year-old Shira Banki at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade was a result of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community's desire to “look good on TV.” "And there is something most tragic, and infuriating, in the fact that for a happening like this, which aims mainly to create an impression and look good on TV, an innocent girl lost her life," he writes.

While there should be room for respectful debate over whether Jerusalem is a fitting place to stage a Gay Pride march, Ziffer’s suggestion that the participants in the event are somehow culpable in Yishai Schlissel’s cold-blooded murder of Banki and wounding of five others is nothing short of abhorrent.  

No matter how Ziffer twists it, a peaceful, modest and municipal-approved procession in the name of equality cannot be faulted for the bloodshed of July 30; if there is additional blame to go around, it should be laid on Israel’s legion of blatantly homophobic politicians and rabbis, not to mention the Israel Police for failing to prevent Schlissel from repeating his 2005 attack.

Yet according to Ziffer, gay Israelis brought this tragedy on themselves by waging a sinister campaign to “convert [their religious brethren] to the religion of LGBT.” Not only is this an inflammatory mischaracterization of the LGBT community’s goals, but it also parrots the homophobic claims that homosexuality is a choice – a fad that one can convert or be converted to – and that some dark, hetero-hating Elders of Queer Zion is out to pervert the children of the world. 

And how’s this for flaming irony: The very same Ziffer openly supports the discredited "gay conversion therapy," a pseudo-scientific practice aimed at "curing" homosexuality. While favored by the likes of fundamentalist Christians, respected bodies such as the American Psychiatric Association – let alone Israel’s own Health Ministry – have deemed it unethical, ineffective, and potentially harmful.

According to Ziffer's warped ideology, LGBT rights are “the last plank, or one of the last, that remains from the shipwreck called enlightenment.” How disastrous, in the mind of this enlightened man, have the ideals of tolerance, reason, science and individual rights been? How insidious is the belief that Israel should be based not on halakha (Jewish law), but equality and pluralism? 

He then proceeds to slam the public coming out of two prominent Israelis in the wake of the Jerusalem attack as “tasteless,” even comparing it to “ceremonies of conversion to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition.” “How can one not laugh at such folly?” Ziffer asks. Who is he to cast such callous judgment, to trivialize such a life-changing decision? Coming out is, for many, a deeply torturous process. I know this from personal experience, including years of depression and self-loathing. Ziffer simply has no shame, no sensitivity to the real struggles faced by LGBT people battling to be who they are in a pharaonic order of hatred and violence.

While he presents himself as a brave conveyer of uncomfortable truths, Ziffer is acting like a troll that's set out to shock and peddle blatant untruths.
 
Enough is enough. For his latest outrage, Ziffer should apologize to the Banki family, to all those wounded in and traumatized by the stabbing rampage, and to every LGBT Israeli who has suffered as a result of their legitimate and entirely holy variance. 

May Israelis of all backgrounds and political persuasions keep coming out in droves, no matter what derision or rejection they may face. Self-acceptance is the precursor to liberation. And may the attitudes Ziffer espouses fade into obscurity, deep in the closets of ignorance and spite. Or better yet, may the Ziffers of the world finally come out and see the light.

Judd Yadid is a writer and editor at Haaretz. Follow him on Twitter: @avivistani.