Misinterpreting History: The 2009 gay club shooting


Last week, Israeli police arrested three in connection with a 2009 shooting at a gay community center in Tel Aviv, and a fourth for having information about the assailants. The shooting, on Aug. 1, 2009, deeply rattled Israeli society. Two people were killed — Liz Trubeshi, 16, and a youth adviser, Nir Katz, 27 — and 11 others were injured. Significantly, police said the shooting was not motivated by hate — though at the time, Israeli society reacted as if it was.

In its wake, many called for Israel to forthrightly address its prejudice against LGBTQ groups. Others took a different tack. Nissim Ze’ev, of the Sephardic Orthodox Shas party, who had previously said gays would be reincarnated as rabbits, claimed to have received death threats after the attack. On the third anniversary of the shooting, a center to prevent anti-gay violence was opened and named in memory of one of the victims.

“Years of continuous incitement by Knesset members, rabbis and public figures have exacted a terrible price,” said Nitzan Horowitz, an openly gay Knesset member from the Meretz Party. “We won’t forget and we won’t forgive.”

Israeli police don’t see it that way, concluding the assailant was not motivated by hatred of gays. Which raises an interesting question: What do you do when what you thought about history turns out to be wrong? And if the shooting was treated like a hate crime, and Israelis responded by erecting bulwarks to prevent against future such attacks, does it even matter? Such questions point to the gap between cultural and historical memory — between the past and what we tell ourselves about it.

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