U.S. Conservatives Condemn Tel Aviv Shooting, 'Slanderous Speculation'

Investigators are still considering a number of possible motives behind the recent shooting at a Tel Aviv gay youth center and may be closer after finding clues Wednesday morning that could lead them to a suspect, according to an Israeli official.

David Saranga, the Israeli consul for media and public affairs, told The Advocate on Wednesday that "[a]ll directions are investigated right now, which means whether it's a hate crime, whether it's a terrorist reason, every assumption could be."

"Israeli is a small society," Saranga said. "It's only six million people. I have no doubts that at the end they're going to find the person. It's only a matter of time."

This past Saturday, a masked gunman entered the center for gay teens in downtown Tel Aviv, pulled out a pistol, and opened fire, killing two people and injuring 11 before escaping. The dead were identified as a 26-year-old man who was a counselor at the center and a 17-year-old girl.

The shooting was widely condemned and drew remarks from around the world, including the United States, where a couple of conservative Christian groups also weighed in.

"We are deeply saddened by this violent act and the deaths of these young people, and pray for the perpetrator to be found and brought to justice," stated Linda Harvey, president of Mission America, a Christian organization that has worked for over a decade to expose the "harmful gay agenda" directed at youth.

"At the same time, it is deplorable this incident is already being used by the homosexual community to blame this act on those holding a traditional moral viewpoint," she added Monday.

Though Israel's chief of police has cautioned against a rush to judgment before investigators whittle down theories on the possible motive for the shooting, many assume homophobic sentiments to be behind the attack.

Dr. Michael Brown, leader of the Charlotte, N.C.-based Coalition of Conscience, which was established to reach out to GLBT people and to "resist the gay activist agenda," is among those who believe Saturday's attack "has all the markings of an act of raw hatred, and as such it must be utterly renounced."

The shooting, he said Sunday, "tells me that there are fanatics on all sides and in all religions, and it behooves us as leaders to set an example of civility and respect in the midst of our differences and to say, 'The violence stops here.'"

"Whatever differences any of us may have with any sector of society, be those religious differences or ideological differences, we must maintain those differences with civility and respect. The moment we resort to violence, especially in God's name, we become agents of destruction and bring reproach to the God we claim to serve," added the Jewish follower of Jesus.

Mission America's Harvey, meanwhile, urged against "slanderous speculation" from those within the gay community.

"Israelis, just as anyone else on earth, should still have the right to oppose homosexuality for religious or other reasons without being called accessories to murder. The motive is still unknown; why engage in slanderous speculation?" she posed.

"This kind of bigotry has no place in a civilized society and is wildly irresponsible, unjust and inaccurate," Harvey added.