In an English language video posted to Facebook on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the casualties in Sunday’s deadly nightclub shooting in Orlando were victims of homophobia and intolerance and called on people not to give in to “hate and fear.”
“They did nothing wrong. They were dancing with friends, they were enjoying music with loved ones,” he said of the victims in the attack.
“Why did the terrorist murder them? Because he was driven by a fanatical hatred. He target the LGBT community because he believed they were evil.”
The attack at the Pulse gay club in Orlando killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. It was perpetrated by Omar Mateen, 29, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
I ask you to reach out to friends in the LGBT community. Comfort them. Tell them they will never be alone, that we are all one family deserving of dignity, deserving of life. I have no doubt that those who seek to spread hate and fear will be defeated. Working together we will defeat them even faster.Please share my full statement. It's important to me that people hear it.
Posted by Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו on Wednesday, June 15, 2016
In the clip, which echoed a speech he made to foreign diplomats a day earlier, the premier said the attack was not an isolated incident, naming homophobic practices carried out by Islamic terrorist groups and countries across the Middle East.
“The murderer wasn’t alone. Regime and terrorist organizations around the world ruthlessly persecute the LGBT community,” he said. “In Syria ISIS throws gays off rooftops, in Iran the regime hangs gays from cranes. Too many people have remained silent in the face of this awful persecution.”
Netanyahu also described the attack as “radical Islamic terror,” saying it “makes no distinction between shades of infidel,” and drawing a parallel between the Orlando shooting and last week’s terror attack in Tel Aviv which left four people dead.
“This week it was gays in Orlando, a few days before that it was Jews in Tel Aviv, before that it was music fans in Paris, travelers in Brussels, Yazidis in Iraq, community workers in San Bernadino, Christians and journalists in Syria,” he said.
Netanyahu ended the nearly-three-minute video by calling on people to embrace the LGBT community, “comfort them, tell them you stand together, we stand together as one, and that you will always remember the victims.”
On Tuesday Netanyahu made similar statements to a gathering of about a dozen ambassadors from North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states. Last month, NATO invited Israel to open an official mission at its Brussels headquarters.
“I want to inform you that we’re in the process of opening the office as soon as possible. We attach great importance to that,” the prime minister said, pledging to help NATO defeat the Islamic State by sharing intelligence and counter-terrorism know-how.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.