A photo posted Sunday on the official Facebook page of the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, depicting two gay soldiers walking down the street in uniform at a gay pride parade, holding hands, has been met with praise, cheers and applause by from the LGBT community, and quickly went viral.
The caption on the photo reads: “It’s Pride Month. Did you know that the IDF treats all of its soldiers equally? Let’s see how many shares you can get for this photo.” So far, the photo, reportedly of a real gay couple, has received 8116 “likes,” 6097 shares, and 1172 comments.
But Yaakov Katz at the Jerusalem Post today notes the image is “stirring controversy and raising the question of whether it tells the real story of the way homosexuals are treated in the military.”
The sources said that the posting of the picture was done by the Spokesman’s Office Interactive News Desk and was approved by senior officers in the unit.
“This is definitely a huge success,” one officer said, referring to the extent of coverage it has received internationally and the amount of Likes and Shares it has captured on Facebook. “It tells a different story of the IDF which is important to share with the world.”
In January however, a study published by the Israel Gay Youth (IGY) Movement found that half of the homosexual soldiers who serve in the IDF suffer from violence and homophobia.
Last week, IGY met with OC IDF Education Corps Brig.-Gen. Eli Shermeister to discuss the treatment of homosexuals in the military.
The survey was conducted among soldiers who are known members of the GLBT community as well as youth who are undergoing the induction process. The survey found that GLBT soldiers were often victims of verbal and physical violence and that the phenomenon was, for the most part, ignored by commanders.
“Our study shows that there is still difficulty within the army with homosexuals and accepting them although I am happy to say that the intention among the top brass is to change that,” Avner Dafni, head of IGY said on Tuesday.
The comments section of the photo on Facebook is, sadly, rife with anti-gay and anti-Semitic messages, but also has many pro-gay and pro-Israeli comments, along with comments in other languages.
Wikipedia also notes:
Israel is one of 24 nations that allow openly gay individuals to serve in the military. Since the early 1990s, sexual identity presents no formal barrier in terms of soldiers’ military specialization or eligibility for promotion.
Until the 1980s, the IDF tended to discharge soldiers who were openly gay. In 1983, the IDF permitted homosexuals to serve, but banned them from intelligence and top-secret positions. A decade later, Professor Uzi Even, an IDF reserves officer and chairman of Tel Aviv University’s Chemistry Department revealed that his rank had been revoked and that he had been barred from researching sensitive topics in military intelligence, solely because of his sexual identity. His testimony to the Knesset in 1993 raised a political storm, forcing the IDF to remove such restrictions against gays.
The chief of staff’s policy states that it is strictly forbidden to harm or hurt anyone’s dignity or feeling based on their gender or sexual orientation in any way, including signs, slogans, pictures, poems, lectures, any means of guidance, propaganda, publishing, voicing, and utterance. Moreover, gays in the IDF have additional rights, such as the right to take a shower alone if they want to. According to a University of California, Santa Barbara study, a brigadier general stated that Israelis show a “great tolerance” for gay soldiers. Consul David Saranga at the Israeli Consulate in New York, who was interviewed by the St. Petersburg Times, said, “It’s a non-issue. You can be a very good officer, a creative one, a brave one, and be gay at the same time.”
So, dear readers, let’s find out. Whom do you know in the IDF, and what’s their experience with how LGBT soldiers are treated?
Editor’s note: An initial version of this article noted the Jerusalem Post article did not mention who was “raising the question of whether it tells the real story of the way homosexuals are treated in the military.” The Jerusalem Post’s author responded to our email, noting an editing error was responsible for the article inadvertently being cut short. We have updated the story to reflect the changes in the Post’s article.
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