A right-wing member of Israel’s Knesset parliament has sparked outrage after saying he wouldn’t enlist gays in the military.
Uri Ariel MK said in an interview ‘If I were the decision maker, I wouldn’t enlist homosexuals into the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), because some things interfere in the military’s ability to fight.’ His comments sparked condemnation from across the Israeli political spectrum.
In an interview on the Knesset Channel yesterday (18 June), Uri Ariel, from the National Union party, said: ‘If I were the decision maker, I wouldn’t enlist homosexuals into the IDF, because some things interfere in the military’s ability to fight.
He added that he is also against the Israeli Army’s policy of drafting LGBT people.
When the interviewer Nechama Duek expressed her shock, he attempted to explain his ‘logic’ by stating: ‘I think that by and large, we have to behave in the spirit of Judaism, which is thousands of years old.
‘It seems that it was prevalent and was probably very popular, mostly among the peoples of the region, so that Israel, the People of Israel arrived in the region and was exposed to phenomena of this sort and probably adopted some of these phenomena.
‘And therefore the Torah goes against it very severely and with extremely harsh punishments.’
Ariel’s homophobic remarks came only a few days after another right-wing politician, Anastassia Michaeli MK, stated that ‘most homosexuals are people who experienced sexual abuse at a very young age’, which leads them to ‘commit suicide at the age of 40.’
She also alleged that Israeli TV’s Channel 10 programs encourage children to be gay.
Her remarks come little over a week after Tel Aviv’s gay pride and Pride Month events.
Opposition chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich MK, head of the Israeli Labour Party, responded to Ariel’s harsh remarks, calling his rant a ‘primitive and dangerous one.’
‘The MK’s attack takes place at a time when the Israeli public views the gay community in a tolerant and accepting way,’ she said.
Referring to both Ariel and Michaeli, she added: ‘These vicious lawmakers might be earning political points with a small public, but their inciting comments endanger the gay community and harm Israel’s image as a democratic and enlightened country.’
Israel’s openly gay politician Nitzan Horowitz MK responded to Ariel on his Facebook page.
‘This is a man that aspires to turn Israel into a religious state and the army into a religious army,’ he wrote.
‘This is the real danger to the Israeli society. And what he said proves that Anastassia is not alone. Such prejudice is widespread, including someone like himself, who is a chairperson of an important committee in the Knesset.
‘Thousands of lesbian and gay soldiers serve in the army and therefore are unable to comment on this offence.
‘Who is supposed to respond are the leaders of the government, principally Benjamin Nethanyahu. These are the ones who must put an end to the endless incitement against the proud community. There is a single test for that: advancing real legislation for equality.’
The Israeli Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar condemned Ariel, stating: ‘An attack or discrimination against someone because of their sexual preference or way of life is outrageous and harmful to human dignity’.
He further stressed that: ‘Public figures must come out against statements of this kind, clearly and unequivocally and say “enough is enough”, in order to preserve Israel as an enlightened and tolerant nation.’
A comprehensive study of the Israeli Army, published in 2004, found no evidence suggesting that enlisting gays undermined operational effectiveness, combat readiness, unit cohesion or morale.
INTERVIEWER: Not to enlist them to the army, for instance, homosexuals?
URI ARIEL: That’s a question that the army has to answer.
INTERVIEWER: OK, leave the army; tell me what do you think?
URI ARIEL: If I had to decide, I think that I wouldn’t draft them, but not … INTERVIEWER: Why?!
URI ARIEL: Remarkable, eh?
URI ARIEL: Well, okay, why? Because I think that there are things that interfere with the army’s ability to fight. And that there are phenomena that are not… INTERVIEWER: A homosexual man is less brave than a man who is not?
URI ARIEL: I’m not talking about one particular man, or about ten, whether they’re brave or not. The question is about the natural phenomena and about whether we conduct ourselves according to the values that we have in Judaism and in the Torah, or whether we conduct ourselves in a different manner.
I think that by and large, we have to behave in the spirit of Judaism which is thousands of years old.
It seems that it was prevalent and was probably very popular, mostly among the peoples of the region, so that Israel, the People of Israel arrived in the region and was exposed to phenomena of this sort and probably adopted some of these phenomena. And therefore the Torah goes against it very severely and with extremely harsh punishments.
URI ARIEL: Does punishment help? I believe that by and large, yes. If you ask me whether they do specifically for these cases, for this type, I don’t know. INTERVIEWER: "This type?" What is this “it”? Are you afraid to utter the word "homosexual"? What’s "this type?"
URI ARIEL: No, no, gays, lesbians…
INTERVIEWER: Okay, and transgender too…
URI ARIEL: No, if anyone was offended that I said ‘This type, I have no problem calling them names. They appear, as I said, in the Torah. Our Torah doesn’t cover up anything, it doesn’t hide anything, but it confronts the issues.