JERUSALEM — In an interview broadcasted yesterday in the parliamentary Knesset Channel, Member of Knesset Uri Ariel from the right-wing National Union party said that he is against the Israeli army’s policy of enlisting LGBT people.
“If I were the decision maker, I wouldn’t enlist homosexuals into the army, because some things interfere in the military’s ability to fight,” Ariel said.
When the interviewer Nechama Duek expressed her shock, Ariel explained:
“I think … 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. Does punishment help? I believe that by and large, yes.”
Ariel’s comments have sparked wide-ranging condemnation from across the Israeli political spectrum.
His homophobic remarks came only a few days after another right wing politician, MK Anastassia Michaeli 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.”
Michaeli also alleged that the Israeli TV Channel 10’s programs encourages children to be gay. Such remarks come little over a week after Tel-Aviv’s gay pride and Pride Month events.
Opposition chairwoman MK Shelly Yachimovich 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 as a democratic and enlightened country.”
Israel’s openly gay MK Nitzan Horowitz 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. 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 the army and therefore are unable to comment on this offense. 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.”
A comprehensive study of the Israeli Army published in 2004 found no evidence suggesting that drafting gays undermined operational effectiveness, combat readiness, unit cohesion or morale.
Two weeks ago, the Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit released a photo of two men holding hands with a caption reading: ‘It’s Pride Month. Did you know that the IDF treats all of its soldiers equally?”