The US military needs to learn from the IDF and the tolerant Israeli model regarding homosexual soldiers and officers, concluded a research project on gay and lesbian service in the IDF, undertaken at the University of California, in Santa Barbara.
According to a Florida newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times, a brigadier general quoted in the pair’s study said Israelis show a "great tolerance" for homosexual soldiers.
David Saranga, a former IDF officer and now Israel’s consul for media and public affairs in New York 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."
The paper referenced the California study's survey of 17 heterosexual IDF soldiers: Only two said they would have a problem serving under a gay commander and three expressed concern about showering with a gay colleague. None objected to gay soldiers in general.
As one officer put it, "They’re citizens of Israel, like you and me. The sexual orientation of the workers around me doesn’t bother me."
Israel is one of 24 nations that allow openly gay individuals to serve in the military. Since the early nineties, sexual identity presents no formal barrier in terms of soldiers' military specialization or eligibility for promotion.
The research reported that, up until the eighties, 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.
'Israelis convinced they made the right decision'
A decade later, an IDF officer reserves officer revealed that his rank had been revoked and that he had been barred from researching sensitive topics in military intelligence, solely because of his sexual identity.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.
That same year in the United States, Congress implemented its infamous "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding military service for gays, refusing to allow openly homosexual soldiers to serve and claiming that their presence would have a negative effect on morale and discipline.
At the beginning of the year, General John Shalikashvili, who was Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (the highest US military post) in 1993 and supported the DADT policy at the time, stated in a New York Times opinion editorial that he now supports gays serving openly in America's armed forces.
Shakashvili noted that in Israel, as well as in the other 23 nations with a similar policy on homosexuals in the military, service by gay soldiers had not had an adverse effect on the military.
The St. Petersburg Times echoed Shalikashvili's sentiments, noting that in 1993 "Israel took exactly the opposite approach (from the US)…Fourteen years later, Israelis are convinced they made the right decision."