The Hague Center for Strategic Studies has recently launched the LGBT Military Index and in its first report has ranked the IDF in the 9th place world wide in terms of acceptance of sexual minorities, beating out the US and neighbors Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. Iran, for its part, ranked second to last.
The index attempts to map and grade LGBT participation in armed forces, judging 103 nations according to inclusion, admission, tolerance, exclusion, and persecution of sexual minorities. Each nation received a grade for each criterion, and they were then given an average overall score.
Related stories:Israel in ninth with 92; Spain and France tied for the number ten position.
The United States failed not only to make it into the top ten, but fell in with only the top 40 nations – achieving 72.8 out of a possible 100.
Iran, for its part, received only a 6, and was second only to Nigeria which was in last place with a miserable 3 points. Syria fared better, reaching an unimpressive 7, or third from last.
Israel's other neighbor to the north – Lebanon – did substantially better than its embattled Syrian neighbor, ranking among the bottom three deciles with a 38.5. Egypt did worst, averaging an overall 25.5.
In 2012, the IDF's English-language Facebook page published a photo of an Artillery soldier and a Givati soldier holding hands, carrying the caption: "It's Pride Month. Did you know that the IDF treats all of its soldiers equally?"
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that the photo was taken as part of Israel's gay and lesbian community's Pride Month events, with the full cooperation of the featured couple.
The Foreign Ministry, as well as Israeli missions worldwide, have been known to use the IDF's acceptance of gay soldiers into its ranks as a symbol for Israel's progressive nature; but the photo was the first time the military has publicly embraced the gay community on one of its social media platforms.
Within hours of posting the photo online, it garnered 4,621 Shares and over 6,500 Likes, as well as hundreds of supportive comments. The Foreign Ministry welcomed the initiative, saying that the massive response was "heartwarming."
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit added that as far as they know, "No other military in the world has taken such an initiative."
Nonetheless, incidents of informal persecution do occur. Last June, inscriptions reading "Death to the homo" and "homo = trash" were found in the base quarters of an openly gay soldier, as well as in the base bathroom and another building in the base.
These were not the first incident in which the soldier was targeted. Previously, the soldier's personal protective vest was inscribed with "stinking homo," and in another his uniform was tossed in the toilet.
The index judged the nations according to the criteria of inclusion, admission, tolerance, exclusion, and persecution – with the worst ranking countries being those who actively persecute and prosecute sexual minorities.
In terms of inclusion, countries were scored on the presence of an organization supporting LGBT personnel within the armed forces, the type of recognition same-sex unions receive, the recognition, support, and financial benefits granted to same-sex couples, anti-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, armed forces representation at pride events, and others.
Tolerance looked into the support for UN defined LGBT human rights, as well as the criminalization of male or female same-sex sexual activities. Persecution for its part scored countries based on restrictions on expression of sexual or gender identity and the presence of an incitement to hatred by a public official.