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.

The right-wing politician Uri Ariel MK said in an interview: ‘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.’ His comments sparked a wide-ranging condemnation from across the Israeli political spectrum.

When the interviewer Nechama Duek expressed her shock he 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 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.’ She 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 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 drafting gays undermined operational effectiveness, combat readiness, unit cohesion or morale.

Two weeks ago, the Israeli Defence 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?’

A translation of the exchange follows:

INTERVIEWER: Not to draft 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?
INTERVIEWER: Yes!
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.
INTERVIEWER: Yes.
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.