Israelis Don't Ask. They Tell: The Story of How the Israeli Army Opened Up to Gays and Lesbians in Less Than Two Decades Exemplifies How This Seemingly Rigid Institution Serves as an Unlikely Agent of Progress

By Sivan, Yoav | Moment, November-December 2010 | Go to article overview

Israelis Don't Ask. They Tell: The Story of How the Israeli Army Opened Up to Gays and Lesbians in Less Than Two Decades Exemplifies How This Seemingly Rigid Institution Serves as an Unlikely Agent of Progress


Sivan, Yoav, Moment


America's controversial Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) policy has led to the dismissal of 13,500 uniformed men and women since 1993. Although the policy seems destined to change, myriad political obstacles remain.

The United States could learn from Israel's experience as one of the first countries to integrate gays into the military. If you tried to enact a law like DADT in Israel today, you'd be laughed out of the Knesset. Whether or not they're asked, Israelis tell. But it hasn't always been that way. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had to go through its own "coming out" process.

While gays and lesbians have doubtless served in the IDF since its founding, they generally flew under the radar. Homosexuality was frowned upon in Israeli society and seldom discussed in the state's earlier days. Although there was no specific prohibition against serving, soldiers discovered to be gay were usually discharged. Starting in 1983, they were allowed to serve but were required to undergo psychiatric evaluations and denied security clearances. These rules were implemented arbitrarily and inconsistently.

When the media released a photograph of a soldier--wearing his uniform--literally coming out of a closet constructed for Israel's first gay pride event in 1993, the soldier was tried in a military court and forced to leave his unit. In February of that year, things began to change. The Knesset held its first hearing on gays in the military, where Uzi Even, the chairman of Tel Aviv University's chemistry department, testified that he had been fired from his top secret position in Israel's nuclear facilities because he was openly living with a man. The fact that he was dismissed after 15 years of service created a national outcry and inspired Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin to rethink the policy. Within three months, then IDE chief of staff Ehud Barak signed the command banning military discrimination based on sexual orientation into law.

The next milestone came in 1998, a result of Adir Steiner's battle for recognition as the widower of Colonel Doron Maisel. Maisel, who became a commander in the medical corps despite his sexuality, had died in 1991. Steiner's lengthy legal campaign forced authorities to ascribe him status in official commemoration of his late partner and to endow him with substantial financial benefits and pension rights. The Steiner case cemented the army's commitment to gays in two sensitive areas: memory and money.

The speed at which the policy has changed indicates that constantly embattled Israelis feel as if they have bigger fish to fry than squabbling over gays in the military. When then-editor of The Forward Seth Lipsky asked Ariel Sharon, a former general and minister of defense, for his take on gays in the army in the early 1990s, the question brought a "quizzical look to his face," Lipsky wrote. Sharon had to ask an aide, "What is our policy on gays?" The aide didn't know either. When Uzi Even was sworn in as the first openly gay member of the Knesset almost a decade later, the prime minister who warmly welcomed him was Arid Sharon,

Indeed, the story of how the Israeli army opened up to gays and lesbians in less than two decades exemplifies how this seemingly rigid institution serves as an unlikely agent of progress. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Israelis Don't Ask. They Tell: The Story of How the Israeli Army Opened Up to Gays and Lesbians in Less Than Two Decades Exemplifies How This Seemingly Rigid Institution Serves as an Unlikely Agent of Progress
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.