December 11, 2011
ONLINE & WIRE REPORTS -- On the same day the American military officially ended its "don't ask, don't tell" policy, a gay Israeli military veteran spoke at Rutgers University about the thriving gay rights movement in Israel.
Avner Even-Zohar, a decorated former IDF captain, said that Israel stands alone in the Middle East in its acceptance and legal protection of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.
Openly gay and lesbian soldiers have served in the Israel Defense Forces since 1993.
"Tel Aviv is the mecca of the gay rights movement in the Middle East," said Even-Zohar, in a talk at the George Street Student Activities Center on the New Brunswick campus.
The program, "Harvey Milk and Honey," was cosponsored by Rutgers Hillel and its affiliated JAQs (Jewish Allies and Queers), Rutgers Queer Student Alliance, the pro-Israel Rutgers Scarlet Blue and White, and the Caravan for Democracy, an initiative of the Jewish National Fund and Media Watch International bringing Israeli speakers to college campuses.
Even-Zohar served as an education officer in the West Bank and Lebanon. He noted that Israel's late prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, was able to smoothly remove restrictions to gays in the military in the same year that President Bill Clinton reluctantly accepted "don't ask, don't tell."
"My own theory is that Yitzhak Rabin had been a commander in the Six-Day War," Even-Zohar explained. "He fought for the establishment of Israel. He had more credibility."
Rabin also had served with gays and saw for himself how they fought for their country, he said. By contrast, Clinton never served in the military and was forced to acquiesce to then chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell.